What’s the No. 1 Diet?

For the third year in a row, US News & World Report ranks the Mediterranean Diet as the best overall diet. It’s also No. 1 in best plant-based diets, best diabetes diets, best diets for healthy eating (tied with DASH Diet), and easiest diets to follow. The Mediterranean Diet came in at No. 2 for best heart-healthy diets, behind the Ornish Diet.

We’ve always been big fans of the Mediterranean Diet, so we’re not surprised to see it at No. 1 again. Read on for our tips on teaching groups and individuals about the top diet of the year:

  • If you don’t have a lot of time, use some Mediterranean Diet teasers to get people’s attention. We know they’ll want to learn more!
  • For a more comprehensive look at the No. 1 diet, check out our Mediterranean Diet Class with PowerPoint, Handouts, and Leader Guide. There are so many angles you can take using these materials:
    • To cover the Mediterranean Diet from A to Z, use all 100+ PowerPoint slides and 22 handouts to teach:
      • What is the Mediterranean Diet?
      • What are the health benefits?
      • Which foods are used?
      • What are common dishes that everyone can make at home?
      • Which strategies are helpful to take advantage of the delicious, healthful ingredients found in this region?
    • For a low-key approach, offer a class on adding just a few Mediterranean foods to your diet. Focus on foods that people who eat the typical American diet may not be familiar with, like farro, couscous, bulgur, beans, legumes, sardines and other seafood, and olive oil.
    • If you’re up for some cooking demos, treat your audience to a series of classes featuring popular dishes from five Mediterranean countries (France, Italy, Greece, Morocco, and Spain). Participants will also get a geography lesson!

And don’t forget to let people know that the No. 1 diet isn’t really a diet at all – it’s a way of life! In Mediterranean countries, meals are a time to get together, talk to each other, and enjoy small portions of good food. We could use a little of that here in the U.S.A.

Top 5 Reasons to Enjoy Family Meals At Home

Despite the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs, many people don’t know how to cook. But cooking is an important skill, one that can help your students or clients eat healthier for the rest of their lives. Read on for our three steps to getting people cooking in 2020!

Step 1: Let your audience know how learning to cook can benefit them. People are motivated by different things, so find out what’s important to them:

  1. Cooking at home is healthier than eating out or relying on convenience foods.
  2. Cooking at home saves money.
  3. Cooking is something you can do with your friends and family.
  4. Cooking skills are a gift you can pass on to younger generations (or if their parents don’t know how to cook, the kids might teach them something!).
  5. Cooking lets you take control of what you eat, which can help if you have a chronic disease like diabetes.

Step 2: A little bit of cooking knowledge goes a long way. This is important to you, the teacher, as well as your audience. You need to know that even offering one-time classes on things like knife skills, basic recipes, and cooking methods can be helpful. They need to know that being a good cook isn’t what they see on TV.

  1. A class on basic knife skills will make prepping vegetables for healthy salads and recipes quick and easy, not a chore.
  2. Learning a few basic recipes will increase your confidence in the kitchen and give you a few healthy meals to build on.
  3. When you learn about different cooking methods, you can use that knowledge even without a recipe.

Step 3: Get our Home Run Cooking Book and Cooking Demo program. It has everything you need to do food demonstrations that will get your clients cooking.

  1. Every recipe in the cookbook has been crowd-tested, is easy to make (even for the beginner), and uses inexpensive, easy-to-find ingredients. And when you purchase our program, it’s easy to download and make copies of recipes to hand out!
  2. There’s something for every audience. You can focus on recipes for a specific meal or start from the beginning by teaching them how to set up a kitchen, stock a pantry, and use a knife.
  3. You’ll have health lessons to go along with each demo recipe, so your audience will learn why what they are learning is important.

Change It Up in 2020

Many people see the new year as a chance to turn over a new leaf, to get a fresh start. While we know that most new year’s resolutions fail, January can be a time of change if you’re realistic and take things one step at a time. Help your clients keep the new year simple and positive with our Change It Up materials featuring a fast-food caterpillar transformed into a beautiful butterfly.

