Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 7)

How Quality Physical Education, Recess and Active Classrooms Enhance Learning

Educator and Coach Paul Zientarski discussed the impact of how adequate physical activity and recess enhance learning. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that physical activity and fitness can benefit both health and academic performance for children.  Because children spend so much time at school, schools have a unique opportunity to help children become more healthy and active. Furthermore, both childhood obesity and poor academic performance tend to be clustered in schools with a high percentage of lower-income, minority students, creating a student health issue that is especially problematic in those communities.  In this Webinar, presented by The National Physical Activity Society, Zientarski goes into detail about how physical activity and fitness may help school-aged children maximize their academic performance. He provides an overview of the effects of physical activity on the developing brain.


Data showcasing the findings in California’s Department of Education school system, highlight the direct connection between physical activity and brain function, specifically the increase in SAT scores due to physical activity. Indeed, academic performance is influenced by factors like parental involvement and socioeconomic status, but Zientarski’s findings report that active children tended to have stronger performance, especially in reading and mathematics. Also, the results outline that the benefits of exercise during the school day outweigh the benefits from increasing class time. Children who are more active are better able to focus their attention, are quicker able to perform simple tasks, and have better working memories and problem solving skills than less-active children. They also perform better on standardized academic test.

Coach Zientarski went into further detail when he discussed Dr. Hillman’s scientific findings. Dr. Hillman took a composite brain scan of about 20, nine and ten year olds. The children were categorized into higher and lower fitness levels and given tests similar to games found on Lumosity, the brain game website. The results of the scans showed that students with higher fitness levels had elevated brain activity, no matter how difficult or easy the tests were.

In a period when greater emphasis is being placed on preparing children to take standardized tests, these studies should give school administrators reasons to consider investing in quality physical education and vigorous activity programs, even at the expense of time spent in the classroom. Time devoted to physical activity at school does not harm academic performance. Moreover, the way to increase exercise is to promote physical education classes, recess, and classroom breaks during the school day; encouraging after-school sports and walking or biking to school when feasible would also help. Physical activity should be a core educational concern, not a dispensable option.


  1. National Physical Activity Society. How Quality Physical Education, Recess and Active Classrooms Enhance Learning. Webinar: September 19, 2016.

Examining the Public Debate on School Food Nutrition Guidelines

On October 27th, 2016, Dialogue4Health, presented a webinar discussion titled, “Examining the Public Debate on School Food Nutrition Guidelines: Findings and Lessons Learned from an Analysis of News Coverage and Legislative Debates.”  This discussion was presented by media researcher Laura Nixon and the Berkley Media Studies Group.

How do we analyze the types of media coverage given to different school nutrition subjects?  It turns out that factors generated by media outlets and policy holders are used to determine school nutrition topics of interest. To engage in an effective dialogue on this topic, one must examine how media outlets and news stations determine which stories are news-worthy. For starters, a large majority of the coverage on school nutrition comes from news outlets. Media researcher, Laura Nixson states that news makes up 80% of the coverage surrounding school nutrition. At this level, stories are generated by reporters based on the perspective, “if it bleeds, it leads”.  While this mantra normally implies the association of violence to determine which stories lead news broadcasts, in the realm of school nutrition, the most controversial stories will get air time.  Interestingly enough, opinion coverage proved not to be a major factor in the study that was discussed on this webinar. Berkley Media found that the use of editorial pieces by news mediums were not as prominent as regular news stories.

The researchers looking at this issue, discovered that there is no direct correlation between state population size and major media outlet coverage and there was not an increase in coverage because of the number of inhabitants in the state.  Surprisingly, there is a higher amount of media coverage found throughout the Midwest United States. In addition, there was a significant amount of coverage in the state of California. Could the political make up of California have a direct connection to California’s significant media coverage?

Nixson explores federal school nutrition guidelines and the direct relationship between positive or negative news coverage.  Moreover, the scope of the different topics presented in articles cover a vast range. There was not one particular topic that was polarizing enough to skew the news coverage.  The topic of healthier food policy options had the most arguments, while the topic of keeping nutrition guidelines obtained roughly 9% coverage. However, on the opposite side of the spectrum, key arguments opposing school nutrition received more coverage.

