Spring Has Sprung!

Spring is in the air!

Farmers markets are opening back up. We’re moving on from hearty soups and stews and looking forward to light, fresh salads and grilled vegetables.

Now is the time to plan some education and engagement to get your clients, students, or employees excited about the new bounty of healthy produce that will be sprouting up over the next few months.

Here are three ideas to get you started …

  1. Real Food Grows:
    • Real, unprocessed food is especially easy to find this time of year at farmers markets, roadside stands, and your supermarket.
    • Add some recipes to our beautiful Real Food Grows poster for a display they won’t be able to pass up.
    • Offer a Real Food Grows sticker to anyone who shares a tip on their favorite place to buy fresh produce.
  2. Farm to Table:
    • Use social media posts or your newsletter to point clients toward the nearest farmer’s market and show them how to find out what’s in season (here’s a handy online guide by state).
    • Encourage clients to take a picture of their favorite farmer’s market or farm stand, or a healthy dish they make with locally-grown produce. Choose random winners to receive a Farm to Table notepad or wristband.
  3. Fruit & Veggie Fun:
    • Play our Name That Fruit and Veggie PowerPoint game with your group or class.
    • Turn the game’s content into social media posts for spring and summer.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD


Gentle Nudges to Healthy Change

The American Psychological Association recently released the 2021 Stress in America poll. No surprise – the past year has been hard on us.

The pandemic has had a negative impact on:

  • Physical activity
  • Weight
  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Alcohol intake
  • Mental health

As people get vaccinated and begin to think about life after COVID-19, many will be ready to make changes to do things like lose weight and start exercising again. Some will jump right in, but others may benefit from a slower, more mindful journey back to healthy habits.

Here are three ideas for gently nudging your clients or students toward a healthy eating pattern and lifestyle:

  1. Mindfulness and mindful eating:
  2. Motivating affirmations:
    • Empower your clients through short sessions on the affirmations from our I Am Motivational Health poster:
      • Self-care (sleeping enough, forgiving a setback)
      • Healthy eating (eating mindfully when hungry, loving fruits & veggies)
      • Physical activity (moving more, exercising consistently)
      • Attitude (not giving up)
      • Intention (planning and working to success)
  3. Positive transformations:
    • Adopt the beautiful butterfly from our Change It Up theme as your mascot.
    • The butterfly can be a visual reminder to clients who are working to transform their lives by eating healthier foods and being more active every day.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

5 Steps to a Healthy Dietary Pattern

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do away with the word diet and replace it with healthy dietary pattern?

Rather than focusing on individual nutrients, foods, or food groups in isolation, a dietary pattern refers to what we eat and drink over time and how this affects our health.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we follow a healthy dietary pattern at every stage of life.

Take your group, class, or individual clients through five steps to discovering a healthy dietary pattern that works for them:

  1. Use our DGA Healthy Eating Patterns poster and handout to discuss the concept of a healthy dietary pattern. Talk about how eating patterns differ from diets, especially fad diets.
  2. Show participants how to enter their age, gender, height, weight, and activity level into MyPlate Plan. This free tool gives them personalized recommendations that will form the basis of their healthy eating pattern. Bonus: MyPlate Plan is also available in Spanish!
  3. Have participants make a list of foods they like for each food group in their MyPlate Plan.
  4. Help them identify whether the foods they listed fit into a healthy eating pattern. In other words, are they nutrient-dense and lower in fat, sodium, and sugar? Our new 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines PowerPoint show is a great resource for teaching this information.
  5. For the foods and beverages that don’t fit into a healthy eating pattern, help participants identify healthier options that are more nutrient-dense and lower in fat, sodium, and sugar. Emphasize that they don’t need to make these changes all at once!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

How to Change Up a Step Challenge

Step challenges appeal to kids and adults, making them a popular way to encourage people to be more active. Spring is a great time to start a 10,000 Steps a Day Challenge – everyone’s ready to get outside!

Our 10K Steps theme has everything you need to run a step challenge in a school, workplace, or with clients. Make your step challenge unique, fun, effective, and educational for everyone with these five ways to change up your step challenge:

  1. Credit for every step: Some people don’t have a pedometer or fitness tracker, forget to wear it or carry it, or get frustrated because their favorite activity (maybe cycling or yoga) doesn’t show up in their step count.
    • A solution? Use an activity conversion chart (like this one) to convert minutes of activity into steps.
  2. Learn what more steps can (and cannot) do: Throughout the step challenge, focus on the many health benefits of moving more. Be up-front about the fact that taking 10K steps/day is not going to burn off indulgences like sugary beverages and junk food.
    • Our How Much to Work it Off? poster shows that exercise (or taking more steps) alone won’t help you reach weight loss goals. What you eat counts!
  3. Customize the challenge: 10K steps/day may not be realistic for many folks and it may be too easy for others. Let them know that taking more steps this week than they did last week is what counts.
  4. Create accountability: Set up a Facebook group or group text chat so participants can share their goals, motivate each other, and stay accountable.
  5. Generate excitement: Promote your step challenge everywhere with posters, banners, social media posts, and fun incentives (like wristbands and stickers).

