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!

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!).

5 Ways to Use Our MyPlate Adult Coloring Books

Have you ever thought about using adult coloring books with your clients or patients? Coloring can be meditative. It takes your mind off your worries. It relaxes the brain. And with our unique MyPlate adult coloring book, you get the added benefit of being exposed to healthy messages and images of healthy foods!

We have five ideas for how you can use our MyPlate coloring book, which is geared toward adults and teens:

  • Color-while-you-wait. In a waiting area, set up a table with a few of our MyPlate coloring books and a mug or two filled with sharpened colored pencils. Add a sign that invites people to sit down and color, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Maybe something like this: “Stressed out? Relax with some coloring!”
  • Color-for-a-tough-audience. Have you ever been asked to teach a healthy eating class and the audience is restless or just not that interested? We’ve all been there! Maybe it’s a group of high school students who have other things on their minds, a lunch-and-learn with stressed out employees, or an evening class where people are tired. Flip the switch with some MyPlate coloring!
  • Color-to-recharge. Teaching a seminar or workshop? When you give participants a restroom break, add an extra five minutes for some MyPlate coloring.
  • Color-to-recover. Coloring is great for patients recovering from surgery. It gives their brains something to concentrate on besides pain, discomfort, boredom, or worry.
  • Color-giveaway. Use our MyPlate adult coloring books as prizes at health fairs, biometric screenings, open houses, and other events.

And don’t forget to save one for yourself — your brain deserves a break, too!

See our free coloring sheet here in our nutrition month theme.

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.

Fall in Love with Salad

I was recently stuck at the airport on the way home from a trip to New Orleans. It was lunch time and after a weekend of jambalaya, etouffee, gumbo, bananas Foster, and beignets, what I really wanted was a big healthy salad.

Lucky for me, I found a pretty nice pre-made salad at an airport shop. That’s the great thing about salad – you can get one just about anywhere. The catch? When it comes to nutrition, not all salads are created equal. Teach your clients to build a healthy salad wherever they are with our beautiful Salad Themed materials.

Start with our Fall In Love With Salad poster. It’s a bestseller and the content is aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, MyPlate, and the Offer Versus Serve Program. And it comes with handouts, including salad fact sheets, fun puzzles, and recipes.

Use the poster’s key healthy salad messages for individual counseling or group sessions:

  • 6 Salad Lover Tips, like choosing darker greens, piling on colorful veggies and fruits, watching out for high fat toppings, adding protein, and using a healthy but tasty dressing.
  • 3 Reasons to Love Salad: it’s a great way to fit more veggies into your day, eat fewer calories, and get more nutrients and fiber.
  • How to spice up your salad with different ingredients, like Mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, or arugula.
  • Play “what should it be?”. Create a virtual salad using the audience’s favorite vegetables and writing these down on a dry erase board. Calculate the calories quickly by googling “calories for x” with x being the vegetable and let everyone in the audience help. Add them up. Most salads are less than 100 calories. Then go to the fast food websites and check out the calories for popular salads and check out those calories, which often go above the sandwiches and burgers. Why is there a greater difference? See if the audience can guess. By putting the dressing on the side and making smarter choices they can ensure that their salad is a low-calorie choice! Check out a visual comparison here.

To remind people to eat a healthy salad every day, give them one of our I Love Salad wristbands. What’s not to love about salad?

Nutrition Facts for Everyone

The Nutrition Facts label is a valuable tool, but many people don’t use it. Maybe they’re in a hurry and don’t take time to read it. Or maybe they see a bunch of numbers and unfamiliar terms and turn the package right back over.

Tufts Researchers estimate that the new food label, showing added sugars, could save up to $31 billion dollars in health care expenses over 20 years. The amount saved for societal costs is about double that amount.

Our Food Label theme has lots of options for helping your clients make sense of the Nutrition Facts panel. A good place to start – our simple Food Label handouts, poster, and banner. This version breaks it all down to the basics, making the Nutrition Facts label easier for everyone to understand and use.

Take a look at our simple Food Label Handout Tearpad. One side has an easy-to-read Nutrition Facts panel with three basic tips on how to read it:

  • Step 1 is to Count Calories – check the serving size, calories per serving, and number of servings per package.
  • Step 2 is to Check These for Heart Health – choose foods that are lower in saturated fat and sodium; keep trans fat to zero.
  • Step 3 is to ask Is This Nutritionally Valuable? – select foods that are nutrient dense and a good source of fiber.

The other side is a very handy MyPlate Healthy Shopping List featuring healthy choices:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Whole grains
  • Low fat and low sugar dairy products
  • Other foods (like condiments and seasonings)

As you are shopping, why not create a small bookshelf of interesting packages that have good lessons? Some examples include bottles of beverages that look like one serving but are 3. Or healthful sounding rice mix packages that have a full day’s supply of sodium in a small 160 calorie serving. Or the soup that says reduced sodium that is still high in sodium for the calories it contains? And of course there is the “all natural food” that is filled with saturated fat. I am sure you have a lot of examples. These can make great ice breakers for classes, counseling sessions, and health fairs. And it can make for a fun, find the best label contest if you offer a variety of choices for the same food like a tomato soup or can of beans or packages of frozen entrees.

These handouts are the perfect start to learning to shop for healthier food. If you want a more in-depth approach, check out our Food Label Math banner, poster, and tearpad.

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD

Get 15% off all food label education items this week only by using this link.

References:

  1. https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/fda-added-sugar-label-could-be-cost-effective-way-improve-health-generate-savings
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141104141731.htm

MyPlate Goes Anywhere

Did you know that 90 percent of adults don’t eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables?* Maybe if we saw MyPlate billboards as often as we see signs for fast food or soda, this number wouldn’t be so high. Since that’s not going to happen, it’s up to us to plant the MyPlate image into everyone’s minds.

The MyPlate Start Simple poster is a great discussion-starter for helping people find simple ways to fill half of their plate with fruits and veggies, whether they’re eating at home, at a restaurant, at work, or at school.

  • At home – this should be the easiest because you’re in charge. Keep lots of fruits and veggies on hand to fill up half of your plate. Bags of pre-washed baby spinach and spring mix make it easy to fix a salad every day. Stock your freezer with a variety of frozen vegetables to steam, microwave, or roast in the oven.
  • At restaurants – you don’t have as much control, but checking out the menu online ahead of time can help. Look for vegetable sides and order an extra serving. If you’re getting subs or burritos, visually deconstruct them to see how they would look on a plate, then decide if you need to add an extra veggie or fruit, choose a salad instead of sandwich, or go easy on the rice.
  • Packing lunch – keep that plate in mind as you put your lunch together. Pile all the veggies you can onto sandwiches. Add sides of raw veggies like baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, and a piece of fruit. Or pack lunch the easy way – leftovers from a MyPlate-friendly dinner make the perfect MyPlate lunch.

*Source: CDC (read more here).

Use this link to get 15% off all MyPlate Teaching Resources – this week only! Good through April 13, 2019

Two Tools to Keep it Simple

Your clients are busy. They hear conflicting nutrition advice every day. When it’s time to shop for food, they’re overwhelmed by thousands of choices at the supermarket. But we know healthy eating doesn’t have to be so complicated. That’s why we’re excited about the new MyPlate campaign and theme coming in 2020 with the new Dietary Guidelines – Start Simple with MyPlate.

Keeping things simple is what we had in mind when we created our new Two Tools poster. Healthy eating is simple when you use the Dynamic Duo of MyPlate and the Nutrition Facts label.

Here are five lessons taught by the Two Tools: MyPlate and Nutrition Facts Label poster:

  1. Use MyPlate as a guide when shopping for food and you’ll take home the building blocks for healthy meals.
  2. You know you’re on the right track when half of your shopping cart is filled with fruits and vegetables and half is filled with whole grains and lean protein. And don’t forget some low-fat dairy!
  3. Beware of misleading claims on the front of food packages.
  4. Check the Nutrition Facts label for the information you need to make the healthy choice. Look at calories, portion size, saturated fat, sodium, added sugars, and fiber.
  5. With MyPlate and the Nutrition Facts label, it’s simple to build a more balanced eating pattern that will promote good health.

 

It’s Time to Change It Up!

We’re constantly bombarded with images of fast food, junk food, and processed food. Marketers know what they’re doing by getting these pictures into our subconscious minds. Well, let’s fight back! It’s time to Change It Up!

Our Change It Up theme features a gorgeous butterfly made up of real photos of fruit. Now, this is an image we want in our clients’ minds! The message is simple but impactful – transform your life with healthy food and regular physical activity. Go from a fast-food caterpillar to a healthy butterfly.

Our poster and banners come with the free Change It Up printable handout. One side provides general tips on changing up your diet (MyPlate, portion sizes, and fruits and vegetables) and every day activity. The other side offers more detailed suggestions for transforming your meals, snacks, and exercise routine.

How can you use the Change It Up materials in different settings? Glad you asked!

  • Display the banner or poster in the cafeteria, a hallway, or waiting room. (We also have a salad bar sign!) When people see the beautiful, colorful, fruit-filled butterfly every day, they’re bound to think more about healthy food.
  • Give out the stickers and bookmarks so people can take the picture and the message with them.
  • Set up a Change It Up table in the cafeteria or at a health fair. Engage visitors with questions: Are you more like the butterfly or the caterpillar? What changes can you make to transform yourself into the butterfly? Give away the Change It Up handout, stickers, and bookmarks.
  • Teach a Change It Up class. Depending on your audience, here are two lessons:
    • Focus on how small shifts in eating and activity will make everyone feel transformed.
    • Go with the caterpillar to butterfly theme. How does the image of the butterfly make you feel? How about the caterpillar? When you eat healthy food and are active, which one do you feel like? How can a healthy diet and regular exercise make you feel transformed?

Here is a handout called, 9 ways to make easy and healthy switches for a better diet and exercise plan: 9 Easy Healthy Switches Handout