3 Activity Ideas to Boost Whole Grain Knowledge

Whole grains are often great for health, yet most Americans consume too many refined grains and miss out on the benefits of whole grains… while adding excess empty calories to their eating patterns.

To help your audience learn about whole grains, their health benefits, and how to incorporate them into a healthful eating pattern, I’ve put together a few engaging activities just for you!

(And, if you’re really patient, you’ll find a PDF handout hidden in the post as well).

Take a look…

Activity #1: Whole Grain Shopping Sleuths

Gather a few packages of foods that have varying whole grain content. Divide participants into groups and give each group a collection of those packages. Have the groups line up their foods in terms of most to least whole grains per serving.

Once everyone has finished making their selections, review their work as a class.

Highlight the importance of using the Nutrition Facts label to evaluate whole grain content and draw everyone’s attention to which words to look for in ingredient lists. Make a note of front-of-package claims as well. Was anyone fooled by statements that hint being wholesome but are not whole grain, like, “100% Stone Ground,” “Multigrain,” “Honey Wheat,” etc? Explain the importance of 100% whole grains. Note that stone ground can be whole grain but you should check the ingredient list to be sure.

If time permits, have the groups combine to line up all the product packages from most to least whole grains. How did everyone apply the knowledge from your discussion?

Activity #2: Whole Grain Swaps

This is a brainstorming activity, so all you’ll need is a space to write down people’s ideas (a whiteboard or giant notepad works especially well) along with a writing utensil. Much of the information that could help your clients internalize this lesson can also be found in the Go for the Whole Grain poster, though it is not required.

Discuss the health benefits of whole grains. How do they impact blood sugar? Heart health? General nutrient intake?

Once your group seems to have a solid grasp of the importance of whole grains to a balanced eating pattern, move on to common grain foods. Which contain whole grains? Which contain refined grains?

Finally, to get to the crux of the matter, list common refined grain foods on your writing surface. What substitutions can people make in order to consume fewer refined grains and more whole grains? Discuss the ideas as a class, writing out compelling switches as you encounter them.

Activity #3: Whole Grain Quiz

Distribute copies of the handout How Well Do You Know Whole Grains? Have participants take the quiz individually (this makes a great icebreaker or take-home assignment too), and then bring everyone together to go over the answers, addressing any questions they might have about the information provided. If you’d like, you can distribute prizes like these whole grain stickers to people who got the most correct answers.

New Activity Ideas!

I love coming up with new activities that promote a balanced lifestyle and healthful choices! Today I want to share a few activities that make the most of the brand-new Steps of Health floor decals that just made their debut in the Nutrition Education Store.

These decals feature eight different steps that people can take to improve their health, including…

  • Move more
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Grains
  • Protein
  • Dairy
  • Sleep
  • Limit screen time

Their possible uses are endless, and these brand-new floor decals also come with a handout that details how those eight elements can help improve health. There’s even another handout that highlights some fun activities that are perfect for these materials, and that’s the handout I’d like to share today.

Enjoy!

footprints-web_1024x1024

The Path to Health:

Arrange the feet so that they appear to be a trail across the front of the room, leading from the door into the classroom.

As people enter your classroom, have them walk the trail and note what is on each footprint.

Once everyone has walked the trail and then found a seat, explain that each person can now brainstorm a few ways to implement each element of the path to good health in their own lives.

Have all the participants use a piece of paper and a pen, then divide their page into eight sections, one for each footprint. Let them give each section a title (“Move More,” “Fruit,” “Vegetables,” etc), then allow everyone some time to brainstorm while you re-create the grid of eight footprints on a whiteboard or large piece of paper that you have posted at the front of the room.

Once everyone appears to be done brainstorming on their own, bring the class back together and have people share what they wrote. Write the ideas down on your own board and encourage everyone to add ideas to their own sheets if the new options resonate with them.

Health Fair Decorations:

These decals make excellent decorations for a health fair booth. Consider using these little feet to create a path to your booth from the entrance, or arrange them in an arc around your booth so that people can make a full circuit of what you offer.

These creative materials are sure to help your booth stand out from the crowd at the next wellness fair.

Display the Path to Health:

These stickers don’t have to stay on the floor! Put together a colorful bulletin board and use these feet to join the ideas of good nutrition and regular physical activity.

You can use a grid format à la the “Path to Health” activity, or you can build a path along the center of the board and write out details/illustrate each key point along the sides of each foot.

Here’s a printable handout of these activity ideas. How will you use yours?

stepsofhealthfloordecalsactivityLooking for other fun additions to the Nutrition Education Store? There are lots! Here are a few of my favorites…

Shopping with MyPlate: A Handout

Balance your cart for a balanced plate!

Shopping with My Plate:

The food you buy has a huge impact on your eating habits. Make sure that the choices you make are healthful and balanced, starting at the grocery store.

What does that mean?

Well, since MyPlate advises you to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, roughly half your cart should be full of fruits and vegetables in the store. Make lean protein choices, and select dairy foods that are low in saturated fat and added sugars. When it comes to grain foods, make sure that at least half of all the grains you’re eating are whole grains. Skip those processed grains whenever you can.

More Shopping Tips!

My Plate advises people to “Compare sodium content for similar foods, using the Nutrition Facts label to select brands lower in sodium.” The next time you’re in the store, grab a couple of different options for an ingredient and compare the sodium content. Choose one of the options with lower numbers.

Watch out for portion size! When you’re in the store, look at the serving size and number of servings in the food that you’d like to buy. Is it realistic? Will a sugary soda bottle really be used for 2 or 3 separate servings, or, despite what it says on the label, is the drink really going to be consumed all at once? Remember, MyPlate wants to help people enjoy food but eat less of it, counseling, “Avoid oversized portions.”

Here’s a printable MyPlate handout that you can use however you see fit!

MyPlate Shopping Handout

And here are even more MyPlate educational materials, fresh from the Nutrition Education Store!

Art of Health MyPlate Poster

Health Hopscotch Floor Sticker and Game

Salt and Sodium Poster

New MyPlate Activity Page

Here’s a brand-new My Plate activity page! This page is a perfect way to communicate the key lessons of MyPlate while keeping things light and fun. It makes an excellent icebreaker or game, and you can also use it as a prize at your next wellness fair booth!

MyPlate Activity Page:

Fill in the Blank!

Focus on choosing healthy foods and drinks from all five food groups including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and _ _ _ _ _. This will help you get all the nutrients you need.

It’s wise to choose foods with less sodium, saturated fat, and added _ _ _ _ _ _.

Try to fill half your plate with fruits and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ at each meal.

Choose mostly lean _ _ _ _ _ _ _ and dairy foods.

MyPlate Word Scramble:

Unscramble the words below to find key elements of MyPlate.

  1. IENNRSTTU _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
  2. YVTREIA _ _ _ _ _ _ _
  3. OEHLW NAGSIR _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
  4. GEHCANS _ _ _ _ _ _ _
  5. TEALHH _ _ _ _ _ _
  6. ITURF  _ _ _ _ _
  7. AABCELN _ _ _ _ _ _ _

My Plate Maze:

MyPlate Maze

MyPlate Activity Page Answers:

Fill in the Blank:

  • Focus on choosing healthy foods and drinks from all five food groups including fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and DAIRY. This will help you get all the nutrients you need.
  • It’s wise to choose foods with less sodium, saturated fat, and added SUGARS.
  • Try to fill half your plate with fruits and VEGETABLES at each meal.
  • Choose mostly lean PROTEIN and dairy foods.

My Plate Word Scramble:

  1. NUTRIENTS
  2. VARIETY
  3. WHOLE GRAINS
  4. CHANGES
  5. HEALTH
  6. FRUIT
  7. BALANCE

MyPlate Maze:

Maze Solution

Here’s the free printable activity page handout! How will you use your copy?

MyPlate Activity Page

And here are some of my favorite MyPlate resources, available now in the Nutrition Education Store!

MyPlate Game Poster

Poster, Handout, PowerPoint

MyPlate Education Kit

MyPlate Plates

New Catalog + FREE Handout

The goal has always been to make your jobs easier.

Posters!We kept that goal in mind as we researched and designed new materials. We thought about it as we chased down peer-reviewed studies, or stayed up far too late making slight art adjustments. We thought about it as we edited handout drafts, and as we photographed our latest hauls from the farmers’ markets.

We never stop thinking about it, and the result is our best catalog yet.

Today I’m proud to offer you our newest materials, our top-selling classic resources, and tons of other fun educational tools that you didn’t even know you needed. They’re all in the Nutrition Education Resource Catalog, and they’re all available to you, right now.

What’s inside? Some of the highlights include…

  • More posters than you’ve ever seen before!
    • Food Art
    • Nutrition
    • Health
    • School
    • Food photos
  • Colorful banners!
  • Prizes!Handouts that break down any topic into understandable terms!
  • Fantastic prizes and treats!
    • Bookmarks
    • Buttons
    • Fruit-Shaped Sticky Pads
    • Stickers
    • Magnets
    • Pens
    • Placemats
    • Prize Cards
    • Recipe Cards
    • Wristbands
  • Engaging and memorable bulletin board and display kits!
  • PowerPoint presentations with leader guides, speaker’s notes, and handouts!
  • Fun and educational workbooks!
  • Bright and cheerful brochures!
  • MyPlate for every occasion!
  • Educational books and cookbooks!
  • Everything you need for the best cooking demonstrations ever!
  • Comprehensive nutrition education programs!
  • Videos on DVD!

But what topics do we cover? The food and health scene is always evolving, and our resources can help keep you ahead of the game. Here’s just a small sample of the topics addressed in the latest catalog

  • Cooking Demonstrations!Balanced Lifestyle
  • Beverages
  • Blood Pressure/Hypertension
  • BMI/Waist Circumference
  • Cancer
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Diet Plans
  • DASH Diet
  • Fad Diets
  • Mediterranean Diet
  • Eating Well on a Budget
  • Food Allergies
  • Food Safety
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Gluten Allergies and Intolerances
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Heart Health
  • Healthful Habits
  • Men’s Health
  • MyPlate
  • Nutrition Facts Labels
  • Physical Activity
  • Portion Control
  • Pregnancy/Breastfeeding
  • Sodium/Salt
  • Whole Grains
  • Women’s Health

There’s actually a lot more, but I didn’t want the list to just go on forever!

Take a look at the catalog and see it all for yourself! I really think you’ll enjoy it. Plus, if there’s anything you want that you don’t see, just let me know and my team and I will make it for you.

Full Catalog

Oh! I almost forgot the best part! The catalog comes with a brand-new, totally-free handout. It covered the basics of grain foods: whole grains vs. refined grains, how to cook with grains, the health benefits of grain foods, and even ways to replace refined grains with whole grains. Drop by this link to get your very own copy!

Whole Grain Handout

And, since we’re here to help you look your very best right now, here are some fun new materials from the Nutrition Education Store!

Fruit Sticky Pads

Prediabetes Poster

Wise Choices Banner and Stand

Nutrition from A to Z

It’s time for an exclusive look at the handout that accompanies our awesome Nutrition from A to Z poster! How will you use your free copy?

A is for Apples. An apple a day may be a cliche, but cliches exist for a reason. You see, apples are naturally fat-free and are very low in sodium. They are also excellent sources of fiber, antioxidants, and vital nutrients like vitamin C. Try one today!

B is for Balance. MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines both emphasize the importance of balance in your life. Balance your calorie intake with physical activity, and balance your plate according to MyPlate’s proportion guidelines.

C is for Cooking. When you cook at home, you control exactly what goes into your meals. Cook healthfully with plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, lean protein, and nonfat dairy.

D is for Dairy. MyPlate and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to choose low- or nonfat dairy when possible. The saturated fat found in dairy products is very bad for your health, especially your heart!

E is for Empty Calories. According to MyPlate, foods with empty calories are foods that contain solid fats and added sugars. They are usually calorie-dense, but these calories are very nutrient-light. Avoid foods with empty calories whenever you can — they just aren’t good for you.

F is for Fruit. MyPlate’s fruit group contains everything from stone fruits to berries to tropical rarities. Follow MyPlate’s advice and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal.

G is for Grains. MyPlate advises people to make at least half the grains they eat whole grains, every day. In a rut? Try a new whole grain like amaranth, bulgur, or quinoa!

H is for Healthy Eating Patterns. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans insist that healthy eating patterns should meet nutrient needs at a reasonable calorie level. Stick to nutrient-dense foods whenever you can.

I is for Include Seafood. Did you know that most people should consume at least 8 ounces of cooked seafood per week? That’s what MyPlate suggests. Just remember to keep seafood preparations lean and sidestep breaded or fried options.

J is for Juice. If you do drink juice, be sure to choose options that are 100% fruit or vegetables. Juice is a hiding place for a surprising amount of added sugars. Don’t fall into the trap! Choose 100% juice instead.

K is for Kids. Did you know that kids need at least 60 minutes of exercise every day? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans posts that number as the minimum for most children, so get out there and play!

L is for Lean. When you go to get your servings from the protein food group, stick to lean options. Try beans, peas, white meat poultry, or lean cuts of beef or pork.

M is for MyPlate. Follow the plate! At each meal, half your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, with the rest divided equally between protein and grains. Add a bit of dairy too, and remember to keep things balanced!

N is for Nutrients. Most Americans aren’t getting enough nutrients. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should replace foods that are made mostly of empty calories with nutrient-dense foods. Nutrients of concern in American diets include calcium, potassium, vitamin D and dietary fiber.

O is for Orange. Oranges are a nutrient powerhouse. They are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber. Eating oranges may also help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. Try one today!

P is for Protein. MyPlate’s protein group is filled with meat, nuts, poultry, seeds, seafood, eggs, beans, and peas. Eat a wide variety of lean options daily.

Q is for Quality of Life. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Achieving and sustaining appropriate body weight across the lifespan is vital to maintaining good health and quality of life” (2010, page 8).

R is for Reduced Risk. MyPlate claims that eating fruits and vegetables will reduce your risk of heart disease. That’s just one more reason to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal.

S is for Sodium. Most people are consuming way too much sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise people to keep sodium consumption below 2300 mg per day. People who are African American, are over 51, or who have hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease should all consume less than 1500 mg of sodium per day.

T is for Tomato. Tomatoes are filled with key nutrients to improve your health. They are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and K, and also contain fiber and several B vitamins.

U is for Unique. Did you know that beans and peas are unique foods? MyPlate counts them as both a vegetable and a protein, so tally them where you need them the most!

V is for Variety. While portion sizes should stay small, it is important to eat a variety of fresh and healthful foods. Don’t fall into the rut of eating the same foods over and over — you could be missing out on nutrients! Look for new and nutritious foods to try each day.

W is for Water. One of MyPlate’s key consumer messages is to replace sugary drinks like soda and sport beverages with water. Water is essential to health, and many people don’t drink enough of it.

X is for eXplanation. Do you want more details about healthful eating and balanced nutrition? Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information about MyPlate. Or, drop by www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines for a closer look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Y is for Yogurt. Yogurt is a great source of calcium, but make sure that it doesn’t overload you with sugar and fat. Stick to low- or nonfat options, and check sugar content to make sure it isn’t too high.

Z is for Zone. Keep foods out of the danger zone. Food that has been sitting out at 40-140 degrees F for more than 2 hours is no longer safe to eat.

Like what you see? Here’s the free handout! Normally you can only get this when you get the Nutrition from A to Z poster, but we’re making an exception for you today!

Nutrition from A to Z Handout

But wait, there’s more! Check out these great nutrition education posters that will help you look your very best, right now!

Nutrition Poster Set

Whole Grain Poster

12 Lessons of Wellness and Weight Control Posters

4 Breakfast Options for Everyone

Mornings are busy. That’s just how it is. But does that busyness mean that a healthful breakfast is impossible?

It doesn’t.

Yes, it might be impossible to sit down to a multi-course, elaborate breakfast each and every morning, but there are a surprising number of simple, balanced, and healthful breakfasts that can please the whole family. Let’s take a look at some top contenders.

BurritoBreakfast Option #1: Make Breakfast Burritos

Breakfast burritos are infinitely adaptable, easy to travel with, and great vehicles for healthful ingredients. Scramble some eggs or egg whites, add drained and rinsed canned beans and some salsa and you’ve got a great base for endless innovation. Sauté some peppers and onions to roll into the burritos, or bulk them up with cubes of sweet potato. You could also add nonfat plain Greek yogurt for a creamy tang. Plus, with a few basic ingredients, everyone can mix and match, ensuring a breakfast that can please a crowd without having to make at least 3 totally different entrees.

By prepping the ingredients the night before, you can make it even easier to make the burritos for breakfast. Just reheat everything while you scramble the eggs. You could even make and assemble breakfast burritos as a family and then freeze a bunch for later. All you’d need to do is reheat and go!

Here are some great ingredients that you can use in breakfast burritos. Which will you pick?

  • Scrambled eggs or egg whites
  • Scrambled tofu
  • Hot sauce
  • Salsa or pico de gallo
  • Drained and rinsed pinto or black beans
  • Cooked lentils
  • Shredded chicken
  • Sautéed peppers and onions
  • Brown rice
  • Cilantro
  • Tomatoes
  • Cubed sweet potatoes or potatoes

ParfaitBreakfast Option #2: Make Parfaits

You’ll minimize cleanup and maximize options with simple breakfast parfaits. And the best part is, everything is infinitely adaptable. Simply layer some granola, nonfat yogurt, and fruit in a glass and you’re good to go. Plus, you can make these in travel mugs if everyone really needs to get out the door in a hurry.

Here are a few fun combinations…

  • Strawberries, nonfat vanilla yogurt, and granola
  • Oranges, fortified soy yogurt, and oat cereal
  • Raspberries and blueberries, nonfat plain Greek yogurt, and granola
  • Apples, nonfat plain yogurt with cinnamon, and oat cereal

With protein, calcium, and fiber — not to mention vitamins — these parfaits are nutrient powerhouses.

OatmealBreakfast Option #3: Make Oatmeal

Oatmeal doesn’t deserve it’s blah reputation. With a myriad of toppings, it is infinitely adaptable, and quick-cooking varieties come together speedily, which makes them winners for the morning routine.

If you make a big pot of oatmeal, everyone can top it with whatever they wish. Or you can make different types throughout the week.

Since I’m such a big fan of oatmeal, I’ve made quite a few variations. Here are some of my favorite free recipes…

Smoothie1Breakfast Option #4: Smoothies for Everyone

Here’s another option that can be varied infinitely. Try a few different combinations to find out which ones are best for your family. All you need is…

  • Liquid
    • Skim milk
    • Calcium-fortified soy milk
    • Orange juice
    • Water
    • Nut milk
    • Green tea
  • Fruit
    • Strawberries
    • Blueberries
    • Pineapple
    • Mango
    • Cherries
    • Oranges
    • Apples
    • Banana
  • Smoothie2Ice
  • Extras
    • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
    • Low-fat light vanilla yogurt
    • Peanut butter
    • Cocoa powder
    • Ground flaxseed
    • Cinnamon
    • Oats
    • Silken tofu

You can assemble these in the blender the night before, put the blender in the fridge overnight, then whirr everything together in the morning.

Oh, and for more smoothie inspiration, check out the free smoothie recipe collection.

Whew!

That was a lot of information about breakfast. Which options will your clients love? Which will you try? For a great recipe to help everyone get off on the right foot, try this Sunrise Smoothie, excerpted from our top-selling Home Run Meals Cookbook. The handout is free, it’s here, and it’s yours. Get your copy today!

Sunrise Smoothie Handout

If you like what you see in the handout, consider getting a copy of the Home Run Cooking Book. I wrote this book as the perfect introduction to healthful cooking, and included all of my favorite meals that have been home-runs for family and friends alike. This book walks its readers through grocery shopping, meal planning, proper knife use and safety, food safety, cooking with moist or dry heat, cooking basics, measuring basics, etc. Then it features a wide variety of guaranteed-hit recipes that have been rigorously tested and beautifully photographed, from breakfast to lunch to dinner, and even snacks and dessert! Get your book today!

Home Run Cooking

There are tons of other cooking resources in the Nutrition Education Store. Here are some of our newest bestsellers…

Learn to Cook Workbook

Kitchen Math and Measuring DVD

Portion Control Tearpad

Shopping Presentation