Archive by Author

MyPlate on a Budget – Bloggers Report

We’ve just run across a fun series called My Plate on a Budget. Two health-focused bloggers (Jenny Bardsley of Teaching My Baby to Read and Rose McAvoy of Our Lady of Second Helpings) are striving to stick to a budget and stick to MyPlate standards during the month of March.

They are using the USDA website for Cost of Food at Home to see how easy or difficult it is to be cost and health aware at the same time. Jenny Bardsley appears to be the one taking it to the street while Rose McAvoy offers comments and perspective.

Bardsley’s posts are entertaining and helpful. Her posts remind me of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, where as an undercover journalist she writes about trying to get by on low income jobs. Bardley’s pursuit of health is more successful than I remember Ehrenreich’s work.

There are some interesting observations. For example, life on a budget means a much less full fridge at the end of the week and sometimes the food you can afford isn’t part of the recipe but it gets used anyways.

There are some good tips – such as planting basil for a tasty and affordable solution to store-bought basil, which can be very expensive. This is a tip I at least enjoy every summer, so I’m glad to see others enjoy it too.

How is the heath stacking up? Well, you’ll have to check out her blog for the details but it’s stacking. As anyone who feeds kids knows, they don’t like everything. But it turns out that they do like some surprising things – like Cauliflower Indian Stew! And interesting note is how hungry the author is feeling – and as she points out…

For the past two weeks I’ve followed the Thrifty budget.  I’ve fed my family healthy, nutritious, Choose MyPlate following meals.  But I’m not feeling particularly well-fed myself.

This makes me think about all of the moms out there who might not be feeding themselves properly due to cost. 

We’re eager to continue watching to see how MyPlate on a Budget pans out!

Think Healthy Thursday: Want to reduce heart attacks? Think Mediterranean

mediterranean posterWe have some unusual and pretty positive news to share from a recent report highlighted in The New York Times

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.

It’s a potential game changer for folk in high risk categories. The results were recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine of a study that tracked 7,447 people in Spain who were overweight, were smokers, or had diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease to follow the Mediterranean diet or a low-fat one…

One group assigned to a Mediterranean diet was given extra-virgin olive oil each week and was instructed to use at least 4 four tablespoons a day. The other group got a combination of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts and was instructed to eat about an ounce of the mix each day. An ounce of walnuts, for example, is about a quarter cup — a generous handful. The mainstays of the diet consisted of at least three servings a day of fruits and at least two servings of vegetables. Participants were to eat fish at least three times a week and legumes, which include beans, peas and lentils, at least three times a week. They were to eat white meat instead of red, and, for those accustomed to drinking, to have at least seven glasses of wine a week with meals.

They were encouraged to avoid commercially made cookies, cakes and pastries and to limit their consumption of dairy products and processed meats.

The scientists were measuring basic results: heart attacks and strokes and death. Again the New York Times reports…

The study ended early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it was considered unethical to continue.

At Learning ZoneXpress, we’re pleased to report that we’ve been fans of the Mediterranean diet for a while now. In fact we have a colorful poster that promotes and explains the Mediterranean Diet. It’s a great addition to a lunchroom, classroom, staff room – even a Mediterranean Restaurant!

SnapChat: a warning for teachers and parents

Have you heard about the latest app hitting the schools and playgrounds?

SnapChat: – it is a photo-sharing app that lets you text a picture that disappears within one to 10 seconds. You take a picture with your phone, send it to your friend; they can view it for a few seconds and it disappears.

I guess the idea is that you can send a funny face to your friend, although I’m not sure this is how the app is playing out in the real world. Kids are using SnapChat to send pictures that may not be appropriate. Unfortunately, while the image does disappear there is a fairly easy way to capture it if you’re fast enough.

digital footprintIt’s probably worth warning/reminding the kids in your life to be smart. Learning ZoneXpress has a range of posters, DVD and lesson plans to help you teach kids about the possible dangers of online communication.

Staying Safe Online has been a popular pick. It helps kids learn that their digital footprint is the data trace left by your activity in a digital environment, whether on the Internet, buying something with a credit card, or using a mobile phone. Like everything on the web, digital data cannot be washed away – it remains forever, a permanent footprint. Discover how the things you do in a digital environment can ultimately impact your life.

Celebrate the Registered Dietitians on March 13!

March 13 is Registered Dietitians Day. It’s a deep cut version of National Nutrition Month, which we’ve been celebrating all March. To help you recognize the strength and advantage your local RD brings to you and your community, we wanted to share a great 10 Ten List from Eat Right: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

How Registered Dietitians Can Improve the Health of Americans and Save Health Care Dollars

A registered dietitian or “RD” serves as an integral liaison in helping individuals and communities make changes for a healthy delicious diet.

  1. You have prediabetes and want to stave off diabetes. A registered dietitian can change your life by teaching you skills that will help you lose and keep off weight and keep diabetes at bay.
  2.  Your community has high levels of obesity. A registered dietitian can work with public health, government, school and other local leaders to create wellness programs that promote healthful eating and physical activity for everyone.
  3. You are a marketing manager for a large food company and know consumers’ preference for good-tasting food that is healthy. A registered dietitian can make the connection and work with your food scientists to develop new products that will be successful in the marketplace.
  4. You want to improve your performance in sports. A registered dietitian can help you set goals to achieve results — whether you’re running a marathon, skiing or jogging with your dog.
  5. You have had gastric bypass surgery. Since your stomach can only manage small servings, it’s a challenge to get the right amount of nutrients in your body. A registered dietitian will work with you to develop an eating plan for your new needs.
  6. You realize you need to feed your family healthier foods but you do not cook. A registered dietitian who has special culinary skills can teach you how to cook in a simple, convenient way.
  7. Your teenager has issues with food and eating healthfully. A registered dietitian can assist with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and overweight issues.
  8. Your community wants more local foods to be available. A registered dietitian can lead efforts to make sure foods will not only be healthy but also will positively affect the local economy.
  9. You just had your first child, are concerned the baby is not eating enough and need help and confidence for breastfeeding. A registered dietitian can provide guidance and assurance that you and your infant are getting enough iron, vitamin D, fluoride and B vitamins.
  10. Your mother, who is increasing in age, wants to stay in her home. A registered dietitian leading a local congregate dining and home delivered meals program can obtain a nutrition screening to make sure this happens.

So if you happen to connect with your Registered Dietitian this week, be sure to give them a nod. Or if you have a child who is thinking about a career in health care, you might share this list with them. It’s a valuable job where you can really make a difference!

Think Healthy Thursday: Breakfast Week Party

Before work this morning, the Learning ZoneXpress team gathered for a breakfast potluck in honor of Breakfast Week. Complete with baked oatmeal, egg bake, fresh fruit and more, our breakfast energized and prepared us for a full and fun work day! How are you celebrating this week? Send photos of your celebration to, and we’ll share them on our blog and send you a gift!

If you’re looking for celebration ideas, check out our last blog post “Celebrate Breakfast Week with Free Activities from FreeMyPlate” for free downloadable breakfast activities to share with your children, students, clients or friends!

National School Breakfast Week with Learning ZoneXpress

Celebrate Breakfast Week with Free Activities from FreeMyPlate

freemyplateTime to celebrate breakfast week and pass on the wisdom of breakfast to our kids!

Learning ZoneXpress has added two free activities to FreeMyPlate to help parents, teachers and nutritionists celebrate National School Breakfast Week and Nutrition Month. Both activities encourage students to eat a healthy breakfast every day.

The first activity, “Colorful Breakfast Collages,” combines art and breakfast and is great for a classroom or home setting.

The second activity, “Design a Breakfast Ad,” targets middle and high school students; it encourages them to create a healthy breakfast campaign for their school breakfast program. Both are great ways to start a conversation about the importance of a healthy breakfast.

Try them out – let us know what you think!

Selling the Importance of Breakfast through 5 Minute Breakfast Activities

Kids today are always running and teens are a group who love their sleep. So how do you convince them that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Through constant reminders that get them thinking.

That’s why Learning ZoneXpress has created the book of Five Minute Breakfast Activities. It is an essential classroom resource filled with creative activity ideas and recipes that will encourage students to start the day off with a healthy meal. Activities are divided into age-appropriate levels.

It’s full of constant, yet fun, reminders that breakfast is good nutrition. Here’s is a sample of the classroom mini-lesson activities in the book:

5 minute breakfast activitiesEarly Childhood (Preschool and Kindergarten) activities include:

  • Making Choices
  • Emergent Math Skills
  • Letter Recognition

Elementary Education activities include:

  • Healthy Foods
  • Cause and Effect
  • Art/Imagination

Middle School and High School activities include:

  • Nutrition
  • Planning
  • Analyzing

Healthy snacks make healthy kids – let’s support the effort with adequate funding for school nutrition

1GTMyPlate-whThe U.S. Department of Agriculture has proposed nutritional guidelines that would insure that schools sell only healthy snacks and drinks to students during the school day. They are asking for comments on the proposal. Now is our time as parents, educators, food services workers, health care workers, people who support kids - to let them know what we think.

According to the USDA press release, Highlights of USDA’s proposal include:

  • More of the foods we should encourage. Promoting availability of healthy snack foods with whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables or protein foods as their main ingredients.
  • Less of the foods we should avoid. Ensuring that snack food items are lower in fat, sugar, and sodium and provide more of the nutrients kids need.
  • Targeted standards. Allowing variation by age group for factors such as beverage portion size and caffeine content.
  • Flexibility for important traditions. Preserving the ability for parents to send in bagged lunches of their choosing or treats for activities such as birthday parties, holidays, and other celebrations; and allowing schools to continue traditions like occasional fundraisers and bake sales.
  • Reasonable limitations on when and where the standards apply. Ensuring that standards only affect foods that are sold on school campus during the school day. Foods sold at an afterschool sporting event or other activity will not be subject to these requirements.
  • Flexibility for state and local communities. Allowing significant local and regional autonomy by only establishing minimum requirements for schools. States and schools that have stronger standards than what is being proposed will be able to maintain their own policies.
  • Significant transition period for schools and industry. The standards will not go into effect until at least one full school year after public comment is considered and an implementing rule is published to ensure that schools and vendors have adequate time to adapt.

Organizations, such as Prevent Obesity have made it easier to support the effort with ready-fill petitions, which is great. I suspect that anyone reading this post does indeed support healthy options for kids. BUT many of us also recognize that unfortunately competitive foods and snack items are where most school foodservice operations make their money and not from normal meals. Most foodservice runs independently from the school budget and they run on such thin margins that they offer the competitive foods to help just to break even.

So while we whole-heartedly support the initiative to promote healthy eating, we encourage people to remind the USDA and other policymakers that paying lip service to healthy eating may not be enough. We also need to adequately fund school food programs so that foodservice workers on the front lines are not put in a position where they must decide between nutritional and financial health.

Happy Future Farmers of America Week

Billy Blueberry in FFA Blue

Billy Blueberry in FFA Blue

Have you seen the sea of blue this week? It’s a sure sign that you or someone near you is celebrating Future Farmers of America (FFA) week. It’s a great idea – it gives FFA members a chance to educate the public about agriculture. Such a good idea! Getting the youth who are excited to be getting into agriculture and get them into positions to help inspire others to get excited.

It’s a great tie into what a lot of FACS (Family and Consumer Science) classes are doing. What an opportunity to help connect folks preparing healthy food in the field with the folks preparing healthy food in the kitchen!

Part of FFA Week is focusing on getting members to think about and address hunger issues by collecting can goods and building them into fun designs. The deadline to participate in FFA is actually today – but it seems like a fun idea that FACS classes might be able to replicate. And maybe FACS classrooms could put a fun added healthy spin by including some recipes for the can recipients to help them keep on a healthy path.

March is Nutrition Month – Celebrate & Inform with Handy Tri-Fold Brochures

It’s not too early to be thinking about celebrating Nutrition Month in March. It’s a great excuse for spreading the word about good nutrition choices. In honor of our Nutrition Month, Learning ZoneXpress has recently unveiled a series of tri-fold brochures that are great for educating families, parents and students. The brochures are colorful, high quality pamphlets on a range of topics:

  • Breakfast Basics (Lo Esencial del Desayuno) Spanish Tri-fold Brochure – The breakfast pamphlet explains (in Spanish) the benefits of breakfast, what nutrients to include at breakfast time, quick breakfasts that take little time to prepare, and a listing of easy foods to grab for breakfast on the go.
  • Eating Well With MyPlate (Comer Bien con MiPlato) Spanish Tri-fold Brochures – This informational MyPlate nutrition pamphlet explains (in Spanish) the symbolism of the MyPlate icon, how to build a healthy plate, tips for portion size, how to get a personalized calorie plan, the importance of physical activity, and foods to reduce.
  • Handy Portions Tri-fold Brochure – The Handy Portion Tri-fold Brochure is practical guide to navigating portion sizes at meal times by using your hands to help measure and estimate portion sizes. This educational nutrition brochure features 1 cup and 1/2 cup portions of healthy food choices photographed in real hands.
  • MyPlate On a Budget Tri-fold Brochures – The MyPlate nutrition pamphlet explains a variety of tips to purchasing nutrient-rich foods, affordable MyPlate meal ideas, strategies for cooking at home, and more. This educational nutrition brochure helps identify ways to purchase and prepare healthful, nutritious foods on a budget.
  • Shake the Salt Habit Tri-fold Brochure – The educational salt pamphlet explains the sources of sodium in our diets, common high sodium foods, how to read food labels, and tips to reduce sodium intake. This educational nutrition brochure helps promote nutrition and health through basic information and practical advice that helps explain how to reduce your daily sodium intake and be aware of high sodium foods.
  • Sugar Shockers Tri-fold Brochure – The sugar nutrition pamphlet explains the difference between natural sugars and added sugars, common names for sugar on ingredient lists, and ways to eat less sugar. The unique info graphics visually communicate to readers the amount of sugar the portions depicted contains.

All of the brochures are part of our A Healthy Habit™ series of tri-fold brochures that are easy-to-read nutrition education resources for the doctor’s office, healthcare clinic, classroom, or workplace.

Oh and in case you don’t have a way to display the brochures, we also brochure (collateral/literature) holders both a 1 Pocket Literature Holder (which is great for a waiting room) and 4 Pocket Literature Holder version (which is great for a trade show display).

tri-fold Breakfast Basics SpanishTri-fold Brochure tri-fold Eating Well With MyPlate SpanishTri-fold Brochure tri-fold Handy Portions Tri-fold Brochure tri-fold MyPlate On a Budget Tri-fold Brochures tri-fold Shake the Salt Habit Tri-fold Brochure tri-fold Sugar Shockers Tri-fold Brochure