Berkley Media Studies and Nixson concluded that most articles focused on state implementation of meals. The increase of articles from 2013 to 2014 was the result of a spike in arguments against the guidelines of school nutrition. It is interesting to consider the politics of school nutrition.


  1. Examining the Public Debate on School Food Nutrition Guidelines: Findings and Lessons Learned from an Analysis of News Coverage and Legislative Debates, October 27, 2016.

Community Food Systems in Native Communities: Engaging Students

How does the Navajo Tribe engage students simultaneously in culture and nutrition?  A May 2016 webinar titled, “Community Food Systems in Native Communities: Engaging Students” focused on the food systems of the Navajo tribe, and explored this question.

The presenter fused information about school lunches and how traditional foods can be used in combination with a wealth of knowledge surrounding the Navajo culture.  Effective and innovative school nutrition programs can be found in all cultures.  Schools that are interested in incorporating traditional meals into their school’s lunch program, should know that funds may be available for this venture.


In the Navajo culture, corn is the main staple so corn is often used in engaging students and in creating traditional Navajo meals.  The Navajo tribe has a rich history, spanning from the Scorched Earth campaign to things that affect the Navajo tribe now, such as fracking.


One of the main points of this talk was that the Navajo generate income by placing a 2% sales tax on junk food.  Through this sales tax, the Navajo have raised one million dollars, which is used for increasing healthy food options.  The food options offered include everything from chocolate to oatmeal.   These foods are prepared in a way that make them healthy and the soil is specially prepared for seeds and planting.


In present day, the Navajo tribe uses ancestral ways of planting seeds and like their ancestors, they celebrate each stage of the plant’s growth, from sowing to reaping.  The Navajo have several student programs where students work in community gardens, reaping corn, shucking corn, and preparing the corn for harvest.  It was important to the Navajo to use all parts of harvested foods.  This tradition continues with some Navajo foods even being used as medicines for healing.  It is also important to the Navajo to pass this information down to young people, so students are taught these practices.  It is important that schools or communities interested in implementing similar food programs, first contact the Navajo elders in the area for consultation. The Navajo have continued to keep these traditions and practices alive, to ensure that culture through food is passed down from generation to generation.



  1. United States Department of Agriculture. The Farm to School Program. Community Food Systems in Native Communities: Engaging Students. Webinar. May 25, 2016.

Incorporating Traditional Foods in Child Nutrition Program Menus


How do we incorporate traditional foods in child nutrition program menus?  A webinar on April 20, 2016, answered just that, focusing on Native Alaskan populations.  The webinar focused on the use of traditional foods in school lunches, demonstrating how cultural influences can be incorporated into a school lunch program.


The process of procuring traditional food for meals must consider aspects like how local meats should be slaughtered at a state facility or how shell eggs do not have to be pasteurized in some of the schools or school districts.


There is an immense variety present in traditional foods such as blue corn in the vegetable category or bison for meat. Multiple areas in Alaska were studied to learn how traditional foods are incorporated and to serve as a model for other areas of the United States interested in incorporating traditional foods into school menus.  One study found that there were several staff members at the schools who were familiar with traditional recipes.  These staff members were able to put their knowledge to use to serve traditional school meals.


There were also schools that had traditional ingredients being grown on their school grounds in community gardens. This is vital because students who grow their own vegetables are more likely to try them. It was also helpful to foster among students, an interest in wanting to grow and eat the foods of their ancestors.  Some schools used curricula to help students learn the language and cuisine of their ancestors.


Traditional foods are versatile and even allow for food substitutes. For example, one can cater to a vegetarian by substituting beans for meat in the protein category. Another example used bison or venison in meals like chili or burgers, instead of beef. Another substitute could be using fish for protein.  Interestingly, smaller nutritional foods are used to enhance flavors, such as acorns or juniper berries.

The webinar also presented the importance of studying the traditional foods in school lunches and working with schools and communities to build a greater sense of community.  For example, in some areas, fishermen regularly donate one day’s catch to the school which provides enough fish for the school to have a regular salmon day when schoolchildren can invite the families, promoting family involvement in healthy eating practices.  In this way, families not only get to enjoy a nutritious meal but something that’s good for the soul as well.