While going from a caterpillar to a butterfly is a big transformation, encourage your clients to transform their eating and exercise habits in simple, small ways that will add up over time. Here are some questions to ask, but remember to focus only on one or two small changes at a time:

  • How can you transform breakfast? Examples:
    • If you’re a breakfast skipper, eat something small in the morning to start a new habit.
    • Add some peanut butter or avocado to your whole-grain toast.
    • Is sugary cereal your go-to? Mix in some whole grain, low sugar cereal.
  • How can you transform lunch? Examples:
    • If you usually eat out, pack lunch once per week.
    • Use mustard instead of mayo, or skip the cheese.
    • Add a side salad to your meal, and eat it first.
  • How can you transform snacks? Examples:
    • Skip the vending machine — bring something from home.
    • Cut up fruits and veggies to take on the go.
    • Add some protein — spread peanut butter on apple slices or dip carrots in low-fat Greek yogurt.
  • How can you transform dinner? Examples:
    • Use a smaller plate.
    • Buy healthy convenience foods like rotisserie chicken and salad bar veggies.
    • Go meatless once per week.
  • How can you transform your exercise routine? Examples:
    • Meet a friend once per week.
    • Use a pedometer to track your steps.
    • Take 5-10 minute walks around the office or outside throughout the day.

Give clients one of our Change It Up stickers or bookmarks as a reminder to eat healthier food and be active every day so that they can feel transformed!

Use this link to get 15% off this collection and all of our hot topic items for 2020. Offer good this week only through January 15, 2020.

Healthy Eating on a Budget with a Twist

During this busy time of year, people may not be thinking much about healthy eating. And their plan to stick to a budget may have gone out the window on Black Friday. But come January, lots of folks will be resolving to do better in both of these areas, making it a great time to talk about healthy eating on a budget.

Our Healthy On a Budget poster shows four steps to choosing foods that are good for your wallet and your health:

  1. Buy in season and on sale.
  2. Buy whole ingredients in bulk, not processed foods.
  3. Buy only what you need.
  4. Skip junk food that runs up your grocery bill but provides little nutrition value.

To add a twist, incorporate food safety into this conversation by talking about leftovers. Whether it’s a serving of stir-fry or a bag of carrots, throwing out food is like throwing money away. At the same time, there’s food safety to consider.

Cover all the bases with these resources we found on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website:

  • Handle leftovers properly! This keeps them safe to eat, but it also helps preserve the quality of the food. After all, who wants leftovers that taste like whatever else is in the refrigerator? Follow these tips from the USDA on wrapping, storing, thawing, and reheating leftovers.
  • It’s a fact: leftovers get lost! Whether it’s a container of stir-fry in the back of the refrigerator or a bag of carrots hidden in the bottom of the produce drawer, sometimes you don’t know whether it’s time to throw it out or keep it. Take the guesswork out of it with this chart or use the USDA FoodKeeper app.
    • You can download the free FoodKeeper app to your phone or tablet, or use the online version on your computer. It’s a great way to make sure you’re not keeping food too long or throwing it out too soon. For example, a simple search will tell you that carrots keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks but broccoli stays fresh only 3-5 days.
    • You can search foods in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
    • If you use the app, you can add products to your device’s calendar and receive notifications when they are nearing the end of their recommended storage date. You may never lose leftovers to the back of the fridge or freezer again!

Reduce Food Waste with Meal Planning

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American family of four loses $1,500 to uneaten food each year. Food waste can impact your budget, but also the environment. One way to reduce food waste is to plan your meals. Of course, meal planning has many more benefits – it can help with eating on a budget, weight management, eating more family meals, following MyPlate, and more.

Here are some ways to teach your students, clients, or other groups about meal planning and reducing food waste:

  1. Zero-based food plan: Have you ever heard of a zero-based budget? You basically plan where every dollar of your income will go for the month – savings, rent, utilities, food, clothing, coffee, postage stamps, etc. (Learn more by reading this Nerd Wallet blog post.) How about applying this concept, in general terms, to the food you buy? By planning your meals, you can buy just as much food as you need. When leftover food is planned into future meals, food isn’t wasted (we call these planned-overs!). Knowing where every ounce of frozen broccoli will go isn’t such a big deal, because whatever you don’t use can go back into the freezer. But if you’re buying fresh vegetables for a recipe, either buy the exact amount you’ll use, or make a plan to use what’s left over. Try zero-based food planning with fresh produce, eggs, dairy products, bread, and other perishables.
  2. Fruit & veggie stock up: Use meal planning to make sure you have enough fruits and vegetables to fill up half of your plate for every meal, every day. Avoid food waste by planning on meals with fresh produce for the first few days after food shopping. Then start using frozen vegetables, and frozen fruits, too (add some to yogurt or oatmeal, heat some in the microwave to use as a topper for toast or pancakes). As you get to the very end of the week, use canned vegetables if you’re out of frozen. Canned fruit, applesauce, and raisins can fill in for fresh fruit.
  3. Meal styles: A more general meal plan with meal styles can make weekly meal planning easier. You have a different style for each day of the week. For example, Monday can be beans (burritos, chili, or soups). Saturday can be salads (entree salad with different proteins and veggies). See our free handout for seven different meal styles and ideas for each. These make the basis for meals, then you can add your own favorites, try new recipes, etc.
  4. Keep it simple: If meal planning makes you think of the perfect pictures of perfect meals you see on social media, think again! Meal planning is whatever YOU want it to be. Maybe you just want to plan breakfast for the week. It’s all fine – check out our free Meal Planning Ideas handout to get started.
  5. Menu planning tool: In our store, we have a great tool to use no matter how you decide to teach menu planning. Use the Menu Planning Dry Erase poster to walk individuals or groups through planning a week’s worth of meals. We also have a larger Menu Planning Dry Erase Wall Decal. And people can take home our smaller Menu Planning Tearpad to practice what they’ve learned.

Remember, planning meals can help you buy the right amount of food and use it before it goes bad. That’s good for you, your family, and the world!

Using STEM to teach HEPA

If you teach or work with kids, you probably know about STEM. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and we hear about it a lot in terms of preparing students for the jobs of the future. But did you also know that we can use STEM to teach HEPA?

If HEPA makes you think of filters and allergies, think again! It’s a handy way to say Healthy Eating and Physical Activity. HEPA-focused STEM activities give kids the skills they need to make healthy choices. That’s why STEM is on our list of hot topics for 2020.

There are many ways to incorporate HEPA into STEM programs. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. Use food for hands-on nutrition activities that engage students, like this simple activity from the Children’s Museum of Houston about fat in food: https://www.cmhouston.org/experiment-fat.
  2. Teach cooking. Learning how to cook healthy food is a skill that will last a lifetime. Check out our Learn to Cook Workbook. Students will learn STEM-related concepts like food safety, cooking methods, and how to follow a recipe. There are even cooking-related math problems!
  3. Sharpen math skills with nutrition and physical activity lessons. We have the all the materials you need to combine math with HEPA:
    1. Math of Fiber
    2. Sugar Math
    3. Sodium Math
    4. Food Label Math
    5. Math of Movement
    6. Calorie Math
  4. Talk to students about HEPA-related STEM careers. Find information on these jobs at StemJobs.com:
    1. Nutritionist/dietitian
    2. Chef
    3. Professional food forager
    4. Food scientist
    5. Health teacher

Be sure to check out our entire collection of STEM-related materials. Use nutrition science and math to teach students of all ages (including adults) to make healthy choices!

What’s on Your Fork?

Are you looking for an easy (and educational) way to brighten up a classroom, hallway, office, or cafeteria? Check out our What’s On Your Fork poster, bulletin board banner, and wall decals. They feature beautiful, professional photographs of real, healthy food on a black background – these really stand out!

There are so many fun things you can do with the What’s on Your Fork theme. Here are just a few ideas:

  1. What’s on Your Fork display: Start with our banner or poster, or make your own visual materials with pictures of fruits, vegetables, healthy protein sources, and whole grains. Leave space for people to add pictures of what’s on their own forks.
    • Kids can cut out pictures of healthy food from magazines or supermarket flyers, tape them to plastic forks, and create their own display.
  2. What’s on Your Fork selfies: Encourage people to snap a picture when they’re eating healthy food (if it’s on a fork, that’s fun; if not, that’s fine too!). They can share it on social media (#WhatsOnYourFork), share it with a friend, or keep it private.
  3. What’s on Your Fork with food groups: Let clients decide which food group they want to focus on and have them take pictures of what’s on their fork for one day, three days, or a week. Someone who needs to eat more vegetables would take a picture whenever there’s a veggie on their fork (or spoon, or plate, or bowl!). Do the same for fruits, whole grains, and lean protein.
  4. What’s on Your Fork sugar control: People might say they’re going to limit themselves to 1-2 treats a week, but “forget” when they walk by a candy dish or are offered a piece of birthday cake. Have them snap a picture when they eat a sweet treat (on or off a fork!) and keep it on their phone. Then every time they’re tempted by something sugary, they check their phone to see the last time they had one.

MyPlate & New Year’s Resolutions

While everyone is prepping for the holidays, it’s time for nutrition and health educators to think about what comes next – New Year’s resolutions.

Year after year, people make – and fail to keep – diet-related resolutions. They usually vow to completely change how they eat, often by following a fad diet that is overly restrictive, thus setting themselves up for failure by February.

How can we set them up for success in 2020? By showing people how to make diet resolutions that are simple, science-based, and realistic. Diet resolutions they can keep for life! And we think MyPlate is the perfect place to start.

