Keep Back to School Simple with MyPlate

Virtually or in-person, kids across the country are heading back to school. This is usually the time of year when parents and caregivers resolve to pack healthy lunches, serve nutritious after-school snacks, eat dinner as a family, and start the day off right with breakfast.

Like new year’s resolutions, overly ambitious back-to-school resolutions will fade quickly. And this year, more than ever, we need to keep things simple. People have enough to worry about with COVID-19.

When I think of simple, I think of MyPlate. With this in mind, I went to the Start Simple with MyPlate section of ChooseMyPlate.gov, looking for resources you can use in classes, social media, waiting rooms, and individual sessions. Here’s what I found, along with a couple of favorites from NutritionEducationStore.com.

  • MyPlate Tips from USDA Staff: These are practical tips from real people about how they fit healthy food and movement into their busy days. Ask employees, colleagues, or clients to share their own tips, then post them on a bulletin board or social media.
  • MyPlate Kids Recipe Videos: There are lots of videos on this page, but I like the five healthy snack recipe demos. They’re short and cute – kids and adults will enjoy them. Post these on social media or play them as part of a virtual class.
  • MyPlate My Wins series of videos: The 40-second videos on meals, snacks, and beverages would be great for social media. The longer (3-4 minute) videos bring MyPlate to life by showing how real families find simple solutions to make healthy eating work for them. Play these in waiting areas or incorporate them into a Zoom class for parents and caregivers.
  • MyPlate Kitchen Recipes: Adults and teens will learn to prepare healthy recipes with these short video food demos. Use them in an online series about eating dinner as a family and cooking at home.
  • Digital MyPlate Poster and MyPlate Food Pictures: This is one of our products that you can use in so many ways. In addition to the poster, you get professional photos of real food to show food groups and portion sizes, all on a flash drive and in a downloadable digital file. Use the images on your website and social media, add them to your PowerPoint shows or anywhere you need colorful food photos.
  • MyPlate Trivia Game PowerPoint Show: Everyone loves a trivia game. Use it to liven up an online class or counseling session.

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

COVID-19 Goals: It’s Time for a Do-Over

Raise your hand if, when the COVID-19 shut down began, you vowed to use this time at home to do big things — like cook from scratch with only unprocessed foods every night; organize those boxes of family photos; workout twice a day; or learn a foreign language.

We had good intentions, but our goals were unrealistic, especially given that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The news took over our lives and we had to get used to working virtually in many cases.

Chances are, your clients also set themselves up with some lofty goals, many relating to diet. When they failed to meet these unrealistic expectations, they may have thrown up their hands and quit trying. Let them know this is normal. Then help them move on with small goals for healthy eating.

This might just be the perfect time to introduce yourself and your clients to the Start Simple with MyPlate App. Free from the App Store and Google Play, this app helps you set and meet healthy eating goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely).

Here’s how the app works:

  1. Choose up to three goals per MyPlate food group. Some examples: “add vegetables to your lunch,” “have fruit for a sweet treat,” “have a whole grain at dinner,” “start your day with a protein food.” You can do this for each food group, or just pick one or two food groups to work on.
  2. When you meet a goal, you check it off for that day. The app lets you see your daily progress, get simple how-to tips to help you meet your goals, and select options for notifications and reminders.
  3. As your goals are completed, you can earn a variety of badges, like first goal complete, daily-streaks, food group badges, and the ultimate MyPlate badge.

Why we like the Start Simple with MyPlate App:

  • Easy: although it’s not designed for kids, they’ll pick it up quickly and can probably teach their parents/grandparents to use it.
  • Fun: the app is colorful, appealing to the eye, and fun to use.
  • Uplifting: when you check off a completed goal or earn a badge, you get a little celebration on your screen. (Sounds corny, but it will make you smile.)
  • Flexible: you can change your goals at any time.
  • Educational: users can learn more about MyPlate by clicking on the MyPlate 101 section.
  • Basic: the goals are simple enough for anyone to do.
  • Maintainable: when the world is overwhelming, this app helps you make a small change that you’ll be able to maintain.
  • Shareable: when you earn a badge, you can share this success on social media. This may encourage others to join you.
  • Challenging: there are built-in challenges for each season, providing a sense of competition and something larger to work toward for those who want it.