  1. United States Department of Agriculture. The Farm to School Program. Incorporating Traditional Foods in Child Nutrition Program Menus. Webinar. April 20, 2016.

Safe for Success: How to Include Food Safety into your Farm-to-School Program

Image result for food safetyAs we learn more about the benefits of school gardens and farm-to-school programs, we need to ensure that we do not gloss over the food safety aspect. Many people are utilizing local farmers or their own school gardens to provide food in their school cafeterias or salad bars, so they need to think about the steps involved to prevent the students from getting any food-borne illness. This webinar did a great job of outlining the different ways health professionals can maintain food safety while utilizing a farm-to-school program.

It is important to ensure that all local partnerships are with farmers that have good food safety practices to reduce risk. Some farmers may already have completed training or a certification, for example Vermont has a Practical Produce Safety certification that farmers can obtain. If you are not currently buying from a local vendor, you can encourage your vendor (who is likely to have a certification) to make purchases from a local farmer. In lieu of a certification, you can complete on-farm checklists that are provided by Iowa State University or the Institute for Child Nutrition. By going to the farm, you can check their practices yourself and develop trust with the farmer. When you are on the farm, it is important to inspect the incoming product and check the transporting vehicle to ensure that it is clean, to prevent any contamination.

Another way to maintain food safety is to keep records of where you get produce from. Traceability, knowing where your food is coming from and where it is going to, to very important to quickly identify any source of contamination. Even if it is a handwritten receipt from a vendor, it is better than no record at all.

Lastly, some schools utilize their school garden produce for their cafeterias or in their salad bars. In order to do this, ensure that all components of the process are safe, including but not limited to, clean water, proper composting, animal prevention, and safe produce handling. When you utilize food from the garden, store it in a separate container to maintain traceability. School salad bars are a great way to incorporate local produce and provide education to the students, and it should be treated like any other salad bar (proper temperature, tongs for serving, and clean area).

Overall, farm-to-school programs are a great way to get local produce into the schools, but it is important for health professionals to maintain proper food safety across all aspects of the food procurement process to prevent illness. Also, food safety may be a great learning avenue for the students to start implementing safe practices. Innovation is the key here, because farm-to-school programs have so much potential.

  1. Nwadike, Londa. “Food Safety for Farm to School Success.” USDA webinar. 3 March 2016.

The Truth About Superfoods

When I eat, I have three primary factors that influence how I eat: taste, nutrition, and quantity. To keep things simple, I want to eat as much tasty, healthy food as possible anytime I eat.

I mention how I eat because I believe I have a good understanding on how to eat, and I do not fall into buzzword traps. Meanwhile, terms like superfood are overtaking most people’s nutrition lingo.

By the Oxford Dictionary definition, a superfood is, “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.”¹ This definition is very loose and vague, as many foods are nutrient-rich, and those that typically are nutrient-rich provide health benefits. With superfood being such a huge buzzword right now, it seems like a smart time to see just how properly termed this is.

More than anything, we should strive to have people eating healthy diets in a sustainable (replicable) manner. So, are superfoods all they are made out to be, and do they help people consume a heathy, sustainable diet? When I mention sustainability, I do so in a manner that applies to each individual uniquely. People need to eat a diet that they can eat, feel happy and comfortable eating daily of whatever food they choose to eat.

The Guardian published a piece looking at multiple studies on superfoods recently. Although they wrongly stated that superfoods have, “no actual benefit to health”² based on the European Food Safety Authority, they do make a point that buzzwords have a strong affect on diet influence as 61% of British bought foods based on the word superfood alone.

Additionally, foods like avocado, and  pomegranate are two example foods looked at in this study review. Avocados are talked down by this review because the avocado study they are looking at is paid for by the Hass Avocado Board, and is inconclusive with regards to cardiovascular benefits. However, the study does show positive benefits on lipid profiles, which means avocados are good for people.  Again, pomegranates are talked down because they are not guaranteed to reduce artery damage from cholesterol; however, it is overlooked that they add plenty of nutritional value when eaten.

