Teaching Children Nutrition

  When children play, they are doing more than having fun.  They are learning every minute.  They love to experiment, explore, and discover new horizons.  They do all this with boundless energy and insatiable curiosity.  (Don't we wish we still had that energy!!)

  Good teachers have always known how to tap these qualities.  As our children's educator, why not turn the "play" approach toward promoting healthy lifestyle habits while teaching kids about nutrition and fitness.  The "play" approach is learning by doing, involving the children themselves along with their families and others.

  A goal of the program is not only to implement the "play" approach but to utilize all the senses whenever possible.  The senses include sight (seeing and reading), hearing, smelling, touching and tasting.  Using all the senses allows the child to internalize the message more completely and thoroughly.  Bring up these senses as often as possible.  For example, see or draw pictures of foods, name foods from each group, touch different textured fruits, hear the sound of boiling soup or cracking nuts, smell and taste cooking food or snacks.

  This program will show how we can teach our children to recognize what foods represent meats, meat substitutes, grains, cereals, starches, fruits and vegetables, fats, proteins, carbohydrates.  The activities allow the children to learn to prepare, season and combine foods themselves to encourage independence and creativity as well as healthy, delicious eating.  The program also teaches children to explore, choose and create new ways to be physically active.  We want our children to take responsibility for their own choices and assume ownership for their actions and their bodies by adopting healthy habits.  Best of all, we want them to know that these habits can be adapted throughout their lives.

  I encourage you as a mother/father and a teacher to allow time to include the suggested activity or one of your choosing with a similar message to reinforce the monthly lesson.  Each week of the month, an additional activity of your choosing to reinforce the original  message is also recommended. 

  For example:  September is all about the Food Guide Pyramid.  The proposed lesson and activity is conducted week 1 of the  month.  Then for week 2-4, allow the child to plan a snack using the Pyramid.  Or, give him the responsibility to check the menu at one or two meals and see if they follow the Pyramid, or any other activity which reinforces the importance of using the Food Guide Pyramid. 

All About Eating

  Eating is one of life's great pleasures.  We want our children to be healthy and strong and to accomplish that goal; they need to learn how to eat nutritiously, and for the right reasons.  Eating needs to be kept in its proper place.

  Here are a few things to think about.  Remember as a child when you fell and hurt yourself, or someone made fun of you at school, or you got a bad grade on a paper, or you didn't make the team?  Many times our mothers consoled us with cookies and milk or a milk shake or pizza, etc.  We learned to use food for comfort.

  On the other hand, remember when something good happened to us.  Sometimes we also got cookies and milk or our favorite dinner or taken out to our favorite restaurant.  So we learned to use food as a celebration.

  Did you grow up watching television during mealtime?  This teaches us to associate watching TV or going to a movie with eating.  So what do we automatically do when we turn on the TV?  We want a snack.  We go to a movie and get popcorn and a coke.

  Too many people today are unsuccessful with eating because of all the bad habits we learned as a child.  At the time, we did not know they were unhealthy habits. As adults, our anxiousness and ambivalence about our own eating problems rub off on our children.  Additionally, many of us are unsuccessful with feeding our children because we worry about their eating habits, their growth and weight, their nutrition, their manners, etc., etc.  We worry too much sometimes.

  We as parents must learn how to teach our children to keep food in the right perspective.  The very best way to do that is to remember the division of responsibility between us and our children.  We have scheduled meals and snacks (as much as possible), at the same place (kitchen or dining room table), with planned menus (kids can help with planning) AND with the understanding that if kids choose not to eat the meal, that is their choice.

Division of Responsibility

  The feeding relationship is an interactive process in which both we as the parent and our children participate.  We offer the food and the child decides whether or not he will eat.  (Taken from "How To Get Your Kid To Eat, But Not Too Much", Ellyn Satter, RD, ACSW). 

  Sometimes we forget a basic principle about eating and children.  Children will eat.  They are capable of regulating their food intake.  They have not yet learned how to cognitively diet and starve themselves or purposely overeat.  It is true that most children do react negatively to new foods but will often accept them with time and experience.  So are we going to support or disrupt this concept?

  The division of responsibility is  easy.  Parents are responsible for what is presented to eat and the manner in which it is presented.  Children are responsible for how much and even whether or not they eat.  

  (Please note, we are talking about healthy children, not mentally handicapped or physiologically handicapped children.  If your child is handicapped in any way, these concepts may not work for you.  Consult a qualified expert in eating and feeding problems with developmentally delayed or handicapped children to develop a program best for your child.)

  So if we can focus on our responsibility and do our job, and not get controlling and try to do our kid's job,  we can teach our children to eat right, nutritiously and for the right reasons.

  Scheduled Meals & Snacks

  One of the best habits we can teach children is to have scheduled meals and snacks.  This does not mean we have to be rigid and inflexible.  It means we must place enough importance on meal time to stick with a schedule as best we can.

  Studies have shown that picky eaters, underweight and obese children do better when they are on scheduled meals and snacks.  Parents are in charge of providing a nutritious and balanced meal and children make the decision to eat the meal and how much they want to eat.

  Children should have three meals and three snacks per day spaced approximately two to three hours apart.  For instance breakfast at 7 a.m., snack about 9:30 or 10:00 a.m., lunch 12:00 or 12:30, snack around 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. and dinner about 6:00 p.m. and a snack before bed, around 8:00 or 8:30 p.m.

  When we have made a decision on the menu, choose not to allow yourself to become a short-order cook.  Maybe Junior is small and underweight and you are always fussing over him and how much he eats.  He decides he does not want roast beef, potatoes and carrots and throws a fit and refuses to eat.  You try several other selections and finally give up and say, "What are you hungry for, honey?"  He says, "peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chips and Kool-Aid!"   Sound familiar?

  If we as parents can just stay tough, we can change that pattern.  Junior will eat if he is hungry and knows he can no longer manipulate meal time.  If Junior begins complaining about the food and refusing to eat unless he is given his way, very quietly excuse him from the table making sure he understands that he will not be able to eat until snack time (only two hours later), OR he is certainly welcome to change his mind and sit and eat with the family.  If he chooses not to stay, excuse him.  He will not starve, Mom!  This practice works especially well with tantrums.

  There has been a significant amount of research on scheduled meals and snacks and obesity.  The best way to combat obesity is to have scheduled meals and snacks, provide nutritious and low-fat selections (no low-fat dairy products under age 2), whole grains, limited sweets, and plenty of physical activity.  Most importantly, accept your child as he is, even if he is overweight.  Additionally, scheduled meals and snacks send a message to children that they have limits, that you care.  Meal time is a great family time.  Make it count.

   Meal Times Are Good Times

Tips for making meal time pleasant:

  How To Tempt A Picky Eater


Have child help plan the meal time schedule.  Let him be responsible for one of the snacks each day.  Let him plan it and prepare it and clean up after it!  Reinforce this lesson with some type of activity that supports the importance of scheduled meals and snacks and making meal time pleasant.



  The program consists of 9 lessons which include an activity and a snack.  You may change the order in which you teach the lessons if you like.  Be creative and imaginative and most of all, have fun!

NOTE:  The classes are designed to allow you to individualize according to child's age, and detail/depth desired.  Some information is too advanced for 1st or 2nd graders.  Use common sense.  The program was written to be used with Grades 1-6.  Some activities are for older children, some for younger.  Utilize the internet for additional information and detail on each subject to broaden information or go into more detail.    


The Food Guide Pyramid

  Remember learning the basic four food groups in school?  Well now we have the Food Guide Pyramid.  Please go to Eat Right! button on the home page of www.healthstarr.com to download a copy of the Kids Korner Pyramid for children.  Go to www.mypyramid.gov to download all sorts of fun documents on the new Food Guide Pyramid.

  Basically, the Food Guide Pyramid is a new way of saying the same old thing.  A variety of foods provides the nutrients that children need to build strong bodies and stay healthy.  Food also supplies the energy that children need to grow normally, play, learn and explore the world around them.

  The Food Guide Pyramid can teach us how to choose a wide variety of foods.  Each food group makes special nutrient contributions.  Each nutrient has a specific job in our bodies.  Foods from all the groups work together to supply energy and the nutrients necessary for health and growth.  Remember that no one food group is more important than another.  We need them all.


The Food Guide Pyramid









Please see Kids Korner Pyramid for more information on portions sizes for children at www.healthstarr.com.  

From the Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta Group or (New Pyramid) Grain Group:  Choose whole-grain bread, crackers, cereal, grits, pasta, rice, bagel, tortilla, cornbread, pita brad, muffin, English muffin, matzo crackers, rice cake, pancakes, breadsticks, pretzels.  Include whole grains often.

From the Vegetable Group:  Choose asparagus, beets, bok choy, broccoli, carrot, cauliflower, collard greens, corn, cucumber, green and red peppers, green beans, jicama, kale, okra, peas, potato, pumpkin, snow peas, squash spinach, sweet potato, tomato, vegetable juices, zucchini.

From the Fruit Group:  Choose apples, applesauce, apricot, banana, berries, cantaloupe, fruit cocktail, figs, fruit juices (look for 100% fruit juice on label,), grapefruit, kiwifruit, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, peach, pear, plum, pineapple, raisins*, prunes, starfruit, strawberries, tangerine, watermelon.

From the Milk, Yogurt and Cheese Group or (New Pyramid) Milk Group:  Choose skim, 1%, 2% and whole** milk, yogurt, cheese, string cheese, cottage cheese, pudding, custard, frozen yogurt, ice milk, calcium-fortified soybean milk.  

From the Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans, Eggs and Nuts* Group or (New Pyramid) Meat & Bean Group:  Choose lean cuts of beef, veal, pork, ham and lamp; skinless chicken and turkey; fish; shellfish; cooked beans (kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, black beans); refried beans (made without lard); peanut butter; eggs; deli meats; tofu; nuts*, peanuts*.

From the Fats, Oils & Sweets Group or Oils Group or (New Pyramid) Oils Group:  Use sparingly.  These include margarine, butter, dressings, sauces, dips, gravies, marinades, sugar, jelly, jams.  Note sugar is separated from fats on the new Pyramid.  Use both sparingly.

Note:  We do not recommend sugar substitute for children.  We do not know the long-term effects of sugar substitutes.  The idea is not to substitute sugar, but to manage sugar.

*Raisins, nuts, peanuts and seeds are not recommended for children under four years of age because they are a choking hazard.  Small pieces of hard, uncooked fruits and vegetables also pose a choking hazard to children under age four.

** Children under two years of age should  drink whole milk.


Have child choose a favorite food from each group.  Name different foods and have child identify which group the food belongs.  Each week of the month reinforce the message with a review of the Pyramid.  Have child cut pictures from magazines and make a collage of his favorite food group or a variety of foods.  Have older children  research the internet for information on the Food Guide Pyramid and its history.


Let child prepare a toasted English muffin or whole grain bagel with peanut butter and a glass of low fat milk (whole milk if under age 2).  Child can add some raisins (no raisins under age 4) or banana slices or a strawberry or two if desired.  Snack then represents 4 groups.  Review which food group each item is from (muffin - grain group, peanut butter - meat group, milk - dairy group and fruit - fruit group).




What Are Grains?

Examples of grains are:  Breads, cereals, pasta, rice, crackers, tortillas, muffins, rolls, pancakes, waffles, French toast, biscuits, croissants, doughnuts, Danish, cake, cookies, pies, sweetbreads.  They are made up mostly of carbohydrates and many have added fat.  Some are healthy and nutritious and some are empty calories with little nutritional value.

Grains provide us with energy in the form of calories (mostly from the carbohydrates).  Some have a little protein which helps to build muscle.  Some have fat which also supplies calories for energy and healthy cells.

Whole grains provide excellent sources of fiber which help to keep our bowels regular (normalizing diarrhea or constipation) and stabilize the level of sugar in our blood.  A diet high in fiber may reduce the risk of developing heart disease and some types of cancer later in life.  Drink plenty of water with fiber.

Grains supply vitamins and minerals that are important for good health.  B vitamins are important for nerve function, growth and muscle tone, formation of antibodies to fight disease and formation of red blood cells and conversion of nutrients into energy.  Vitamin E  protects red blood cells.  Iron plays a huge role in red blood cell formation and maintenance.  The trace minerals are responsible for so many different tasks in the body, they are too numerous to list.  

  But how do we know which are the best choices?  Let's take a look.


Many people think a grain is a grain is a grain.  Not true.  Many grains have been refined which removes much of the fiber, vitamins and minerals.  A refined grain has had most of its bran and germ removed, and are called processed simple carbohydrates.

BRAN LAYER:  This layer houses the fiber, B vitamins, protein and trace minerals.

GERM LAYER:  This layer is one of the richest sources of vitamin E and a greater share of B vitamins including folate.  It also has fiber and the trace minerals iron, magnesium, chromium, potassium manganese, copper and selenium as well as the phytochemical, phytosterol, that helps lower cholesterol and may help prevent cancer, and a little packet of heart-healthy fats.

ENDOSPERM LAYER:  This layer is composed of protein, complex carbohydrate, iron and some B vitamins.

So you can understand why it is important to choose whole grains more often, those that still have the bran and germ layers, rather than refined grains, those containing mainly the endosperm. The problem is that most people don't even know if they are choosing a whole grain versus a refined grain.  

One of the best ways to provide some assurance that your choice is a whole grain is to look for the word "whole" included in the first ingredient.

It can be very confusing.  For example:



Have the child go through the cupboards and find as many grains as possible.  Have him identify which ones are whole and which ones are refined.  Child can find pictures of whole and refined grains and make a poster.  Child can help plan some menus including whole grains in each meal.  Reinforce grains each week all month long and include an activity.  Older children can choose a grain and research the Internet and write a report.  Choose a different grain each week.

Check out www.bellinstitute.com/wholegrainkids for more information and resources for teaching your children about whole grains!



Oats To Go

(Not for children under age 2)

2 cups rolled oats; 2 cups skim or soy milk; 1 Tbsp raisins , 1 apple, cored and diced, 1 banana, peeled and sliced, 1 cup light vanilla-flavored yogurt.

Mix the rolled oats and milk together in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Eat right away or refrigerate for later.

Other ways to enjoy oatmeal:  Add frozen blueberries and fold in gently while cooking oatmeal, serve with ground cinnamon and skim or soy milk.  Add a diced apple and cook, add apple pie spice (make with cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice) and stir well.  Serve with skim or soy milk.  Cook as directed and serve with sliced strawberries and skim or soy milk.



Fruits & Vegetables

"Research indicates that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables is the key to longevity and general all round good health..."

"Eat your fruits and vegetables!"  How many times do you hear that?  Fruits and vegetables are good sources of fiber, vitamins A and C, they promote health, growth and development.  They add color and texture to the plate and flavor to a meal.  That's why kids are urged to eat five servings per day of fruits and vegetables, and adults nine servings per day.  We will review a portion size, and you will see that it is not so hard after all!


Why are fruits and vegetables so important?  Besides vitamins A and C, which may reduce the risk of some cancers, they supply folate, potassium, iron and magnesium.  Most are low in fat.  Also fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber. 

Folate:  B vitamin that can help reduce the risk of certain serious and common birth defects. 

Fiber:  There are two sources of fiber.  Insoluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Vitamins A and C:  Assist in growth and repair of body tissues, fight infection, help heal wounds and strengthen blood vessels.  They are considered antioxidants.  They help to keep us from getting sick so often.

See http://www.dole5aday.com/ to learn specifics about individual fruits and vegetables.  See http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fda5aday.html for additional information about fruits and vegetables and pesticides, portion sizes (adults) and safety in handling produce.  


Fruit is the part of a flowering plant that contains the plant's seeds.  In this sense, fruits include acorns, cucumbers, tomatoes, and wheat grains.  However the word fruit commonly refers to the juicy, sweet or tart kinds that people enjoy as desserts or snacks.  The word comes from the Latin word "frui" meaning enjoy.  Popular fruits include apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, peaches, pears and strawberries.

Many fruits are nutritious as well as appetizing.  For example, oranges and strawberries contain large amounts of vitamin C.  Most fruits have a high natural sugar content (called fructose), and so they provide quick energy.  Fruits alone cannot provide a balanced diet, however, because the majority of them supply little protein.


North Americans and most of the vegetables they eat have one thing in common -- most of their ancestors were foreigners.  Even the name by which vegetables are identified on the market -- truck crops -- is foreign, and has nothing to do with transportation.

Only nine of the nearly 50 vegetables which have become common to the American table are natives of the Americas.  They are corn, white potato, sweet potato, lima bean, common bean, tomato, squash, summer squash and pepper, and they all originated in Central and the northern parts of South America. Those requiring colder climates, like the white potato, originated in the Andes mountains, while the sweet potato developed in the hot, moist climate of sea level. The list of vegetables that North Americans have adopted is long -- numbering at least 38, but their everyday names conceal the faraway places of their origin; the egg plant and cucumber come from India; spinach and muskmelons from Persia; watermelon and okra from Africa; radishes and Chinese cabbage from China; asparagus, kale, cabbage and collards from the lands of the Mediterranean; garden peas from Asia; and kohlrabi and Brussels sprouts from Northern Europe.


Stir chunks of fresh fruit into turkey or chicken salad.  Try grapes, or mandarin oranges.

Make ice cubes with 100% fruit juice.  Drop into club soda for a refreshing summer drink or even just plain water to liven it up a bit.

Keep small packages of dried fruits in the car for healthy snacking when traveling.

Make fruit salsas with mango, papaya, peaches or pineapple to accompany meat, fish or chicken.

Top off green salads with kiwi, mandarin oranges or nectarines.

Blend fresh, frozen or canned fruit with low-fat vanilla yogurt for a quick, cool fruit smoothie.

Puree canned (without the juice) or frozen fruit to spoon over puddings, custards or low-fat ice cream.  Try apricots, peaches, strawberries.  

Skip pancake syrup and serve fresh fruit or cooked fruit as a topping.

Freeze grapes for a cool summer treat.

Chop or grate fresh vegetables into your favorite pasta sauce, like carrot shreds in spaghetti sauce.

Add pureed veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and carrots to soups and sauces.  Add peas to macaroni and cheese.

Substitute veggies for meat in lasagna and chili recipes.  Add zucchini shreds into burgers or mashed potatoes.

Drink tomato or vegetable juice instead of soft drinks.

Serve two veggies at dinner every night.

Experiment with one new veggie recipe each week.  Choose bright colors and crisp textures.

Keep prepared snacks like peeled baby carrots on hand.

Sprinkle vegetables with a very small amount of sugar before they are cooked (but only if you are having a very hard time getting your child to eat them).


Have child go to refrigerator and cupboards and identify fruits and vegetables that are good sources of vitamin A and C.  Have child identify sources of soluble and insoluble fiber.  Have child pick favorite fruit and favorite vegetable and research history and report in class.  Cut out pictures from magazines representing sources of nutrients.  Have child choose one or two ideas from above section and incorporate them into the weekly menu each week.  Let children start a mini garden with some vegetables or fruit like watermelon or strawberries.  Plant a fruit tree.  Have children keep a food dairy and see if they are eating five fruits and vegetables per day.  Have children taste fruits and veggies from A to Z.  Reinforce the subject of fruits and vegetables for whole month with a different activity each week.


Invite your child to plant these "berry" delicious flowers on his or her plate. For the flower center, use a slice of banana or kiwi. Arrange raspberry or strawberry petals around it, then add a shoestring-licorice stem with real mint leaves.

These sourpusses are a clever way to slip vitamin C into your child's diet. Cut a 1/4-inch-thick slice from a grapefruit and set it flat on a plate.

Arrange red or green grape clusters around the top for hair. Add red grape eyes, a maraschino cherry nose and a big grin made of raisins or bananas.
Originally published in Family Fun Magazine.

Cut raw vegetables or fruit into chunks.  Skewer them onto thin pretzel sticks.  (Note:  To prevent discoloration, dip cut apples, bananas or pears in orange juice or lemon juice.

Shred green and purple cabbage and fold into lime Jell-O prepared as per package instructions.  Refrigerate as directed.  Also try shredded carrots in orange Jell-)




  Why are dairy products good for us?  Dairy products are good for our bones and teeth.  They provide us with calcium and vitamin D.  There is also protein and carbohydrates in milk.  Protein helps build strong muscles and carbohydrates give us energy.  What are examples of dairy products?  Milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt and ice cream are popular dairy products.  Other dairy products are buttermilk, soy milk and soy cheeses, even goat milk and goat cheeses. 

   Why is calcium and vitamin D so important?  Without them, strong bones and teeth cannot be made.  Without strong bones and teeth, we could not walk, run, jump, or chew food.  Calcium also regulates the beating of our hearts and plays a role in muscle and nerve function.  Vitamin D plays a role in the beating of the heart and nerve action.  Other sources of vitamin D are fish-liver oils, egg yolks, organ meats and fish.  But fortified milk is the best source.

The Story of Milk

Milk comes from cows, goats, sheep, buffalo, horse and camels!   But most of us drink cow's milk.  So let's talk about cows.  Did you know that cows love cereal too??

In the big factories where they make cereal, sometimes there is a little bit more than they need.  But this cereal doesn’t go to waste.  The extra cereal is put into large bins.  Every two weeks, it is sold to dairy farmers to feed to dairy cows.  Cows love cereal.  They also like potato chips and even cotton seed!

Cows are fed up to eight times a day.  Their feed is a combination of hay, corn, barley, field grasses, cotton seed, bakery or grocery by-products.  Cows eat approximately 80 pounds a day at a cost of about $3.50, which varies with rising/falling feed costs.  And cows drink 30 to 40 gallons of water each day.  A cow is a ruminant with four compartments to her digestive system.

A cow makes milk after she has a calf.  The mother cow makes a very special milk for her calf; it is called colostrum.  Colostrum has extra vitamins and protein and is very good for the calf.  Even after the calf is weaned, the mother cow still makes milk.  Milk is stored in the cow’s udder, a large bag which holds the milk and has four teats.

The cows go to the milking parlor where the dairy farmer washes their teats.  A milking machine with four teat cups is attached to the cow and the milk is cooled and pumped into a large storage tank.  Milking never hurts the cow.

Raw milk is cooled to 38 degrees and is stored in refrigerated storage tanks.  A truck comes to pick up the milk daily and take it to the processing plant. The truck driver sample tests the milk before pumping it into the truck to make sure it's safe to drink.  Milk trucks have very large shiny metal tanks to carry the milk.  Each truck has a special feature to keep it cool, it's like a thermos on wheels... it's insulated.

Raw milk is sampled and checked again and then pumped from the milk truck into a storage tank.  Next, the milk is sent to be homogenized and the pasteurized.  Homogenized means the same all the way through.  In this step, the butter fat is broken up and mixed into the rest of the milk.  Pasteurization is quickly heating the milk to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills any bacteria that are in the milk.

There are many different milk and dairy products that fit into every diet – from whole milk to skim. All types of milk are put into bottles and cartons and taken to grocery stores for you to buy.  Look and see what kind of milk you have!

And there you have it, the story of milk!  But, how do you get cheese and yogurt from milk??

There is evidence that cheese came into being in prehistoric times.  Cheese cannot really be said to have been "invented". This delicious food must have resulted from the simple observation that milk left in a container ends up by coagulating or clumping together, even more if it is hot. People living in areas where the climate changed seasonally would also have noticed the effect of temperature on this process: in warmer weather the milk would curdle faster than in the cold. This might be considered the first technological cheese making discovery.

There are hundreds of different types of cheese that can be differentiated both by the type of milk - raw, skimmed or pasteurized, and by the animal - cow, goat, sheep, buffalo, horse or camel.

For all of them however, there are four major stages in the basic process:

Curdling or coagulation of the milk.
The first step in cheese making is to turn the milk solids into a curd.  It can be done either by acid coagulation or rennet coagulation.  Either acid (lemon juice, vinegar) or rennet is added to the heated milk.  The milk must be between 51 and 102 degrees F for coagulation or lumping to take place.  The coagulation or lumping period depends on the type of cheese and varies from 30 minutes to 36 hours.

Shaping of the curds (demoulding and draining).
The curds are broken down in a vat to separate the curds from the whey.  The curds are cut up into lumps.  The curd mass is constantly stirred so the lumps do not all stick back together.  There are several methods for removing the curds from the vat for draining.  A draining-board in long grooves is used and the entire vat poured onto it.  Ladles may also be used to transfer the curds directly into moulds containing holes through which the whey can run off.  Or, strong cloth which allows the whey to filter through the holes and retains the curds can be used.

Salt plays a big role in cheese making.  Salting serves a number of functions, it speeds up the drying process, heightens the cheese's flavor, helps keep cheese from spoiling.   Each type of cheese has a specified salt content.  Salting can be done by dipping the cheese into brine.  Brine is a liquid mixture very high in salt.    Dry-salting is done by rubbing the cheese with salt over and over.

 Cheese-makers are often putting their cheeses in drying-rooms to speed up the maturation.  Sometimes the rooms are warm and humid and sometimes they are cool.  The temperature can range from 32 to 77 degrees F, but the majority of cheeses are ripened at between 46 and 60 degrees F.  Finally, after the ripening period, the cheese is ready to be eaten.

Yogurt, also spelled YOGHURT, YOURT, OR YOGHOURT, is a semi fluid fermented milk food having a smooth texture and mildly sour flavor because of its lactic acid content.  Yogurt may be made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats, or water buffalo.  Cow's milk is used in the United States and north-central Europe; sheep's and goat's milk are preferred in Turkey and southeastern Europe; milk from the water buffalo is most commonly used in Egypt and India.

Yogurt may have originated in Turkey, although there are many stories about its discovery.  It is made in Turkish homes by boiling milk in an uncovered pan to sterilize it and to evaporate water; after cooling, the milk is mixed with yogurt from a previous batch, kept warm a few hours, then slowly cooled to room temperature before use.

Commercial dairies usually add milk solids to cow's milk to make yogurt with a custard like consistency. Two things are added to milk.  They are Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus; sometimes L. acidophilus or a lactose-fermenting yeast is also added. This mixture is then kept warm four or five hours at about 43º to 44º C (110º to 112º F) until curd forms.

Yogurt is known and consumed in almost all parts of the world. Various flavors and sweetening may be added, or natural yogurt may be mixed with fresh fruits or vegetables.  A salad of yogurt, cucumbers, and spices is served in India (raita) and several Middle Eastern countries (jajik).  Yogurt is also used in soups and sauces.


Take a trip to the store today.  Make a list of every dairy product you can find.  Look for regular, low fat and fat-free.  Make a list of all the different kinds of cheeses.  Which ones do you think are lower in fat than others?  Hint:  look for "part skim milk" on the package which makes it low in fat.  Check the yogurt cartons and look for the words "live and active culture".   Check out books from the library on dairy products.  Have children do a food recall for the last two days starting with the last meal and see how often they had dairy products.  Older children can pick a cheese and research the history of that cheese and how it is made.  For each week of the month, plan a different activity involving dairy products.


Strawberry Whip

Yield:  4 servings (3/4 cup), approximately 60 calories.

Ingredients:  3-oz box gelatin, 8 oz low fat plain yogurt, 1 cup fresh strawberries.

  1. Prepare gelatin according to instructions on package.

  2. Beat hardened gelatin with rotary beater until frothy.

  3. Add yogurt and beat gently until mixed.

  4. Slice strawberries and stir into gelatin-yogurt mixture.

  5. Freeze 10 minutes, then serve.




This lesson is dedicated to meat.  When we say "meat", we include beef, pork, poultry, and fish.  Let's take a look at each one.

  Beef comes from cows and includes ground beef used in hamburgers and Sloppy Joes, steak, roast beef, beef luncheon meats, and beef hot dog wieners.  We find beef in things like stew, lasagna, tacos, enchiladas and pizza.  Choose lean ground beef, look for the word round or loin for lower fat selections like rump round roast or sirloin steak.

   Poultry comes from birds that we eat such as chicken, turkey, duck, pheasant and quail.  Poultry is considered either white and dark meat.  White meat is mainly the breast, and dark meat is mainly the leg and thigh.  Chicken is the most popular form of poultry and is found in things like soup, tacos, enchiladas, chicken salad, and luncheon meats.  Lowest in fat is the white meat.

  Fish includes so many different kinds, we can't name them all but do you recognize these?  Mackerel, salmon sardines, flounder, sole, Orange Roughy  halibut, salmon, shrimp, lobster, catfish, trout, just to name a few.  Most selections are healthy.  Limit fried fish and breaded fish.  Rich sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids are mackerel, salmon and sardines.

  Pork comes from pigs and includes most hot dogs, ham, bacon, link and paddy sausage, pork chops, pork steak, pork roast, and many pizza toppings like pepperoni and sausage.  Look for the word "loin" in the name like pork loin roast or pork loin chops.

Meat is the major source of several essential nutrients in our diet mainly protein and iron.  Meat also includes zinc and the B vitamins.  Let's take a look at each one.


Proteins are the building blocks for strong muscles. Many of the functions and actions that take place in our bodies require protein--everything from building a muscle to fighting off a cold to running across the street to blinking an eye to thinking out a math problem. 

The protein in meat is considered complete protein.  Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids:  the human body needs 22 of them every day to do many different functions and actions.  The body can make more than half of these, but there are nine that it cannot make.  These are called essential amino acids.  The protein in meat contains all nine essential amino acids in the amounts the body needs.

The protein in grains and legumes (black-eyed peas, lentils, pinto beans, etc.) is incomplete because it does not contain all of the essential amino acids in the amounts needed by the body.  So grains and legumes must be eaten with other foods that can complete their amino acid mix and balance.  These combinations of foods that make up a complete protein are called complimentary proteins.

       Iron & Zinc    

Iron and zinc are minerals.  They are considered microminerals which means our bodies require very tiny amounts to survive.  

Iron is required for the transport of oxygen and carbon dioxide (remember we breathe in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide) and a variety of other biochemical processes that take place in our bodies.  

Even though iron is one of the most abundant elements on the earth, there are a lot of people who do not get enough iron in their diets.  When people's bodies are low in iron, the result is weakness, ill health, below average performance and in a few cases, death.

The best sources of iron are liver, red meats, egg yolk, whole grains and green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, greens, kale, etc.  Iron from animal sources is absorbed the best by the body.  Iron from plant sources or as a supplement is better absorbed with vitamin C.  So it is a good idea to take an iron pill with a glass of orange juice.  Have a little vitamin C every day. (Citrus fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes).

Zinc is the mineral that is closely tied to protein.  Wherever there is protein, you will find zinc close by.  Zinc is needed as a cofactor for over 70 enzymes that perform specific tasks in the eyes, liver, kidneys,  muscles, skin, bones, male reproductive organs, and tooth development.  Space does not permit naming all the functions in the body that require zinc.  

The best sources of zinc are shellfish (especially oysters), meats and liver.  Eggs and whole grain products like whole grain cereal, bread or crackers are also acceptable sources.

B Vitamins 

The B vitamins include B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin), B6 (Pyridoxine), B12 (Cobalamin), Biotin, Choline, Folic Acid, Niacin and Pantothenic Acid.  Lots of very big words.  The functions of the B vitamins are many.  They are used a lot in breaking down the protein, carbohydrates and fat in the foods we eat.  They are important in growth and blood formation, making energy and having a healthy nervous system.  We could go on and on!

Lean meat, organ meats (like liver), eggs, whole grains, legumes and some vegetables supply the B vitamins for us.  It is important to eat from all food groups to ensure a balanced diet.  Milk and cheese are good sources of B12, Folic Acid and Niacin.

How Did Meat Come About?

The meat industry has its roots in prehistoric times, since the basic procedures for processing meat had been well established by the beginning of recorded history.  Drying, salting and smoking techniques were well established long before Homer’s time (about 1000 B.C.)  and the spicing of sausages was common in Europe and in the Mediterranean countries well before the time of the Caesars.

The meat animals of America (cattle, hogs and sheep) are not native to this country.  Cattle may have reached the western hemisphere by 1007, and Columbus definitely brought cattle, hogs and sheep to this country on his second voyage in 1493.  As a matter of fact, his first voyage was in search of a shorter route to the West Indies, the principal supplier of spices for sausage products.  

It is also recorded that DeSoto, the first white man to discover the Mississippi River, landed 13 hogs in Florida in 1539.  On his journey west, the pig crop multiplied and some remained as strays to become the famous “Piney Woods Rooters” of Mississippi.  DeSoto’s herd of hogs had reached some 700 head by the time of his death three years later in 1542.  Cattle and sheep were brought to Arizona and Texas from Mexico around 1540 by Coronado.  Those cattle were presumably the forerunners of the so-called native “Mississippi Woods Cattle.”

The first meat packers in America started about 1640 in the New England area.  As the frontiers pushed westward, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were used by the early settlers of the Midwest to transport cured meat from that area to the East Coast, via the Atlantic Ocean, before and after the War of 1812.  Practically all meats were dry salt cured during this time, making salt a very scarce and valuable commodity.  It has been reported that during the Civil War a Mississippi governor actually traded cotton for salt to Union troops in order to preserve meat for the Confederate troops of Mississippi.

Robert W. Rogers, Professor of Animal Science (Meats), MSU,

When Meat Is Not Available

Don't forget that nuts, peanut butter, legumes (pinto beans, kidney beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, lentils), and eggs are good substitutes for meat.  If one of your family members does not eat meat, be sure to provide good sources of protein.  Plant proteins are not complete.    See Veggie Power icon on home page of this site, www.healthstarr.com for more information on complimenting plant proteins.


Have children look in refrigerator and cupboards and make a list of all meats.  Checkmark the leanest selections.  Take a trip to the store and look for the leaner selections of each group of meat as described at the beginning of the class.  Older children can choose a meat and look up the history of how that meat is processed, how the animal is fed, etc., and provide a report.  Allow the children to help choose the meat for some of the meals.  Choose a different activity for each week of this month.  


Help children cut low-fat, beef hotdogs into thirds.  Help child cut a slit down the middle.  Place a small wedge of Mozzarella cheese in the slit.  Bake until cheese and hotdog bubbly and hot.  Serve with a cup of cold 100% fruit juice.

Sandwich Cut-Outs.  Using cookie cutters with fun shapes like dinosaurs, stars, and hearts, cut slices of cheese, meat and whole-grain bread.  Then put them together to make fun sandwiches.  Eat the edges too!



Sweets & Snacks

There is definitely a place in our diets for sweets and snacks.  The problem is that we eat too much of them, too often.  Let's start the lesson with a review of sugar.

What Is Sugar?

Sugar is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit, grain, dry bean, some vegetables, milk, yogurt and ice cream.  It is a major product of photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform the sun's energy into food.  Do you know which foods have the greatest quantity of sugar?  They are sugarcane and sugar beets.  These are the foods from which sugar is separated to make sugar you see on the table and in restaurants which are called added sugars..  

There is no difference in the sugar produced from either cane or beet. Sugar cane, a giant grass, thrives in a warm, moist climate, storing sugar in its stalk. The sugar beet grows best in a temperate climate and stores its sugar in its white root. Sugar from both sources is produced by nature in the same fashion as all green plants produce sugar--as a means of storing the sun's energy.

Other sources of added sugar in the diet include honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, jelly and jams.  Let's talk first about cane and beet sugar.

How Is Sugar Produced?

During the refining process, the natural sugar that is stored in the cane stalk or beet root is separated from the rest of the plant material.

For sugar cane, this is accomplished by a) grinding the cane to extract the juice; b) boiling the juice until the syrup thickens and crystallizes; c) spinning the crystals in a centrifuge to produce raw sugar; d) shipping the raw sugar to a refinery where it is; e) washed and filtered to remove the last remaining plant materials and color; and f) crystallized, dried and packaged.

Beet sugar processing is normally accomplished in one continuous process without the raw sugar stage. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to remove the sugar-containing juice. The juice is purified, filtered, concentrated and dried in a series of steps similar to sugar cane processing.

Is Sugar Good For Us? 

Sugar is pure carbohydrate, an important nutrient that supplies energy to the body. Vitamins and minerals are sometimes present, but in trace amounts. Sugar and other nutritive sweeteners play an important role in making other foods taste better and, through their many uses in cooking, increasing the variety of foods available.

Sugar is prized for its sweet taste and has many other functions in cooking and baking. It contributes texture and color to baked goods. It is needed for the fermentation by yeast, which causes bread to rise. Sugar acts as a bulking agent (ice cream, baked goods) and preservative (jams, fruits), and it imparts a satisfying body or "mouth-feel" to beverages.  In non-sweet foods -- salad dressings, sauces, condiments -- sugar enhances flavor and balances acid content in tomato and vinegar-based products.

The key to eating sugar is moderation.  Remember to eat a variety of foods and maintain desirable weight.  We have a tendency to eat too much sugar and miss out on other more nutritious foods that are better for our health.

In the last 20 years, we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. from 26 pounds to 135 lbs. of sugar per person per year! Prior to the turn of this century (1887-1890), the average consumption was only 5 lbs. per person per year! (2007, Healing Daily).  In 1999, the Department of Agriculture said it was closer to 158# of sugar per person per day.  The American Heart Association says we average 22 teaspoons of sugar per day (2009).  What does all that mean?  We eat a lot of sugar.  Here is an example, there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in one 12-oz can of regular soda!  How much sugar do you eat every day??

Different Types of Sugar

Raw sugar is a tan to brown, coarse granulated solid obtained on evaporation of clarified sugar cane juice. Raw sugar is processed from the cane at a sugar mill and then shipped to a refinery. It is about 98% sucrose. Raw sugar is not sold to consumers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes raw sugar is "unfit for direct use as food or as a food ingredient because of the impurities it ordinarily contains."

Brown sugar consists of sugar crystals contained in a molasses syrup with natural flavor and color components. Many sugar refiners produce brown sugar by preparing and boiling a special syrup containing these components until brown sugar crystals form. In the final processing the crystals are spun dry in a centrifuge; some of the syrup remains, giving the sugar its characteristic brown color. Other refiners produce brown sugar by blending a special molasses syrup with white sugar crystals.

Honey is a mixture of sugars formed from nectar by an enzyme, invertase, present in the bodies of bees. Honey varies in composition and flavor, depending on the source of the nectar (clover, orange blossom, sage, etc). A typical analysis of honey would show (exclusive of undetermined substances): 38% fructose, 31% glucose, 1% sucrose, 9% other sugars, 17% water and 0.17% ash.

Corn syrups are manufactured by treating corn starch with acids or enzymes. Standard corn syrups used by the food industry as well as the consumer, contain dextrose and other saccharides. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is made by treating dextrose with enzymes. The result (HFCS) is a liquid mixture of dextrose and fructose that is used by food manufacturers in soft drinks, canned fruits, jams and other food applications.

Food manufacturers today use a variety of nutritive sweeteners from traditional sugar to newer fruit juice concentrates. In order to be used as sweeteners, fruit juice concentrates are purified through heat and enzyme processing and filtered to remove fiber, flavor components and impurities. The end product is almost identical (in calories, sugars and nutrients) to sugar syrup. The food industry uses fruit juice concentrates in jams, canned fruits, beverages and some baked goods.

  A Little Bit About Tooth Decay

Tooth decay occurs because bacteria living on our teeth break down the carbohydrates in sugar.  This breakdown forms acids in the plaque on our teeth.  It is these acids which dissolve the tooth enamel.  The result is cavities.  It depends on how often we eat sugar not necessarily how much.  Frequent snacking on sugary foods increases the amount of time teeth are exposed to the formation of acids.

The worst foods are the ones that are sticky like chewing gum, raisins and other dried fruits, and some candies.  Also starchy foods like breadsticks, cornflakes, potato chips and white crackers stay in the mouth longer than some sweet foods.

To decrease your risk for tooth decay and cavities, do the following:

Brush regularly with toothpaste that has fluoride. 

Visit your dentist regularly (at least once per year, but two times per year is even better).  

Eat a balanced diet.

Limit sticky, sugary between-meal snacks.

Eat sweets with meals.

Do not allow infants to sleep with bottles containing sweetened liquids, fruit juices, milk or formula.  (The liquid pools in the infant's mouth and bathes the teeth in sugar causing baby-bottle tooth decay.)

Snacks, Snacks, Snacks

Children are supposed to have three meals and three snacks per day.  Snacking does not make us fat, but it is important to remember that healthful snacking means giving up some fun foods.  Plan snacks into the food choices for the day.  Balance higher-fat or higher-calorie snacks food with lower-fat choices at meals.  

Healthy Bites

Try 1/2 bagel with melted mozzarella, 1/2 slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter , 1 homemade bran muffin, 2-3 baby carrots or broccoli florets with ranch dressing (go easy on the dressing please), 4 oz tomato juice and a couple of whole grain crackers, 1/2 cup orange juice with 6-7 nuts, 1/4 cup cantaloupe with 2-3 tsp yogurt, 1/2 banana, 1/4 cup yogurt with a graham cracker, 1 oz low fat string cheese and 2-3 crackers, 1/4 cup cottage cheese with 2 tsp crushed pineapple, 1/4 cup tuna with celery and apple, 1 oz lean ham on crackers, 1/4 cup pinto beans with some shredded cheese, just to name a few.

Go Anywhere Snacks are snacks that do not have to be in the refrigerator.  Can you think of any??

Refrigerator Snacks include yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, lean deli meats, 100% fruit juice, low fat milk (under 2 years use whole) and washed, ready-to-eat fruits and veggies.

Microwave Snacks are little pizzas and pita pockets or canned pastas like ravioli.  Choose the low fat varieties and the whole grain varieties when possible.  

Vending Machine Snacks choose pretzels, peanuts, or raisins.  Remember, peanuts and raisins not for children under four years of age, or not at all if your child has a history of choking problems.

Thirst-Quenching Snacks start with water and include milk, fruit and vegetable juice.  For a change try a juice spritzer made with 100% fruit juice and mineral water,  flavored mineral water or fruit smoothies (fruit or juice blended with milk or yogurt).

Fiber-Filling Snacks include air popped or light microwave popcorn, bran muffins, whole-grain crackers, whole wheat toast, fresh fruit kebobs, vegetables kebobs, three-bean salad, lentil or bean soup.

Sweet Tooth Snacks are pudding, oatmeal-raisin cookies, fig bars, graham crackers, hot chocolate, frozen yogurt, dried fruit, raisin toast, vanilla wafers, gingersnaps, frozen 100% fruit juice popsicles, low fat ice cream or fruit-flavored bagel.

The most important thing to remember about snacks is to use the food guide pyramid when planning them!  Don't forget, children under age 2 should receive whole dairy products and children under age 4 should not receive nuts, raisins, grapes, or other foods with skins or seeds or that may cause choking.  


Go to http://www.sugar.org/consumers/kids_cube.asp for some fun activities having to do with sugar.  Have children go to the cupboards and find as many different kinds of sugar as possible, i.e., white sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar.  Have children look for each type of snack discussed above.  Older children can plan a couple days worth of snacks or make the shopping list for snacks. 


Fruit Smoothies

Blend together low fat frozen yogurt with your favorite fruit, add a dash of cinnamon and a little low fat milk.  MMMMMM good!



Planning Menus

There are a few things to keep in mind when planning the family's menus.

Use the food guide pyramid to plan your menus.  Try to have a selection from each food group.  Typical meal patterns are as follows:




Let's Start Planning

  First select meat or meat alternative entree for the main meals over the entire planning period (try one week).

Choose the vegetables and potatoes, rice or pasta to be served with the main dish for each meal on the basis of their color, form, texture and flavor.  Crisp vegetables complement a soft or creamy main dish.

Select salads that contrast with the rest of the meal in color, flavor and texture.  Chilled salads complement hot entrees.

Vary the type of bread served from meal to meal.  Include yeast breads, quick breads, and specialty breads on the menus.

Select desserts that complete and balance the meal in flavor and texture and sometimes in caloric content.  Fresh, canned and frozen fruits are offered as alternatives to desserts.  Limit high-fat, high sugar dessert to a few times per week.

Provide ice tea, water and milk as beverages.  Again, use the Food Guide Pyramid.  Children should have milk at most meals (at least two cups (16 oz) per day).  Coffee, hot tea and hot chocolate can also be used in moderation.

Plan breakfast menus last.  Although breakfast menus are simple, they should provide interesting food variations from day to day.  Nontraditional items such as breakfast sandwiches might be considered. 

Characteristics Of A Good Menu 


Have child plan a menu.  Depending on age, it may be one meal or one day.  Make a list of the family's favorite meats, starches, fruits and vegetables, soups and casseroles.  Use that as a starting point.  Plan at least one new item per day or every other day.  Look through a recipe book and allow child to choose the new item to try.  Keep in mind all the above tips and suggestions when planning the menu.  Don't forget the Food Guide Pyramid when planning.  Allow child to help prepare the meal.  Older children can prepare more of the meal.  Don't forget to include the children in clean up!


Pita Pockets

Choose a whole wheat or whole grain pita bread and stuff with shredded lettuce, cheese and diced tomato, cucumber or any other type of vegetable.  Add a little Ranch salad dressing (1 TBS or less).  Let child help cut up veggies and make the pita sandwich.  Serve with ice cold low fat or fat free milk.  Garnish with a couple fresh grapes, strawberries, sliced bananas or an orange slice. 


Kitchen Safety

This lesson is a little different than the rest.  This is a highly interactive lesson for your children.  They are going to be involved in hands-on learning.  Let's get started.

The topic of learning is safety in the kitchen.  Let's start with the basics.

* Set limits on what your children are allowed to operate without your supervision. Supervise them until you are sure they can operate kitchen appliances safely.

* Teach them to be aware of their hair or what they are wearing if they are allowed to use the stove. Keep all handles pointed inward on the stove, so smaller children cannot grab them.

* Practice what to do in case of a fire, which includes "drop and roll" to smother flames. If possible, keep a fire extinguisher available and practice how to use it with your children every few months. Keep baking soda or a box of dirt available for a grease fire. Make sure they know how to dial 911 in case of a fire.

* Choose foods and recipes that match the abilities of your child.

* Make sure they wash their hands with soap and water before handling food.

* Teach them how to use knives and how to handle hot liquids as appropriate for age.

* Teach children how to wrap and store food in the refrigerator.

* If you have a microwave, make sure it is on a sturdy stand. Keep microwave-safe containers within easy reach of the children, (plastic, paper plates, paper towels. No metal or tin foil). Show them how to open containers or microwave popcorn away from their face to avoid the escaping steam. Teach them to stir the food before taking a bite. Keep potholders available and teach them to use them.

* Keep emergency numbers in the kitchen where the children can see them easily, include 911, police station, a neighbor, a relative, your work phone. Practice when and how they would make the calls. Make sure they understand it is not a joke.

* If possible keep a first-aid kit within reach of the children and show them how to use it in case of a minor injury when cooking.

Food Safety

How does food spoil? It is important to understand the difference between organisms or bugs that cause food to spoil and those that cause food poisoning.

The major difference is temperature. Bugs that cause food poisoning grow or multiply in room temperature, around 60 to 90 degrees. They are unable to grow in real cold temperatures, such as in the refrigerator, or real hot temperatures, such as after cooking. Organisms that cause food poisoning make us sick. If we eat a food containing these bugs, we have mild-to-severe flu-like symptoms, that is nausea, vomiting, fever, sweating. Examples are salmonella and botulinum. We cannot tell that the food is bad by sight, smell or taste.

Bugs that cause food to spoil and taste bad grow in temperatures as low as 40 degrees, like in the refrigerator. Examples are yeast and molds. The food will look, taste or smell bad.

Let’s talk about the food bugs that we cannot see, taste or smell. They are the ones that make us sick and in some cases die. These bugs can be controlled by cooking and refrigeration. Most cases of food poisoning are caused by careless food handling.

Let’s review some basic food safety rules.

Keep hot food hot.  High food temperatures (165-212 degrees) reached in boiling, baking, frying, and roasting kill most food poisoning bugs. The danger zone is 40 degrees to 140 degrees, and 60 to 125 is the most dangerous. Be sure to cook food thoroughly. Try to serve and eat cooked food within 30 minutes of cooking. 

Do not eat perishable food that has been left out more than two hours. Remember these bugs multiply rapidly at room temperature. Perishable foods are meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, cold salads with mayonnaise, eggs or meats in them, cooked vegetables. Perishable food left out two hours or more provides a perfect place for the bugs to multiply because the food is room temperature. 

If the food has been left out too long, reheat the food.  But make sure leftovers are reheated thoroughly with an internal temperature of 165 degrees.  All leftovers should be cooled to 40 degrees within 4 hours or they are at extremely high risk of already being contaminated.

Keep cold food cold. The colder the cold food, the less chance for the bugs to multiply. Refrigerator temperatures should be 40 degrees or less and freezer temperatures should be 0 degrees or less. Remember, if the temperature of a food increases to room temperature, the bugs will multiply. 

Try to buy cold foods last at the grocery store, so they are not held at room temperature for very long. It is very important to thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator overnight or under running cold water. It is OK to thaw meat in the microwave, but follow the instructions that come with the microwave regarding temperature and minutes for thawing. It is not a good idea to thaw meat and poultry on the kitchen counter. The bugs can multiply rapidly at room temperature.

Keep food save and clean. When shopping, look at the "sell by" and "use by" dates.  If only one date is available, it is usually the "sell by" date.  If you are buying or using the food very long after these dates, the food could be spoiled which we can tell by sight, smell and taste. But we cannot tell if the food is poisoned. If you are not going to eat meat within a couple of days, put it in the freezer.

Everything that comes into contact with the food should be clean. Keep pets, household cleaners and other chemicals away from the food. Control household pests such as rats, mice and roaches.

Do not spread infection. Always wash your hands before preparing food.  Try not to sneeze or cough into food. Keep washing and drying cloths clean. Wash your hands often.  Do you know the proper way to wash your hands?  First, wet hands.  Second, rub in some soap and lather for 15 seconds.  Third, rinse thoroughly in warm water.  There!  You are done.  

Wash hands, countertops, cutting boards and utensils in hot, soapy water between each step in preparing food. Bugs present on raw meat and poultry can get into other food you are preparing. If the other food is cold food that will not be cooked such as raw fruits and vegetables, the bugs get into the food and be eaten by the family.  Use a different cutting board for meat, poultry and fish than used for fresh or raw fruits and vegetables.  Plastic cutting boards usually clean up better than wooden ones.

Just a few words about eggs. Do not eat raw eggs! Cook eggs completely before eating. Salmonella, the bug that grows in eggs, can cause death, especially in the very young, the very old and those with immune dysfunctions such as AIDS or hepatitis.

Fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly in running water or sterilized water. Water can be sterilized by boiling it for 3 to 5 minutes.

Lastly, do not buy dented or damaged canned food. It may be spoiled.

So let’s do ourselves and our families a favor. If we follow these simple safety rules, we will greatly decrease our risks for food poisoning.


Start at the beginning of the class and have children practice each suggestion in the first section, marked with stars including the proper way to wash hands from "Food Safety".  Practice the safety tips often.  It may save a life.


Mini Pizzas

Take a whole grain English Muffin.  Start with tomato paste or tomato sauce add cut up vegetables  such as green and red pepper, yellow squash, mushrooms, onions, etc.  Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese and broil or put in the microwave until cheese is bubbly and muffins are toasty.  Follow all safety rules when preparing this snack.



Physical Activity & Metabolism



Do your children spend more time inside the house watching television or playing on the computer than they spend playing outside?  Motivating your children to be more active not only improves their health and well-being now, but may also benefit their health later in life.

It is a fact that too many children today are not active.  Lack of exercise is a major reason for the growing rate of obesity among children.  Watching TV for even as few as two to five hours per week is linked to being overweight.  Make it a habit to include physical activity each day in your home school curriculum.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise increases the amount of calories (from food) our bodies burn, helps to build muscle tissue, improves metabolic rate and burns fat.  Metabolic rate is the rate that our bodies burn calories.  Exercise reduces blood levels of fat.   Exercise stabilizes blood sugar levels in diabetes and diabetic-prone people.  Exercise helps control high blood pressure and improves heart and lung function.  Exercise also slows or prevents bone loss related to osteoporosis and reduces the symptoms of arthritis.

Exercise can help us live longer and improve our quality of life while we live longer.  It can improve our self-image, that is how we see ourselves or feel about ourselves.  It brings about a sense of well-being.  Exercise can improve our ability to relax and can improve our mental clearness.  In order to exercise, we need fuel in the form of food.


OK, What Is A Calorie?

A calorie is a unit of energy.   All calories used by the body come from protein, fat, carbohydrate that we get from food.  High protein foods include:  meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, eggs, nuts, and dried beans.  High complex carbohydrate foods include:  fruits, starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn, dried beans, whole grains including breads, tortillas, cereals, pastas, crackers and rice.  (Simple carbohydrate foods are sugar and sweets such as cookies, cakes, sweet breads, pies, candy and have NO nutritional value, just empty calories.)  High fat foods include:  fried foods, sauces, gravies, creams, oils, lard/shortening, dressings, mayonnaise and margarine/butter.

A Calorie Is a Calorie, Is A Calorie, Or Is It?

One gram of fat (9 calories/gram) has more than twice the calories that a gram of protein or carbohydrate has (4 calories/gram)?  So technically, pound for pound, we can eat about twice the amount of carbohydrates and protein than fat which is about the same amount of calories. 

 Different Types of Exercise

The Triad of Physical Fitness

Moderate activity provides immediate health benefits.  The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends to be truly fit, one must engage in a combination of three types of fitness, aerobic exercise for cardiovascular conditioning, strength training for muscle toning, and flexibility conditioning to improve the range of motion of your joints and muscles.

  Aerobic Activity:   For cardiovascular fitness, the intensity of activity should be enough to cause us to break a sweat and breathe hard.  Vigorous exercise such as jogging, biking, swimming, tennis, hiking, soccer and aerobic classes is more effective than moderate activity for cardiac conditioning.  ACSM recommends a minimum of 20 minutes three to six days a week to increase cardiovascular stamina for adults.  Remember, you should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising, or you are overdoing it--slow down a little.

Benefits:  Aerobic exercise burns the most calories of any type of exercise and uses fat as the primary fuel. 

  Strength Training:   Resistance exercise helps maintain muscular strength and endurance as we age.   Such activity stimulates our bones, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis.   It is unnecessary to lift heavy weights at a gym.  Our own body weight can provide resistance.  One may use stretch cords or household items like cans of soup as weights.  There are many books available at the local library and bookstore to provide examples of correct weight training.  Be very careful.  It is easy to injure oneself if not done properly.  Resistance training is recommended two to three days a week, one to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each muscle group for adults.

Benefits: Strengthening exercises increase muscle tone and muscle mass.  The greater amount of muscle mass the higher the metabolic rate.

Children who participate in weight-bearing, impact sports such as running, gymnastics, tumbling, and dance have higher bone density than children who are not active or children whose major activity is a non-weight-bearing exercise such as swimming.  Building strong bones in childhood helps to maintain bone health later in life.  But actual weight lifting exercises can be started too early.  Check with your pediatrician for the best age to begin these types of exercises.

  Flexibility:  We should stretch at least 5-10 minutes every day of the week to maintain optimal flexibility.  It is important to stretch the major muscle groups to the point of mild discomfort, but not until we feel pain.  Stretching each of the muscle groups at least 20 seconds, with no bouncing.   Again, there are plenty of manuals and books to show the proper technique for stretching.  If done improperly, there is risk for injury.

Benefits: Flexibility exercises reduce the risk of injury from other activities or falls. They help you to walk easier, raise your arms easier, bend over easier, sit down or stand up easier.

  So, include aerobic, strengthening and flexibility exercises in the family's daily activities. These can be things like walking to the mailbox, gardening, house cleaning, walking through the mall, mowing the lawn, raking the yard, taking out the trash, playing with the kids or grandkids, running around the park, playing chase, playing hopscotch, jumping rope, using small foods cans as weights and doing weight lifting such as basic arm and leg lifts or squats, swimming, bike riding, and stretching.  Be creative.

NOTE:  Encourage your children to have at least 60 minutes of good hard play every single day, and more is better.  Keep your children active all throughout the day and limit sedentary types of activities in which your children are sitting most of the day.


10 Things For Kids To Do Instead of Watching TV

1.  Encourage kids to set up a jump rope contest.  If they are older, go "double dutch" with two ropes.  A hula-hoop contest is fun, too.

2.  Take the dog for a brisk walk together.  Don't have a dog?  Have kids take their teddy bears for a stroll instead.  Walking as a family is good talking time!

3.  Give kids colored chalk to create a sidewalk mural.  Or draw a hopscotch game--fun to play alone or with friends.

4.  Don't let rainy days put a damper on fun!  Turn up the radio and dance inside.

5.  Start a "100" walking club.  Who's first in your family to walk 100 times up and down the sidewalk or stairs in your house.

6.  Play a game of tag or kick ball in the playground, park, or backyard.

7.  If there's snow, make a snowman or go sledding.  Or take the family ice skating any time of year at an ice rink--even in July!

8.  On warm days, go in-line skating or ride bikes (remember the helmet and pads), or run through sprinkler "rain".

9.  Enjoy a hike together in a nearby park or forest preserve.  Have kids find 10 points of natural interest to enjoy as you hike.

10.  Host a neighborhood bicycle wash outside--or a dog wash instead!

Adapted from:  "Healthy Start:  Food to Grow On," Volume IV, Food Marketing Institute, The American Dietetic Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, 1995.


Find pictures of the different types of exercise listed above and make an exercise poster.  Have children make an activity schedule for each day of the week.  Don't forget to include aerobic, weight bearing and stretching exercises.  Include two 10-15 minute recesses (a.m. and p.m.) and 1/2 hour recess at lunchtime in the home school curriculum.  Have older children figure their target heart rate range, which is the range of beats per minute they should target when exercising.  The maximum heart rate in beats/minute is about 220 minus your age. Target heart rate range is approximately 50-75% of the maximum heart rate.  Take exercise pulse rate immediately after exercising by counting the number of times your heart beats in 10 seconds.  Use fingers to take pulse not your thumb.  Then multiply that number by 6 to gets beats per minute and compare to target heart rate range.  The goal is to be within that range.  


Banana Pops

Peel a banana.  Dip it in fat free yogurt, then roll in crushed breakfast cereal (whole grain like All Bran or Cheerios); freeze. 




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