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!

Eat It Now, Burn It Off Later?

Indulge today, work it off tomorrow? If only it was that simple!

Although we never want to discourage people from exercising, it’s important to emphasize that the key to weight loss is healthy eating, not working out. Extra calories are so easy to eat and so hard to burn. Our You Can’t Outrun Your Fork poster gets this message across in a fun, light-hearted way.

This poster brings up some good topics for conversation. Start off by asking your clients how they usually try to outrun the fork:

  • The post-workout splurger: You’re more likely to eat more or splurge on dessert if you exercised that day.
  • The extra calorie down-player: You tell yourself the larger size soda or extra scoop of ice cream won’t add that many calories (and even if it does, that’s why you workout, right?!).
  • The take-care-of-it-tomorrow trickster: You justify over-indulging with a solemn vow to burn it off tomorrow.
  • The I’ll-run-an-extra miler: You give in to temptation, promising to add miles or time to your next workout to make up for it.

Don’t forget to remind everyone about the non-weight related benefits of regular exercise (150 minutes/week + strength training 2x/week):

  • Helps control blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Reduces risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
  • Improves mood
  • Helps you sleep
  • Reduces stress
  • Strengthens your bones

And with Halloween right around the corner, it’s a good time for a reality check. What does it take to outrun your fingers sneaking the kids’ candy? Here’s what you need to do to burn the calories from ONE little fun size serving of candy:

  • Fun size Kit Kat (70 calories): Walk your dog 30 minutes.
  • Fun size Peanut M&M’s (90 calories): 13 minutes of jogging.
  • Fun size Mike & Ike’s (50 calories): Water aerobics for 15 minutes.
  • Fun size Reese’s (110 calories): 16 minutes on the exercise bike.
  • Fun size Skittles (80 calories): Rake leaves for 22 minutes.
  • Fun size Twix (80 calories): 28 minutes of vacuuming.

Everybody Needs a Break

We need to give people a break. A break from pop-up ads proclaiming the latest miracle food. A break from digital billboards along the highway that alternate between sculpted bodies selling gym memberships and McDonald’s French fries. A break from commercials and spam telling them what to eat and what not to eat.

Give them a break with our “I Am…” poster! It’s the antidote to the noisy, conflicting, all-or-nothing messages about food and health that we’re all bombarded with every day.

“I Am…” is a motivational health poster that emphasizes the steps on your journey to a life of health and well-being. Affirmations serve as gentle reminders for:

  • Self-care: sleeping enough, forgiving a setback.
  • Diet: eating mindfully when hungry, loving fruits & veggies.
  • Physical activity: moving more, exercising consistently.
  • Attitude: not giving up.
  • Intention: planning and working to success.

Here are five ways to use the “I Am…” poster with your clients:

  • It’s perfect for a weight management group that meets regularly: start each meeting with participants sharing which affirmation they identify with most that day.
  • It’s a good ice breaker for an individual or group session: which affirmation is speaking to you today?
  • It’s a goal setting helper: which affirmation do you want to work on?
  • It’s a take-home message: take a picture of the poster with your cell phone and look at it frequently throughout the day.
  • It’s a question: one step starts your journey – what will your one step be today?

Teach the Facts: Microbiome & Gut Health

Gut health and microbiome are hot topics that go together. Like most hot topics, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Teach your audience the facts with our Microbiome and Gut Health PowerPoint show.

Our presentation covers all the basics, answering the questions your clients are asking:

  1. What exactly is the microbiome?
  2. What factors affect the microbiome?
  3. Can I change my microbiome?
  4. How does my microbiome affect my health?
  5. What foods play a role in a healthy microbiome?
  6. What are probiotic supplements and should I take them?

Our PowerPoint show has everything you need for an interactive, informative class on the microbiome. We give you many options so you can adapt the presentation according to your audience, time-frame, and available technology. Purchase our show or use our ideas in yours to include:

  1. “Taking Care of Your Gut” – a handout your clients can take home with them.
  2. Click a link to watch all or part of “How our microbes make us who we are,” a TED Talk by Rob Knight, PhD.
  3. A pop quiz to engage your audience and see what they’ve learned.
  4. Click on a variety of links to access the latest research and information. Nature has a great one here.

Research on the microbiome is exciting, but there’s still a lot to learn.

The bottom line: Your best bet for a healthy gut is to eat more high fiber, plant-based foods, and less processed foods and high-fat animal products. Yep, a plant-based diet wins again!

When Does Small = Big?

When it comes to weight loss, small equals big. That is, losing a relatively small amount of weight can bring big health benefits. This is exactly what our Lose 10% Poster teaches – modest weight loss can lead to improvements in:

  1. Energy level
  2. Physical mobility
  3. General mood
  4. Self-confidence
  5. Blood pressure
  6. Blood cholesterol
  7. Blood sugar

This can be a comforting message for your clients who are overweight or obese. Consider this scenario:

Janie is 5’3” and weighs 200 pounds. Her doctor says, Your BMI is 35.4, which means you are obese. A normal weight for your height is between 104 and 141 pounds. Janie does the math and is instantly overwhelmed. I need to lose between 59 and 96 pounds, she tells herself. How will I ever lose that much? It will take so long! I’ll never get there!

But what if Janie talks to a registered dietitian about her weight? Losing just 10% of your body weight will make you feel better and be healthier, so let’s focus on that for now, says the RD. Ten percent of 200 is 20 pounds. Janie smiles and says, I can do that!

Here’s an activity that goes along with our poster:

  • Part 1: What’s Your 10%? Show participants how to calculate 10% of their body weight. They can do this using the calculator on their phone, but it would also be nice to have some inexpensive calculators on hand (get a few with big buttons). Tell them to multiply their weight by 0.10. That is their 10%. Have them write this number on an index card.
  • Part 2: Why do YOU want to lose your 10%? Go over the benefits of modest weight loss. Have each participant write why they want to lose 10% on the index card (“I want to lose my 10% so that I’ll have more energy and keep my blood pressure under control”). Tell them to put the index card where they’ll see it every day, as a reminder of their 10% goal and motivation.