Nutrition Education is one of those things that we simply do not get around too very often, and when we do, if we have youth prepare food, it’s not exactly inexpensive. So how we help youth understand that physical wellness is a combination of exercise and physical activity to promote cardio-vascular health AND eating healthy foods. We seem to understand the importance of exercise and we have a lesson design that includes warm-up, stretching, the activity, and the cool down. We know that we are looking for an elevated heart rate which will often who up with perspiration and a “red” face. But what’s the design for nutrition education? Other than Mean Cuisine Clubs, what else can we do? Everybody eats and hunger often drives us to select what’s quick, easy, and accessible. So how can we work on nutrition education in the afterschool space?
First of all there are a number of Free Resources including Harvest of the Month, My Plate, and the Dairy Council of California. These are all available by going on to the appropriate website and figuring out what you might use. Also, in California there is a lot being done around healthy living and I would encourage you to check out the materials available through the Healthy California website "Campaign for a Healthy California"
Secondly, check out places like the 99¢ Store for food items that won’t break the bank. In Sacramento organizations promoting healthy food choices have worked with them to make fresh food more accessible youth and their families. Of course, if you want ultra-fresh ingredients have a program garden. If you have land, that’s the best, but if not, what can you grow in pots and flower boxes? The answer to this question: many vegetables and some fruits.
Third, realize that while cooking and eating are important it is also important that youth be able to compare product labels so they can make the healthiest choices. Spend some time learning to read labels and understand how there are trade-offs and which parts of food are more or less healthy. You can also get a full breakdown on the internet of foods found at fast-food restaurants so youth can compare that McDonald’s hamburger with the nachos you can get at Taco Bell and the pizza available from Dominos.
So make nutrition education a priority and work closely with the school day to make a difference.