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

 

7 Simple Steps to a Healthier Life

When it comes to nutrition and health education, it’s best to keep your messages simple. People are more likely to remember and follow recommendations that are straight-forward and basic.

Our 7 Simple Steps poster provides a lot of information, but it’s broken down into specific steps that can be taken one at a time. Each step will save you calories. If you add up all seven steps, you could end up saving 500,000 calories per year.

The steps touch on: MyPlate, healthy snacks and beverages, breakfast, portion control, nonfat dairy foods, and exercise.

Use the 7 Simple Steps concept to help your clients, employees, or students move step-by-step toward a healthier lifestyle. While the steps are numbered on the poster, people can choose where to start.

Here are some ways you could use the poster and accompanying PDF handouts:

  1. Create a 7 Simple Steps bulletin board display. The poster comes with a sample bulletin board layout. Adapt it to your audience, perhaps by focusing on a different step each week.
  2. Offer a 7 Simple Steps virtual group session. Present the seven steps and get a discussion going using the questions listed below in #5.
  3. Run a week-long 7 Simple Steps social media campaign. Present one step every day. Encourage followers to comment on how they could follow each step.
  4. Take a 7 Simple Steps poll. Whether your audience is made up of social media followers or employees who see the poster on your bulletin board, let them chime in on which step they want to work on most.
  5. Ask questions in your group or individual sessions:
    • Which of these steps do you already do?
    • Which could you start working on?
    • What step do you want to work on first?
    • How will you do it?

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Get Their Attention with Food Photos

It won’t be long until people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Ads for weight loss programs will show up in social media feeds. Health and nutrition influencers will tout their magic bullets.

When you stick to science-based recommendations, it can be hard to compete. How can you get your clients’ attention away from the flashy fads and quick-fixes?

We have just the answer! Our collection of MyPlate Food Photos can help you stand out while promoting a healthy, plant-based eating pattern based on the MyPlate concept.

Use these beautiful, professional photographs of real food to get your message across. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Inspire your social media followers with beautiful photos of plates that follow the MyPlate guidelines. Kick off 2021 by posting a MyPlate meal of the day for the first 15 days of the year.
  • Motivate your readers with a blog series on healthy choices from each food group. With our pictures, you won’t have to add many words to make your point.
  • Guide your students through the important topic of serving sizes with a presentation that features pictures of appropriate portions of real food.
  • Instruct everyone about what makes up a healthy eating plan with photos showing how many servings of each food group you need every day.
  • Remind your clients what healthy eating looks like by sending them pictures of real food in emails or text messages.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words!

Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Cooking demos: What’s holding you back?

There’s never been a better time to use cooking demos for nutrition and health education. Your clients and students will love seeing something new and engaging on your Zoom calls or social media pages.

Even if you’ve never done a cooking demo, we make it easy for you! Our books and PowerPoint shows are based on simple, tested recipes. We guide you step-by-step through the process of planning and executing a cooking demo.

One of my favorites is our MyPlate Cooking Demo Ideas Book & CD. It has something for everyone – recipes for children and adults, different cooking methods, and even a 5-step plan to prepare for your demo.

Here are some ideas for virtual cooking demos you could do using our MyPlate Cooking Demo Ideas Book & CD:

  1. Four Ways to MyPlate – A series for new or busy cooks, featuring four basic cooking methods for MyPlate recipes:
    -Clever cooking with a rice cooker
    -Simple skillet suppers
    -Marvelous microwave meals
    -Fast meals with the slow cooker
  2. Just for Kids MyPlate – A class where students watch you prepare a MyPlate recipe, then try it at home with a caregiver’s help.
  3. The Three S’s – MyPlate Sides, Salads, & Snacks: Go live on Facebook or YouTube with short cooking demos.
  4. Ban Breakfast Boredom with MyPlate – a class or series featuring simple recipes for the first meal of the day.
  5. Bonus! Shopping with MyPlate PowerPoint presentation – Offer this add-on to your class or series. With speaker’s notes and handouts, we’ve done all the work for you.

With cell phones, tablets, and laptops, anyone can record their own food demo. Let your clients and students choose a recipe to demonstrate for the group — they’ll love being a celebrity chef for the day!

More ideas include cook-a-longs. Now they can cook with you while you are using Zoom or going live on social media channels.

The same tips apply:

  1. Think about how you can show a meal that is relevant to your audience considering local food sources, seasonal and pandemic availability, cultural and local tastes, and of course nutrition lessons and making a  healthy plate.
  2. Measure out all the ingredients so no one has to watch you do that.
  3. Consider having multiple stages pre-prepared. For example, have an item baked or cooked if it takes a long time to do that. So you can show how to do it and then what it looks like when done.
  4. Always practice a dish a few times so it feels familiar and easy to you.
  5. Smile and have fun!

Splash Into a Healthy Summer

After a challenging spring, everyone is ready for summer break. While we continue to live with the pandemic, summer can still mean the start of something new and fresh and healthy. What better way to add joy than to add cooking skills, adventures, and projects in the kitchen!

Whether you work with children or adults, here are some ways they can splash into a summer of healthy eating:

Fresh Herbs: Plant a few of your favorite herbs to use in summer salads and salsas. Or buy fresh herbs at the farmer’s market. For more on herbs:

Knife Skills: Practice your knife skills by cutting up summer fruits and veggies. Make it fancy or keep it simple. Even kids can be taught to use a knife safely. Chopping tips:

Plan It: Meal planning keeps healthy eating on track all summer long. Plan for a week or plan for a day … whatever works for you! Tools to use:

Cook Together: Make meal prep a group effort by giving everyone a job … even if it’s a little messy.

Buy Something New: Buy yourself something a new kitchen gadget to use with summertime fruits and veggies. Maybe a salad spinner, a special container for fresh produce, or a new vegetable brush.

Try something new:

  • Outside: Grill salmon, pizza, or a head of romaine lettuce. Imagine all the things you can cook on a grill and have fun making new favorites.
  • Inside: Try salad in a jar. And make your own salad dressing.

Summer with MyPlate: Check out MyPlate Summer Resources, including this cute idea for a “mad-libs” type of activity.

 

MyPlate Coloring Page

Today is your lucky day!

To celebrate the release of the brand-new MyPlate Coloring Book, I want to share a page from that book with you, for free!

You see, coloring isn’t just for kids anymore. Emerging studies indicate that coloring could help reduce stress in adults as well as children. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

Of course, I couldn’t leave things there. As soon as I learned about the possible health benefits of coloring, I began to brainstorm ways to sneak a few lessons about wellness and healthy eating patterns into my coloring pages. Before I knew it, the MyPlate Coloring Book was born. With patterns intricate enough to be fun to color, and an added dash of simple and memorable health lessons on each page, this book is sure to be fun for all ages!

And now, without further ado, here is the free page from the MyPlate coloring book! How will you use your copy?

MyPlate Coloring Page

Remember, there’s always more in the Nutrition Education Store! Check out these fantastic MyPlate resources…

My Plate Coloring Book

MyPlate PowerPoint and Handout Set

My Plate Banner and Stand

Stick to the Message on Added Sugar

As we await the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, this is a good time to review key parts of the 2015 guidelines that aren’t likely to change much. One of these topics is added sugar.

Specific sugar intake recommendations were included in the Dietary Guidelines for the first time in 2015 (whereas in years earlier they only recommended avoiding consuming too much sugar or moderate intake of sugar). The message: consume no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugar.

Sugar continues to be a hot issue. When the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last met on March 12-13 (source), subcommittees presented their DRAFT conclusion statements. Here are a few related to added sugars:

  • Mean intakes of added sugar have significantly decreased over time, but remain high across age, sex, race-ethnic and income.
  • There is a notable increase in the intake of added sugars when 1-year-olds are compared with babies less than 12 months of age.
  • Nearly 70% of added sugars come from five food categories: sweetened beverages, desserts & sweet snacks, coffee & tea (with their additions), candy & sugars, and breakfast cereals & bars.
  • A large percentage of daily sugar intake comes from beverage consumption: 30% for young children, 50% for adolescents, and 60% for adults.
  • The top beverage sources of added sugars: regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, smoothies, and coffee and tea with added sugars.

So what messages about sugar do we need to keep sharing?

  1. Clear up sugar confusion. Consumers may not get it — ‘Doesn’t milk have sugar?! Fruit has sugar!’ But when it comes to sugar, ‘added’ is the key word. Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in REAL food when there’s so much added sugar in PROCESSED food.
  2. The new Nutrition Facts label is key! We no longer have to arm our clients with long lists of ingredients that actually mean sugar. Added sugar is now on the label – we just need to remind folks to look for it. See our New Food Label materials for ideas on how to do this.
  3. To understand the food label, you have to understand Sugar Math. Teach clients and students how to get from “10% of daily calories” to the grams of sugar shown on the new Nutrition Facts panel.
  4. Beverages matter. Choosing water and sugar-free drinks can make a big difference in your sugar intake. We have lots of materials on this — a favorite being Are You Drinking Candy?
  5. Switch to fruit for dessert. This is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth without a lot of sugar. We even have a Fruit Tooth Dessert Cookbook!
  6. Start early for a lifelong low sugar habit. We want to be raising sugar-free kids who eat real food. Parents, grandparents, and childcare providers need our help. Check out our 0 to 5 Baby and Toddler Nutrition PowerPoint show.
  7. There’s no room for added sugar with MyPlate! Use resources from ChooseMyPlate.gov or see all the materials we have.

 

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! 

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!