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Fruits & Veggies: Let the Games Begin

With spring just around the corner, more fruits and vegetables will soon be in season. Plan now to get your clients or students engaged and excited about eating more fresh produce with our Fruit and Vegetable Challenge Kit.

The Fruit and Vegetable Challenge Kit includes everything you need to run a friendly competition. There are five weekly themes, buying and preparation tips, recipes, health benefits, and beautiful color photos of fresh fruits and veggies.

Here are some ideas for using the Challenge Kit with different audiences:

  • In the classroom, students can:
    1. Complete the weekly fruit and vegetable theme challenges.
    2. Check and compare fresh produce prices online.
    3. Research what fruits and veggies are in season where they live.
    4. Create social media posts that promote a fruit or vegetable.
  • In the workplace, employees can:
    1. Sign up for the fruit and vegetable challenge.
    2. Compete within or between departments.
    3. Learn about local community-supported agriculture (CSAs) and farmers’ markets.
    4. Vote for the fruit or vegetable of the week.
  • In individual nutrition counseling, clients can:
    1. Choose a fruit and vegetable challenge to complete.
    2. Chart their own progress at home.
    3. Try new recipes featuring seasonal fruits and veggies.
    4. Choose a fruit or vegetable color photo to use as a screensaver.
  • In virtual group classes, participants can:
    1. Meet online weekly for a 5-week fruit and vegetable challenge series.
    2. Compete in groups or individually.
    3. Cook/prepare along with the instructor in virtual food prep demos.
    4. Share progress and questions in a group text chat or Facebook group.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

5 Activities for Healthy Shopping on a Budget

We know eating healthfully doesn’t have to be expensive, but food shopping when you’re having trouble making ends meet can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to toss the cheap, processed food into your cart.

Help your clients or students learn to stretch their food dollars and purchase healthy food. I like the Healthy Shopping on a Budget PowerPoint because it provides practical information about low-cost choices in each food group. It also includes a collection of recipes that are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and tasty.

Here are some activities you could use along with the Healthy Shopping on a Budget PowerPoint:

  1. Track food spending: Have participants keep receipts for every food and beverage purchase they make over the course of a week. What stands out? What are they spending most on? What lower cost choices could they make?
  2. Learn about low-cost protein: Fancy plant-based burgers and sausages are all the rage, but they are expensive. Discuss budget-friendly cuts of lean meat, fish, chicken, and beans. Do a cooking demo using dried beans, a whole chicken, or other protein sources people may not know how to prepare.
  3. Take advantage of every resource: Find affordable farmer’s markets, including ones that accept SNAP benefits. Many states have programs that double SNAP benefits when you buy fresh produce. Don’t forget about WIC’s Farmers Market Nutrition Program, the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, and USDA’s Farmers to Families.
  4. Make a master list: Participants make a list of healthy items they typically buy, then print out copies to keep on the refrigerator. Circle items you run out of and take the list when you go shopping. Get this started with fun giveaways like our MyPlate Shopping List Notepads and Go Shopping with MyPlate Tearpad.
  5. Brainstorm barriers: Is there a full-service supermarket nearby? Do participants have transportation to get to a store that sells fresh produce? Is the closest supermarket a mega size monstrosity that is hard for an older person or someone with a disability to get around?

Any of your students or clients could be experiencing food insecurity, no matter where they live or how they dress. This makes healthy eating on a budget an important topic to cover!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD


5-Step Breakfast Challenge

Breakfast made a resurgence last year, when working and learning from home gave us more time to prepare and eat this morning meal. This trend is expected to continue.

FoodNetwork.com declares that “breakfast at home is back” in 2021, going on to give examples of new food products like Cinnabon’s CinnaBiscuit Chicken Sandwich and Jimmy Dean Casserole Bites. High fat, low fiber, processed frozen foods – for the most important meal of the day? Yikes!