Tips for using the Start Simple with MyPlate App with your clients:

Check out our new and popular MyPlate materials:

Healthy Eating is Simple, Right?

At first glance, healthy eating seems so simple. If you want something sweet, we say, try fruit for dessert. So our clients go to the supermarket and what do they see next to the strawberries? Tubs of “strawberry” glaze, void of any fruit. And prepackaged shortcakes. All of a sudden, making a healthy choice isn’t so simple.

This is just one example of how our food choices are influenced by many factors. Things like product placement and marketing make the simple act of buying fresh produce more complicated for consumers.

You can see all the things that influence our food choices on our new poster – The American Diet.

There’s so much information on this poster, it is overwhelming. That’s the point. From social media to GMOs, celebrity diets to infomercials for fat-melting supplements, the American Diet is complicated.

It’s up to us to help people figure it out.

How can we do this? We’re glad you asked. Here are some ideas for you…

  1. Teach a class using our American Diet PowerPoint presentation. The slides and handouts touch on each of the eight systems that impact the food choices we make today.
  2. Use The American Diet concept as a project for high school students. Assign each student or small group an area to research. Have them create their own presentations to teach what they’ve learned to the rest of the class.
  3. Use The American Diet poster to see what people want to learn about. Let them ‘vote’ by choosing one or two ideas from the poster. You’ll find out which topics to feature in your upcoming classes.
  4. Display The American Diet poster at a health fair. Invite people to write their thoughts on sticky notes and post these for others to read.

In individual counseling or group settings, you can ask some great educational questions to generate discussion:

  1. Do you find yourself always searching for a magic bullet? For what – weight loss? Strength? Clear skin? To avoid your family’s health history?
  2. Do nutrition claims like ‘high in protein,’ ‘gluten-free,’ or ‘zero cholesterol’ get your attention? What was the last food advertisement you saw or heard? How do you think it impacts what you eat? How do you know if the claim is true?
  3. Are you or someone you know on a diet? Is it science-based? What do you think about celebrities and non-health professionals promoting diets? How are they qualified?
  4. What does convenience mean to you? Are you willing to pay more? Sacrifice taste or nutrition?
  5. What food culture did your grandparents or great grandparents live in? How is your food culture the same or different?
  6. What do you think about health-promoting ingredients being added to unhealthy foods, like hot dogs with omega-3 fatty acids or sugary cereal that’s high in fiber?
  7. What have you heard about genetically modified foods? What are the benefits for you? For the world? Why do people fear GMOs?
  8. What do you think the people on the poster are doing? Looking up restaurant reviews on their phones? Searching for recipes? Taking pictures of their dinner to post on social media? How do you use your phone when you are eating? Do you order delivery? Grocery shop? Or share photos of your food?

Talking about the topics featured on The American Diet graphic is definitely more complicated than teaching MyPlate or heart-healthy eating. But when consumers are aware of all the factors influencing them, they’ll have the knowledge and insight to make better choices.

Hopefully, they’ll become healthy food and nutrition influencers themselves! 

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!).

School’s Out!

School’s out for summer, but kids can’t afford to take a break from healthy eating and staying active. Remind them to be active for 60 minutes a day and eat the MyPlate way with our MyPlate Kids and Physical Activity materials.

The MyPlate Kids Activity poster shows the many ways to get moving for 60 minutes every day, from stretching to walking the dog to playing a sport and more. There’s bound to be something that appeals to every child and inspires them to be active.