This review clearly diminishes superfoods while ignoring values these foods still have. Although superfoods are not all they are held up to be, they still are of benefit in anyone’s diet.

In the end, as professionals we need to find ways to dictate more of how studies are turned into layman terms and articles. While superfoods are not all they are made out to be, it is on us to make sure information is handled properly. Nutrition is very important, and we need to provide correct information, so people eat healthy, replicable diets.


Commit to inclusion in physical activity & public health

Fitness Professionals for persons with disability

According to research, 1 in 5 adults or over 53 million people in the US live with a disability. Additionally, adults with disabilities are 3 times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or cancer than adults without disabilities. Half of all adults with disabilities get no aerobic physical activity, which puts them more at risk of chronic diseases. To develop a truly facilitating community, health promotion activities need to be as accessible to people with disability as they are to people without disability.

The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) is a public health practice and resource center for information on physical activity, health promotion, and disability, serving persons with physical, sensory and cognitive disability across the lifespan. This webinar discusses ways of addressing inclusion as per the resources provided by the NCHPAD.

First, the NCHPAD provides an Inclusive Community Health Implementation Package (iCHIP) to help address the inequities faced by people with disability. The iCHIP features interactive tools to help community health practitioners, organizations, and coalitions incorporate, enhance, and promote inclusion across all aspects of the community.

The package contains a Community Health Inclusion Index,  a tool used to help communities gather information on the extent to which there are health living resources that are inclusive of all members of the community. Secondly, the package contains the Community Health Inclusion Sustainability plan, which focuses on developing an inclusive health coalition for community engagement. An inclusive health coalition is a way of creating local level sustainability and inclusion. The purpose of an inclusive health coalition is to remove barriers to access for people with disabilities in community health, physical activity, and nutrition organizations, programs, activities, events, etc.

Third, the package contain the Community Health Inclusion Communication Scorecard that allows communities to evaluate their level of inclusive media and communication materials, and receive a customized set of recommendations in areas that need improvement. Consequently, the NCHDAP provides the Community Health Inclusion Training and Technical Assistance to educate disability and non-disability service providers in community health inclusion. Lastly, the NCHPAD provides Community Health Inclusion Recommended Policies, which is a set of disability health inclusion policy guidelines and training manual describing how to change local and state policies/plans to increase community health inclusion.

The NCHPAD also has an interactive website to encourage communication between them and healthcare providers, individuals and caregivers, public health professionals and educators. Online chats, social media accounts are available for quick communication. The NCHPAD also provides ways to customize the inclusion plan according to the individuals needs. An organization with an already existing plan will have a different inclusion plan than an organization with no plan at all. Services provided by the NCHPAD are crucial and health practitioners need to incorporate recommended guidelines if interested in inclusion for their practice. The fact that NCHPAD’s inclusion package provides local level resources makes it a more suitable approach for health practitioners to influence individual behavior change.


Fad Diets- the most popular girl in school

In today’s culture there seem to be a new fad diet coming into the scene pretty regularly, weight loss products are heaven sent, and people get sucked in to believing that these things will magically burn fat. There is so much focus on weight loss in our society that people will seriously try anything to shed a few pounds. But according to the academy of nutrition and dietetics, people should stay away from fad diets. They make claims that can influence and persuade consumers into not researching the validity of the diet. Something that today’s society just can’t grasp is “if a diet or product sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. So how does one lose weight in a world filled with “popularity diets”. According to this study people should steer clear of diet plans, pills and products that make erroneous claims.


There is a journal by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that did research on Long- Term Weight Loss Maintenance. There is this general consensus that long term weight loss programs are so difficult to maintain and so short term, like “rapid weight loss” programs are popular right now. We live in a society that expects immediate results, thanks polaroid cameras… But a journal by registered dietician Sharon Denny said that a steady weight loss is more likely to last than dramatic weight changes, it just takes time. If a person loses weight quickly, they are more likely to lose muscle, bone and water and are also more likely to regain the pounds. Doesn’t sound very effective to me. The bigger picture needs to be looked at in regards to weight loss and people can’t get sucked into quick results and what is popular.


