Over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching nutrition lessons to Kindergarten through fifth grades at the three elementary schools in the South Umpqua School District.
I really enjoy my job. Interacting with the students is a blast. And the staff, from cafeteria to maintenance to administration – have been more than supportive of the OSU Extension Service endorsed program that I deliver as part of a SNAP-Ed and Mercy Foundation partnership.
As an Education Program Assistant, I present a weekly lesson on healthy foods, hygiene, and physical activity to approximately fourteen classes during a given term.
Part of that lesson includes the opportunity for students to sample recipes that are prepared with ingredients from the food groups we have discussed. The students are generally receptive to the foods and, we hope, are taking what they learned in class and applying it to life at home.
It always brings a smile to my face when I talk with a parent and they tell me that their child has been pretty vocal about whether or not the foods they are being served at home are healthy.
In a few weeks, schools will begin their party season and classrooms will be overflowing with sugary foods to celebrate various holidays. Now I’m not anti-cupcake or cookie (especially peanut butter), but there are some healthier alternatives that can help shift the focus of classroom celebrations from unhealthy foods to healthy fun. Check out these suggestions from Food Hero’s “Healthy Classroom Celebrations” program:
• Use a cookie cutter or melon baller to cut fruits, veggies, and sandwich fixings into fun shapes.
• Have a scavenger hunt related to the holiday.
• Dip fruits in low-fat yogurt, pudding or Food Hero Pumpkin Fruit Dip; try veggies with Food Hero Ranch Dressing. Recipes for these tasty dips can be found on foodhero.org.
• Sing and dance to holiday music. Have a mini talent show.
• Have students create a masterpiece with food — draw faces on mandarin oranges or string cheese packages for fall, create a tree on a platter with broccoli or cauliflower to celebrate winter, package vegetables or trail mix so that students can make a food butterfly to herald the arrival of spring, arrange fruit to make a rainbow for summer. Pinterest has lots of great ideas related to seasonal food art.
• Give favors like pencils or stickers instead of snacks.
• Set up fruit, yogurt, and various toppings so that students can make a parfait, snack / trail mix, or fruit kabobs.
• Have a tasting party with fruits and veggies.
• Create a banner, cards, bracelets, or head bands to celebrate the holiday.
You can also find lots of great “Kid Approved” recipes like Do-It-Yourself Trail Mix, Banana Bobs, and Fruit Pizza on foodhero.org. All three are delicious and great alternatives to the sweets traditionally served at school or home parties.
This year, help your child develop life-long nutritious eating habits and make your school a healthy place for students, staff, and families by following the suggestions found in Food Hero’s “Healthy Classroom Celebrations” program.
Kathy Bates is a Family & Community Health Education Program Assistant for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Kathy can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 541-672-4461.