With the MyPlate graphic front and center, our materials will also remind kids to make each meal balanced, starting with plenty of high-fiber, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

If you’re at a health fair, in the classroom, or anywhere with kids, try one of these activities to get them moving, having fun, and learning:

  • Put a colored dot on one side of small index cards, using the MyPlate colors (red, orange, green, purple, and blue). Turn the cards over so no one can see the colored dots. Let kids pick an index card to see what color they got. Then ask a series of questions, depending on their age and how much time you have. For example, if they pick red:
    • What foods are in the red group? Answer: Fruit.
    • What is your favorite fruit? Answer: Apples.
    • What does the word apple start with? Answer: A.
    • “Pretend your finger is a pencil and draw a huge A in the air.”
  • For older kids, do the above activity, but have them “spell” out the whole name of the food. For fun, change it up – “pretend your foot/elbow/nose/knee is a pencil and draw a huge A in the air.”
  • Write a variety of activities on index cards (different sports, running, jumping rope, hopping on one foot, etc). Each child picks an index card and does that activity in place (pretend to swing a bat, throw a ball, hop, etc).

Kids who participate can take home a Kids Activity and MyPlate bookmark to remind them to stay active and eat right all summer long.

Take (10,000) Steps to Better Health

How many times have you heard someone say, ‘I know I should exercise, but I’m too busy’? Or too tired or too out of shape or too old. Fill in the blank – you’ve probably heard it all. Use our 10,000 Steps materials to teach that regular physical activity is not only good for our health, but it’s attainable for everyone!

Our 10,000 Steps poster and banners are educational, fun, and eye-catching. They come with a free Take Steps to Good Health printable handout. Add some fun to your classes and health fairs by offering prizes (like our stickers, wristbands, buttons, and bookmarks) for answering questions and sharing experiences.

Here are seven ideas for lessons and conversations to use with our 10,000 Steps materials in just about any setting:

  1. How many steps do you think most people take every day? Help the class along by asking people to raise their hand if they think it’s 1,000-2,000; 3,000-4,000; etc. Whoever answers correctly (3,000-4,000) gets a prize (sticker, bookmark, button, or wristband).
  2. Do you use a pedometer or cell phone to count your steps? (Give these people a prize.) If so, how many steps do you usually take in a day? Do you keep track of the daily number? Tip: write down your daily steps (or use an app). You can’t change what you don’t track!
  3. Getting to 10,000 steps a day isn’t as hard as you think. Think about times when could walk instead of sitting (waiting rooms, waiting for a friend, waiting for a movie to start…). Can you think of other times when walking just a little bit more would be easy to do? How about taking an extra lap around the grocery store or mall? Walk around your office or house when talking on the phone. Every step counts!
  4. Walking is the perfect way to be active. It’s economical – no gym membership or special equipment required. It doesn’t depend on the weather – when it’s rainy, cold, or hot and humid, walk inside at the mall or around a mega-store. It can be done anytime – while talking on the phone, listening to music or podcasts, or chatting with a friend in person.
  5. Brainstorm how to take extra steps at home and as a family. How about walking after dinner, marching in place during commercial breaks, or walking up and down the stairs a few extra times a day?
  6. Brainstorm ways to take extra steps at work. Turn work breaks into walk breaks. Go by yourself or with a co-worker. Inside or outside. Hold “walking” meetings.
  7. Taking 10,000 steps daily provides the health benefits of regular physical activity, like better sleep, mood, and strength; helping you maintain or get to a healthy weight; and reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Check out all the items in our 10,000 Steps theme!

Plates Have Arrived for 2018

The new plates are here!

Portion control – while MyPlate is a fascinating and effective way to teach food groups and a balanced diet some people want a lesson that is more geared to portion control and weight loss. The new portion control plates were designed to follow the principle of using food groups so that the right sized portion of protein is used and half the plate is fruits and vegetables or vegetables. An emphasis on whole grains is used. PLUS there are reminders about beverages and physical activity. We used warm colors in an elegant design that will make everyone feel special and enlightened.

Compartment plate – this plate is flying off of our shelves and everyone tells us they love having a compartment plate so that each group has its own measured space.

Diabetes – we had a leading diabetes educator dietitian help us with the strategy for this plate. The idea is to provide a real line about how much of each food to put on the plate and to make half the plate non-starchy vegetables. One quarter of the plate is starch and the other quarter is lean protein. The design is meant to be very elegant so the patient does not feel like they are getting some alarming or degrading lecture.