The National Weight Control registry is a great resource to use for recommendations on weight control. It encourages members to participate in high levels of physical activity, eating a low calorie, low fat diet, and maintaining consistency. With this type of regimen, individuals have successfully kept their weight loss for 2-5 years which creates a better, healthier lifestyle. Sure it wasn’t immediate results, but with statics proving how counterproductive pills, fast working diet plans and products why do people still buy in to their claims?



Juice cleanses- the new “slim fast”

Have you ever done a juice cleanse? Well I have, and I’m just now learning that apparently they aren’t all what they are hyped up to be. I used it more of a detox, I thought it made my skin clear up and almost felt like hitting a reset button on my diet. According to this article, they have been used for a quick way to slim down. Are they effective to the body? Theoretically, yes they should be. Full of nutrients, 100% juice, no heavy carbs, sounds amazing right? But is there any scientific evidence behind this? As a person who has juiced before, I have to confess I never actually researched if it was a hoax or actually had health benefits, I was sucked into the fad of believing it was a good idea. I didn’t know there could actually be some potential health risks to be mindful of.

Caroline Cederquist who is a physician specializing in nutrition brings up the point that juice cleanses can severely restrict calorie intake. She even goes so far to state that they are neither effective nor safe. That’s quite the statement. Cleanses may appear to work in the short term because you are heavily restricting calorie intake for a designated time length. The issue comes when once people are done with the cleanse, they tend to put weight right back on. That negates the whole juice cleanse, right? But when you really think about it, it makes sense. A person does a 4-day juice cleanse full of natural sugars, natural calories, and nutrients and then revert right back to all the foods that were eaten before the cleanse. Cleanses are also not full of protein, and so if a person is an avid “juicer”, cleanses can actually cause a loss of muscle and not fat.

So with all the research out there, and articles titled “6 Potential Dangers of Juice Cleanses and Liquid Diets” why do people still do them? Is it just because of the short term “feel good” results? Maybe, but it could also be a good way to clean out the GI system, but my opinion is to just “cleanse” your diet. I believe a person will see better results that actually stick.



I heard gluten free diets are so healthy, so it’s true…. right?

“Putting kids on gluten-free diets even if they don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy may carry more risks than benefits” according to this journal. Before we go any further, what constitutes gluten free? A gluten free diet is where a person does not eat any wheat, rye or barley. Most reasons for this type of diet is due to celiac disease, which is an immune condition that makes people sick and less than 1% of people in the US have been diagnosed. Gluten free diets have become more popular in the last few years, and there is a lot of misconceptions about the nutritional value of them, especially for children.

There is no scientific evidence that a gluten free diet brings health benefits to people who don’t have celiac disease, a wheat allergy or a sensitivity. People do not take into account that gluten-free packaged foods are more likely to be higher in fat and sugar than gluten products. A gluten free diet means no breads, no fried foods, and no baked goods, sounds extremely healthy right, except for the fact that any of those items gluten free will be more processed because of the ingredients that are made in place of wheat. Dietitian Dr. Norelle Riley mentioned that many gluten free-foods are not fortified with vitamins and minerals, and following this diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.

I am one of the less than 1% of the United States population that has celiac disease, and I didn’t get diagnosed until I was a senior in high school. I completely agree with this journal and the study that was done. I get frustrated when people go gluten free because they want to “lose weight”, it’s actually at times harder to eat healthy being gluten free because the premade meals are so high in sodium. Or parents that are into fads and trends think that a gluten free diet can prevent celiac disease, there currently isn’t a link between the two. If a child grows up on a gluten free diet, and they don’t know if they are allergic, their parents just made a decision for them, they could potentially end up having an extremely bad reaction and they wouldn’t know what to do.  I think that unless young children are presenting with symptoms of a gluten allergy or has been diagnosed with one they shouldn’t abide to this diet. It is expensive and has the potential to make a child feel socially isolated because of the strict food restrictions, although now thankfully, there are increasingly more restaurants that offer gluten free options. If there are parents or even adults that are intrigued by a gluten free diet, I really would encourage them to do the research and to not believe all the misconceptions.


« Older posts