As a MyPlate National Strategic Partner, we’re proud to offer an amazing collection of MyPlate posters and other materials. Here are two that you can use to start a conversation about New Year’s resolutions:

  • The Healthy Plate poster is unique and sure to get people’s attention! Instead of the traditional MyPlate graphic, it uses beautiful illustrations to show the MyPlate concept. And it comes with a downloadable handout that has the traditional MyPlate graphic with tips on one side and a quiz on the other side.
  • Our MyPlate Photo poster includes the MyPlate graphic along with photographs of real food for each group. It also comes with a downloadable handout full of tips.

Just in time for the new year, USDA is launching Start Simple with MyPlate. This new campaign has some great resources to help with MyPlate-style New Year’s resolutions. Here are just a few of our favorites:

  • MyPlate Plan: Get personalized food group targets by entering your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. There’s also a Spanish version. (Note: MyPlate Plan isn’t quite perfect yet. For us, it worked fine on Chrome, but not on Safari.)
  • MyPlate Plan Widget: Share MyPlate Plan with your clients and readers by embedding a widget on your website.
  • MyPlate Quizzes: These online quizzes are perfect for teaching the MyPlate concept. There’s one for each food group!
  • MyPlate Email Updates: Stay up-to-date on all things MyPlate by signing up at ChooseMyPlate.gov/GovDelivery.
  • MyPlate App get the link on this page and use the MyPlate app to stay on track all year!

Make holiday eating simple with MyPlate

The holiday season is a danger zone for weight management. Parties, shopping trips, traveling, houseguests, candy dishes, potlucks – all of these can wreak havoc on a healthy eating plan. Help your clients keep holiday eating simple and healthy with MyPlate!

Our MyPlate Holiday Poster shows you how to make the holidays healthier one plate at a time. Get things started by asking people to think about what challenges them the most about holiday eating, then talk about how MyPlate can help:

  • Appetizers: Whether it’s trays of finger foods passed at a cocktail party or a buffet table of small bites, appetizers can upset your healthy eating plan. The MyPlate simple solution is to fill at least half of your appetizer plate with vegetables.
  • Desserts: Sweets are everywhere during the holidays. The MyPlate simple solution is to fill at least half of your dessert plate with fruit, then add a small piece or slice of the dessert offered.
  • Lunch or dinner: Whether you’re at home, at a restaurant, or at a party, build your meal with MyPlate in mind – that’s half fruits and vegetables, then add some protein and a whole grain item to the other half. Don’t forget a side of low-fat dairy!
  • Parties: When you’re not sure you’ll be able to build a healthy plate at a party, the MyPlate simple solution is to eat a snack plate of fruits and veggies before you go.

We also like these free holiday-related infographics from ChooseMyPlate.gov. Print them out or use them on social media:

We love that MyPlate makes healthy eating simple no matter what time of year. In fact, 2020 will bring a new MyPlate campaign – Start Simple with MyPlate. Click here for a sneak peek (parts of this new website are still under construction, but you can get an idea of what’s coming!).

Are You Ready for the Holiday Overeating Season?

Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday overeating season. But actually, we’ve been having to resist the temptation at the supermarket for months, with Halloween candy showing up on shelves in August and holiday baking displays popping up in September.

Yes, the holiday overeating season starts earlier every year! How are your clients supposed to keep holiday treats as treats when these foods are around for months before the holiday itself? We have just what you need to help your clients this holiday season. Here are a few favorites to get you started. Use these as jumping-off points for your topics or purchase our ready-made materials:

  • Food for Thought: Our Holiday Exercise poster will make you think before you reach for that extra holiday treat. It shows how long you have to do various exercises to burn off the calories in two-holiday cookies, and how long you need to walk to burn the calories from other holiday treats like pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and eggnog.
    • This poster also comes as a downloadable color handout. There’s a quiz on the back to help your clients find out if they are active enough and help them fit exercise into a busy holiday schedule.
  • Survivor–Holiday Edition: Our Holiday Survival Tips poster is a fun look at holiday dangers we all face – fattening family feasts, office party pig-outs, lazy days, comfort foods – and tips to survive them. The poster comes with a free handout on how to lighten up holiday cooking and the Best Light Pumpkin Pie recipe!
  • The One & Only MyPlate: Our MyPlate Holiday poster really says it all. If your clients can remember to put more fruits and veggies on their plates throughout the holiday season, that will take them far when it comes to eating healthfully. This colorful poster comes with a free downloadable color handout MyPlate 4 Step Plan for the Holidays.
  • Lighten & Brighten: You’re going to love our Fruit and Veggie Holiday Lights Buttons! Give them to your clients to remind them to brighten up and lighten up their holiday with fruits and vegetables. Be sure to save one for yourself!