Of course we still have our custom designed MyPlate Plate, too.

Check them out – and see the special early 2018 pricing that won’t last long. The 50 packs are an excellent deal and their price includes shipping to the 48 states.

 

MyPlate Meal Makeover Handout

Check out this amazing MyPlate meal makeover! I originally kept this handout as an exclusive part of the soon-to-be-released My Plate activity book, but my resolve has crumbled and I can’t wait to share it with you today! If you like what you see, be sure to keep an eye out for the free printable MyPlate handout at the bottom of the post…

Meal Makeover: Use MyPlate to Rearrange This Plate of Fried Chicken

MyPlate Meal MakeoverRevise Fried Chicken:

A typical plate filled with fried chicken and macaroni and cheese weighs in at over 850 calories! That’s way too huge for a single meal. Plus, the plate is full of solid fats and processed grains, with very few nutrients in sight. This is where MyPlate comes in handy. Use MyPlate to rebalance the plate and make the meal more nutritious!

Since filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables is key to MyPlate, start there, replacing half of the chicken and macaroni with steamed corn and green beans. Then keep protein to a quarter of the plate, choosing white meat to cut down on saturated fat. This leaves the dairy and grain groups, which are represented by the macaroni and cheese. Look at the new plate! It’s got only 333 calories, and it looks just as full as the other plate!

Dinner Meal Makeover Details:

Using MyPlate to make over this meal saves you 517 calories!

This new meal is far higher in nutrients, especially fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also lower in empty calories than the first plate.

You could make this meal even better by replacing the refined grain macaroni with a whole grain pasta like whole wheat pasta or quinoa pasta. If you replaced the full-fat cheese with low-fat cheese, you’d take the improvements even further!

The green beans add 30% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin C and 20% of your DV of vitamin K.

The corn adds 17% of your DV of fiber and 21% of your DV of thiamin.

Like what you see? Here’s a free (and printable!) My Plate handout:

MyPlate Meal Makeover

And don’t miss these other engaging MyPlate materials from the Nutrition Education Store!

MyPlate Coloring Book

MyPlate DVD

MyPlate Floor Sticker

MyPlate Basics: A Handout

I’ve been having so much fun designing new floor stickers for the Nutrition Education Store!

As you know, every floor sticker comes with a free printable handout, and today I’d like to share one of the most popular ones with you.

How great is that?

These floor stickers are perfect for cafeterias, break rooms, wellness fair booths, and even presentations. And handouts are as versatile as they come. The combination of both is one of my favorites because it appeals to a variety of learning styles and presentation formats. This can help make lessons more meaningful and easier to remember.

Anyway, back to today’s free handout.

This handout covers the basics of MyPlate and was designed to go with the MyPlate Floor Sticker. I’ll copy the text of the handout below so that you can preview it, then, if you like what you see, keep scrolling for your very own PDF copy.

MyPlate
Meet the USDA’s guide to balanced eating!

MyPlate’s 5 Food Groups:

  • Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and may be whole, cut-up, or pureed. Fruit and 100% juice both count, though whole fruit has more fiber than juice.
  • Vegetables may be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. They may be whole, sliced, or mashed.
  • Grain foods are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains whenever you can.
  • Foods like meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy, nuts, and seeds are all part of the protein group.
  • Dairy foods include yogurt, milk, cheese, and calcium-fortified foods. Choose skim when possible and limit options with added sugar.

Food Group Tips:

MyPlate advises people to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables at each meal.

Make at least half of all the grains you eat whole grains, every day.

Variety is the key to the protein food group. Choose options that are low in saturated fat whenever you can.

For the most nutrients with the fewest empty calories, choose fat-free and low-fat dairy foods.

The balance of foods on MyPlate will help people get all the nutrients that they need in a day. How can you make your plate look more like MyPlate?

For more information, visit MyPlate’s home website, http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

What do you think? Will this handout be good for your clients? Here’s a printable copy of the free MyPlate handout!

MyPlate Floor Sticker Handout

And here are some more MyPlate resources, fresh from the Nutrition Education Store!

 

 

 

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