Get your clients or students on course to a healthy breakfast habit with the Start Your Day with Breakfast PowerPoint. You could break the show up into five mini-sessions so that participants can practice adding one component of a healthy breakfast at a time:

  1. First add fruit: So many traditional breakfast foods go well with fruit, making it easy to add some to what you’re already eating. Top oatmeal, cereal, or toast with your favorite fruit.
  2. Don’t forget about veggies: Work them into breakfast at least a few times a week. Try a little salsa with your eggs or add some greens to a smoothie. You get the idea!
  3. Go all out with whole grains: Look for whole grain options of foods you already eat, like whole wheat English muffins, bread, mini-bagels, cold cereal, and old-fashioned or steel-cut oats.
  4. Mix up the dairy: Milk isn’t the only way to get a good dose of protein and calcium in the morning. Mix your cereal or fruit with some yogurt or sprinkle low-fat cheese on a veggie omelet.
  5. Make the protein healthy: Eggs get a bad rap, but they can definitely be part of a healthy breakfast. Find ways to add in nuts and seeds, nut butters, and lean meats.

Once they complete all five sessions, participants will have mastered the art of making and eating a healthy, delicious breakfast every day — for 2021 and beyond!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Snacking from Home

Working and learning from home has changed our snacking habits, for better or worse.

With the kitchen close by, you don’t have to rely on the vending machine or what you keep in your desk drawer for snacks. You can choose from a wider and hopefully healthier variety of snack options. On the other hand, you can pop into your kitchen any time, which can make snacking too convenient. Kind of a double-edged sword.

Here are four ways to engage your clients, students, or other audiences in conversations about healthy snacking:

  1. Compare nutrient-dense vs. calorie-dense snacks. Use our 100 Calorie Snack color download or poster, which shows this concept in colorful photographs. People can see how choosing healthier options, like fruits and vegetables, lets them eat more compared to unhealthy, higher calorie choices like cookies or chips.
  2. Brainstorm about why you snack. Is it really hunger? Or could it be stress, boredom, or procrastination that’s calling you to the kitchen? Tracking can help identify patterns and make you more aware of snacking. Try using our Food and Exercise Log.
  3. Set yourself up for success. Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy options and remember MyPlate when thinking about snacks. Teach these and other tips with our Snacking Smart PowerPoint.
  4. Get support from a friend. You could text each other during the day when you’re tempted to snack, giving you a chance to determine whether you’re truly hungry and holding you accountable to make a healthy choice

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

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A Cure for COVID Cooking Fatigue

Raise your hand if you have COVID cooking fatigue!

I confess to recurring bouts with this condition. From what I see on social media and in the news, I’m not alone.

What can you do? Buy prepared foods at the supermarket…order carry-out from local restaurants…pay for a meal delivery service. But these options aren’t always the best for your budget or your health.

How about prescribing a 30-minute video that just might cure COVID cooking fatigue? Our 25 Ingredients, 15 Meals video makes food shopping and meal preparation a breeze for even the most reluctant cooks.

Your audience will learn a lot in just half an hour, including:

  • Menu planning.
  • Shopping from a list.
  • Healthy cooking methods.
  • Money-, time-, and calorie-saving strategies.
  • Cook it once and serve it 2-3 times

Beyond COVID cooking fatigue, 25 Ingredients, 15 Meals would work well for teaching:

  1. Weight loss groups
  2. Families or individuals at risk for food insecurity
  3. Home-school students who need lessons on cooking, nutrition, math, or budgeting
  4. Addiction recovery programs
  5. Boy Scout, Girl Scout, and other youth groups
  6. Students (middle school, high school, and college)

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

New Year’s Resolutions Losing Their Shine?

This is the time of year when New Year’s resolutions start to lose their shine. People who vowed to follow fad diets are getting discouraged, finding it harder and harder to stick to them.

Take advantage of this time to re-energize your clients, students, or employees with practical, science-based messages about healthy eating. Here are three ideas for helping individuals or groups move on from unhealthy, unrealistic resolutions:

  1. Start Over with the Best:  If you kicked-off the new year with a restrictive fad diet, start over with U.S. News & World Report’s top-ranking diet. The Mediterranean diet is number one overall, easiest to follow, heart-healthy, and plant-based. It’s also visually appealing – something that’s captured in our Mediterranean Diet Class PowerPoint Show. The beautiful photographs of foods, herbs, spices, and prepared dishes will have everyone’s mouth watering.
  2. Buckle Down with the Basics:  When it comes to nutrition and healthy eating, misinformation is the rule rather than the exception. When you’re confused, it’s time to go back to the basics, bootcamp-style. Our Nutrition Bootcamp PowerPoint Show provides the knowledge needed to ditch the fads and focus on what really works.
  3. Reset with New Goals:  Do you start every year off with big goals that you never achieve? Stop, step back, and reset your expectations. Our Getting Started PowerPoint Show puts you on track to a new, practical way of looking at nutrition and diets. It starts with setting realistic goals and moves on to other secrets to success, like following a sensible, simple eating plan (MyPlate) and teaming up with others for support.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD