February 2014 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 2]

Let Little Kids Fill Their Own Plates

Part of eating a healthy diet is learning how much food to eat. A new study suggests that serving preschoolers full plates of food may not allow them to develop this skill. What’s a better way to go? Let them serve themselves – but teachers and parents should be eating along with them – to show the kids how it’s done.

Don’t pressure preschoolers to overeat, experts say

This news story from HealthDay describes the study. The researchers say that when little kids don’t serve themselves, they don’t learn to read their own cues for hunger, but when they serve themselves, they have a better time recognizing when they are full.

Things to do at school:
  • This is for the little kids – best for pre-K and kindergarten.
  • Eat with the youngest kids – serving yourself might not be an option with lunch, but maybe snack time will work.
  • Talk about portion sizes – and how they can differ from ‘official’ serving sizes.
Kids are Changing Their Caffeine Sources

It looks like kids aren’t consuming more caffeine, but they’re getting it from different sources. Coffee and energy drinks are becoming more popular while soft drinks are falling out of favor.

Young people finding new sources of caffeine

This news story from USA describes the findings of a recent study on where kids get their caffeine. Soda used to provide about 62 percent of kids’ caffeine in 1999-2000, but it’s down to 38 percent. About 24 percent of kids’ caffeine comes from coffee now -- up from 10 percent – and energy drinks provide 6 percent.
Using the Buddy System to Be Healthy

Sometimes kids can be the best teachers.

It’s difficult to find successful health and weight loss programs that are presented by teachers and coaches. A new study from Canada reports on a successful program that’s presented by older kids, not adults – and it seems to work.

New obesity weapon: kids teaching kids

This news story from HealthDay describes the Healthy Buddies program. Teachers presented the program to older elementary school students who taught the program to the younger kids.

And it worked. The kids who took part in the study and were overweight or obese lost an inch or so from their waistline measurements, on average. The best part is that both the older kids and the younger kids saw this benefit.

What to do in school:
  • Design your own peer program – it can be done with full classes or small groups.
  • Teach the older kids how to eat right, how to get more active, and how to feel good about themselves.
  • Let the older kids buddy up with younger kids to teach them what they’ve learned.
Pair New Vegetables to Flavors Kids Love

Kids who try vegetables served with sauces and cheese they like, find later, that they like the vegetables when they’re served without anything extra. So many of the vegetables that are good for you have a strong bitter flavor – and kids don’t like bitter things.

Flavor-pairing may teach kids to like vegetables

This news story from Reuters Health describes the study that produced those findings. Easing the bitter flavors with cream cheese, glazes and other delicious toppings might help kids get used to the vegetables themselves – and eating more vegetables means fewer calories and better nutrition.
Get Heart Smart

Heart disease is the leading killer in America – in both men and women. It’s important to get all your heart facts straight so you can reduce your risk of heart attacks and other heart diseases. The problem is that many people aren’t aware of basic heart fats.

Majority of Americans have their heart health facts wrong

This news story from Science Daily describes the findings of a survey from Cleveland Clinic. According to the survey, most American don’t fear dying from heart disease, don’t know the symptoms and signs of heart disease, and are confused about the benefits of vitamins and fish oil. 

What to do at school:
  • Teach your students, faculty and staff how to spot the signs of heart disease.
  • Reduce your risk by watching your weight and getting more exercise.
  • Learn students how to spot sodium that’s hidden in so many of the foods we eat.
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Eating to Feel More Energetic

Your brain and body need all three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and protein), and getting the right amounts of these nutrients can give you energy.
About half your calories should come from carbohydrates, about 30 percent from fat and about 20 percent from protein. I know various nutrition experts argue about those percentages and you may find you prefer a diet that's lower in fat or lower in carbs, but nonetheless, you need all three macronutrients.

Healthier Foods for More Energy
With that macronutrient balance in mind, each of your meals and snacks should contain some amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and fat. The best choices are whole foods, or minimally processed foods rather than highly processed foods. Choose a fruit or vegetable (or more than one) for each meal, some type of whole grain, and something with a little fat.
For example, breakfast can be a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter and a banana. The toast and banana provide complex carbohydrates you need for energy, along with some fiber, and the peanut butter adds protein and some fat. For a mid-morning snack, choose plain Greek yogurt and add fresh berries and nuts. Lunch can be a turkey sandwich with cheese on whole wheat bread with a salad on the side. For dinner, enjoy a salmon filet with brown rice and asparagus. See the pattern? Each meal or snack has complex carbohydrate, some protein and a little fat; and includes one or more fruits or vegetables, a lean protein source, and some fat.

Be Consistent with Meal Times
You might find that eating your meals at similar times each day helps you maintain a healthier diet, and skipping meals probably doesn't improve your energy levels. Find a daily meal pattern that works for you. You might prefer three larger meals per day, or maybe three smaller meals and two or three little snacks works better for you. All your meals don't need to be the same size. Maybe you prefer a big breakfast and smaller dinner, or maybe you like a small breakfast, a mid morning snack, and a big lunch and medium sized dinner. But whatever size meals or eating pattern you choose, be sure to stay within your daily calorie needs.

Healthier Beverages
So maybe you don't want to give up your morning cup (or two) of coffee. That's fine, but if you're drinking more, then it might be time to cut back, especially if the caffeine is making you jittery and irritable. Switch to green tea, which has less caffeine than coffee, or drink caffeine-free herbal teas. If reaching for another cup of coffee or can of energy drink is more of a habit than a caffeine addiction, try drinking water instead.
Watch your alcohol intake if you regularly enjoy adult beverages. One drink's fine, but even a little too much alcohol can interfere with sleep; and of course drinking a lot of alcohol is going to lead to a hangover and a rough, sleepy morning.

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Team spirit may help men lose weight

Your teen is just as stressed as you are, study finds; how to help

Sodium intake tied to obesity among teens

Eating and sleeping well hold keys to a longer life

About Shereen Jegtvig
Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association of Health Care Journalists.   Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website About.com (http://nutrition.about.com), is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470445394.html) and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118116437.html). She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.