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Making “Healthy” Easy and Fun

Everyone wins when nutrition education is done right.

I live in the Midwest. When we get hit by one of the bigger snowfalls of the season, it blankets everything in the kind of snow that is perfect for building a snowman.  Translate that to a wintry breakfast in a cozy kitchen.

carrot nose
Image by patrik_h from Pixabay

It makes me smile to have nutritious food styled creatively for a season, like a pancake snowman with a bacon scarf I found on Pinterest.  This clever, simple idea is a great way to serve multiple food groups perfect for that snowy day. You can change it up by swapping out what you use for the scarf. One strip of bacon, some string cheese or a bell pepper strip keeps things interesting and balanced over the course of the week or month.  Perhaps you’ll be even snazzier and use some berries or other fruit for the face and buttons. Maybe a baby carrot can provide a nose for that pancake creation, too.

Will it be a full serving of vegetables if we add one red pepper strip or baby carrot?  No. What may happen is the realization that veggies at breakfast isn’t weird and in fact, can be fun. That’s the beauty of knowing more about food. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It does have to be intentional.

This is also a great moment to make a portion control point. One strip of bacon makes total sense as a scarf. What you see is a fun snowman pancake decked out appropriately. What your body gets is a balance of food groups and all that comes with that. #winning

This is something dietitians excel in. We make nutrition education part of the main focus instead of a side bar conversation or a “should”. We make it fun so enjoyment leads the learning of better self care through nutrition. When we work in grocery stores, this also means we help increase sales of healthful products from all food groups across the store.

This is a win for everyone involved. People buy more nutritious food to support their health. Stores sell groceries so they can stay in business and continue to be the location where people access their food and nutrition.

Image by Kevin Sanderson from Pixabay

Feeling inspired? YAY! Here is your checklist to begin to formulate your plan to create and deliver food related activities aligned with health goals and the season(s):

  • Get Creative.  Good evidence-based nutrition programs resonate with both food retailers and their shoppers (“consumers”).  For example, diabetes is on people’s minds at every eating occasion, not just during Diabetes Month in November when so many organizations create programs around it.  Good health and well-being programming navigates the dance of a focused event that elevates initiatives while remembering that each person this appeals to will still be looking for solutions to manage their diabetes when November is over.
  • Good health content is mainstream, consistent, science-based, and simple.  People and organizations need to recognize the importance of weaving health into the planned content/program schedule. Health doesn’t need to lead every story. It can be as simple as adding something like “Check out our website for more meal ideas, including diabetes friendly recipes.”  This shows an understanding of people’s daily lives. We must connect year ’round, not just during promotions.   It’s the same principle and compassionate feeling as when we say “person with diabetes” instead of “diabetic” – let’s talk to the person – not the disease.
  • Manage up and down, and all around.  That Pinterest snowman idea is super cute for people to make at home. We must not forget the critical step of explaining to the business types that this is a strategic idea with goals for the business and the shopper in mind. It is intended to help people increase produce and balance at breakfast while helping to drive sales throughout the store with a creative idea. No – it’s not just a silly snowman.  If the message is authentic, the work will be successful. People will follow along for more inspired ideas, because it’s fun and simple. Lifestyle skills are strengthened. With this health focused intent, it is still also simply providing an easy and festive meal idea. It’s nutrition education done right, clear from both a public health and a business perspective. Give fun messages the respect they deserve.  Social media offers us this chance to make better choices fun. Let’s work to make sure that what is really happening (nutrition education) doesn’t get lost by those who may just see a snowman.

This post is inspired by an article I wrote years ago for a retail dietitian publication.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.