November 2010 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 10, Issue 1]

Making Sense of Food Labels

All foods that are sold in packages must be labeled with basic nutrition information including the number of calories, amounts of fat, carbohydrates, fiber, plus a few other nutrients. The Nutrition Facts label on the back or side of the package is pretty straightforward, but since it’s out of sight, it’s also out of mind for many shoppers.

Food manufacturers frequently add fancier nutritional claims to the front of their food packages in the hope that consumers will happily buy the healthier versions of their products.  But, unfortunately, most consumers don’t.

Those Catchy Nutrition Claims on Food Packaging? Keep Them Simple, Focus on Calories, Say Experts

Recently a panel of nutrition experts came up with some front of the package label ideas that may help consumers choose healthier foods.  The experts suggest food manufacturers stick with basic nutrition information such as calorie content and portion size.

Teaching kids how to read food labels:

  • Kids are usually drawn to the colorful packages, so teach them to look beyond the cute cartoony characters to the Nutrition Facts Labels.
  • Bring Nutrition Facts labels to class so kids can learn to analyze them, focus on portion size and calorie counts (how many portions are really in that box?).
  • Have your students make postures featuring what they’ve learned about food labels – for example, how do the front of the packages compare with the Nutrient Facts Labels?
Easy Meals For Busy Families

There’s plenty of research to back up the claim that eating meals together as a family is good for kids. But with busy family schedules (both kids and parents), it can be difficult to find the time to cook up healthy meals for the whole family.

You can make family meals a bit easier by going to the deli section of your local grocery store and picking up a few ready to eat foods. Be sure to choose items that are lower in fat and calories. Think baked or roasted chicken instead of fried, and baked fish instead of fish stix.

Quick Healthy Meals for Busy Families

This interesting article provides quick tips for preparing and servings healthy meals in a jiffy. There’s easy to prepare foods for breakfast, because kids should never skip breakfast, and good things to eat for family dinners as well. You’ll also find some shopping tips and how to keep your kitchen stocked so you’re always ready to prepare a quick and healthy family meal.

Increase Activity By Walking To School

One of the reasons so many children are struggling with obesity is because they’re not as physically active as previous generations. Less physical education may be part of that; however some people believe the fact that fewer kids are walking or biking to school may also be to blame.

For many kids, walking to school just isn’t feasible. They may be too far away or there may be too much traffic and dangerous streets for young kids to navigate. But maybe finding easier walking routes might help some kids get more exercise.

Walking to School Is a Step In the Right Direction

A school district in Washington DC is trying to make their schools more “walkable.” Whittier Education Campus teamed up with other organizations to teach kids and parents why (and how) walking or biking to school may be good for their kids.

Here are some ideas for getting your kids to walk:
  • Locate organizations that focus on walking or biking who might be willing to spend some time with your students to teach them how and why those activities are good.
  • Bring in local law enforcement officers to teach kids how to safely navigate busier streets and maybe they can help find safe routes for kids.
  • Don’t forget about the drivers. How safe are the streets at your school where parents drop off kids?
Nutrition for Your Millennials

For whatever reason we like to give names to different generation.  Me?  I’m at the younger end of the Baby boomer generation and my kids are at the end of the Millennial generation, which includes today’s 15-year-olds up to late twenty-something’s.  I’m not sure how much different these kids are from those of us back in our day, but there certainly were some differences in the foods we ate – less junk food and smaller portions in general, I think.

Nutrition for Millennials: Age 15 to Late 20s
This article focuses on nutrition tips for Millennials.  While most Millennials have gone off to college and beyond, there are plenty of high school students who can use these tips as well.  I like the tips for learning how to cook for one (think healthier after-school snacks) and how to enjoy the occasional treat. 

How you can help at school:
  • Focus on the nutritional aspects of choosing recipes in your cooking classes.
  • Have the kids come up with their own ideas and recipes for healthy snacks.
  • Get your students to brainstorm ways they can help with family meals at home.
  • Set up a family night when you can give nutrition and family activity presentations to parents. 
What Makes This Superfood so Super?

Superfoods do more than fill your stomach; they offer extra health benefits.  Cranberries fit this definition because they’re loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants that can help keep you healthy.

What to look for:
Fresh cranberries should be bright to deep read in color and firm to the touch. Cranberries are also available frozen, canned, dried or in fruit juices. Always check the label for added sugar and calories; since they’re so tangy, they usually need a bit of sweetening.

Make it tasty and keep it healthy:
The tangy flavor of cranberries blends nicely with other sweeter fruits. Cranberries are popular at Thanksgiving so you might look for chutneys and stuffing made with cranberries. Dried cranberries make a delicious and healthy addition to a bowl of hot steaming oatmeal and a daily dose of cranberry juice may even keep bladder infections at bay.

Cranberry trivia:
Did you know that cranberries are one of three fruits indigenous to North America? The other two are concord grapes and blueberries.  Every other type of fruit grown here originated somewhere else. 

About We Can!

We Can! Has been designed through a collaboration of four of the NIH institutes.  It's targeted to parents and also has resources for community groups too.

How you can help at school:

  • Teach kids about good nutrition and the importance of exercise.
  • Have the kids come up with ideas for healthy foods and their favorite activities.
  • Arrange these ideas into a tip sheet that you can send home with kids.
  • Set up a family night when you can give nutrition and family activity presentations to parents. 
How Awesome is is the only web-based system of its kind. Take a look at these testimonials to see how made an impact for these schools.

Here are some of the new features introduced in our 2010 version!
  • Parents can order from a calendar like menu.
  • Newly formatted coupons/ meal tickets.
  • School can offer discounted or free meals.
  • Add images to your menu items, great for fund raisers.
  • Multiple levels of Administrator  access, control access at your school.
  • Automated Cut-off dates.
  • Ability to issue credits for Snow days, or no lunch days.
  • Parents can  copy an order from one child to another.
  • Pre select drinks for the entire menu in advance.
We're now on Facebook  has expanded Web presence to Facebook.  The new Facebook Page will provide you a wealth on information and updates on School and Children’s nutrition.  

Please show your support and become a "Fan" of! Visit our Facebook­ Page and select the text "Become a Fan" from the top right.

Nutrient Facts Sodium

Selenium is a trace mineral that your body uses in small amounts for many different functions, but the main function is to help protect the cells in your body. Selenium combines with proteins to make antioxidants that help protect your cells from free radical damage due to pollution, smoking, some chemicals and other toxins. Free radical damage can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Selenium is also essential for normal thyroid function and is also necessary for a strong immune system.

Selenium is a popular mineral when it comes to research.  Some studies indicates there may be a lower risk of cancer and heart disease among people who have larger amounts of selenium in their diets.  So far, clinical studies haven't shown that taking selenium supplements makes much of a difference for preventing cancer, and more studies need to be done to see if selenium supplements may have any affect on cardiovascular disease. 

Selenium deficiency is not common except in people with severe digestive system problems.  You get selenium from plant-based foods, seafood and meat.  Three ounces of tuna or six ounces of beef give you all the selenium you need for a whole day, which is about 65 micrograms.  Brazil nuts contain the largest concentration of selenium - one ounce has 544 micrograms, or about 10 times your daily need.

Source: Office of Dietary Supplements. "Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet."

More About School Lunches and Healthy Kids

Bringing In Family To Combat Anorexia

Many Obese People See No Need To Lose Weight

Vitamin D Supplements Do Not Increase Bone Density in Healthy Children

Perceptions of texture are shaped by variations in saliva enzyme: Study

Kids Get the Chance To Grade School Lunch

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 American Dietetic Association. Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website ( and is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies (