MyPlate icon clearly shows many Americans how to formulate healthy meals for their families with the proper proportions of fruits and vegetables, protein foods, grains and dairy products. However, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition educators in Central California discovered that the infographic was too abstract for local low-literate families. They embarked on a years-long effort to translate the shapes and colors into a series pictures showing plates filled with healthful, real food.
The concept clicked, so county and campus-based researchers joined together to document the effectiveness of a new curriculum shaped around pictures of properly portioned plates of food to share with nutrition educators around the nation and world. They wrote an article, A Picture is worth a thousand words: Customizing MyPlate for low-literate, low-income families in 4 steps, which was published in the July-August 2015 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. In 2016, the article was named the “paper of the year” in a category of articles and research programs called “great educational material” (GEM).
In the paper, the researchers shared a four-step process for creating a set of meal photographs that will resonate with families in different communities.
The four steps are:
- Review food patterns and determine meal combinations – This is done by asking clientele what foods they recently fed their families. Once the foods are identified, they can be modified to meet MyPlate recommendations.
- Test meals and take final photographs – Prepare the meals, take photos and test the photos with the target audience.
- Develop and test education messages to accompany photos – Messages should have few words, use family vocabulary and be written for a low-literacy audience.
- Create and test education materials – After the suggested materials are created, they should be tested with the target audience.
The UC Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is using the “My Healthy Plate” materials in reaching out to low-literacy and low-income families in California.
The authors of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior paper of the year are Mical Shilts researcher at UC Davis; Margaret Johns, nutrition, family and consumer science advisor in Kern County; Cathi Lamp, emeritus nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in Tulare County; Connie Schneider, emeritus Youth, Families and Communities director for UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Marilyn Townsend, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition education specialist in the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.
My Healthy Plate education materials are available at http://townsendlab.ucdavis.edu.
The health of California youth reflects this disturbing national trend. To address the challenge of childhood obesity statewide, the California 4-H Food Smart Families program will be implemented at four sites in Fresno, Orange, Sutter-Yuba and Tulare counties this year. Additional UC partners will include the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and CalFresh.
Youth need to increase consumption of dark green veggies and whole grains, and decrease intake of sugar and saturated fats. The objective of California 4-H Food Smart Families is to increase knowledge and create behavior change related to nutrition, cooking, gardening, physical activity and food preparation. The program engages youth 8 to 12 years old and teens in 4-H Healthy Living programming. Youth will be directly reached through lessons delivered at after-school sites, low-resource elementary schools and organized field days at four UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Extension Centers (REC): Kearney REC in Parlier, South Coast REC in Irvine, Sierra Foothill REC in Browns Valley and Lindcove REC in Exeter. The program is structured around positive youth development curricula and practices which provide an intensive engagement of underserved children, teens, families and other stakeholders. Local 4-H teens will be recruited and trained to deliver programs and assume leadership roles.
Programming at California sites will get underway this fall and will continue through the school year. Look for more exciting California 4-H Food Smart Families news in the coming months as programming and activities kick into high gear.
Author: Roberta Barton
In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled a new food graphic, MyPlate, to remind consumers to choose healthier foods. Work by Cooperative Extension in California that began years earlier influenced the adoption of MyPlate by USDA. Nutrition educators in California began using a plate graphic with USDA's My Pyramid several years ago in a research project with Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program participants. While evaluating the use of their graphic, which was very similar to USDA's MyPlate, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisors found that a graphic depiction such as the one USDA is using for MyPlate is abstract for many families.
“We discovered that our clients need to see photos showing real food combinations in order to apply the MyPlate message to real food choices,” said Cathi Lamp, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor. “They prefer to learn by viewing photographs with foods and meals they eat to see how it works and how they can implement the guide in their lives.”
They evaluated the behavior of consumers who were trained with the revised Plan, Shop, Save and Cook curriculum with photos of food and compared it with the results of the original version of the lessons.
“Everybody enjoys looking at pictures of foods,” said Lamp. “So what we have now in our nutrition classes are lots of photographs of healthy examples.”
To listen to an interview with Cathi Lamp about My Healthy Plate in Spanish, visit Enseñando a comer ‘con sabor latino' con MiPlato at http://ucanr.edu/sites/Spanish/Noticias/radio/?uid=5983&ds=199.
For more than 100 years, the University of California Cooperative Extension researchers and educators have been drawing on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. UC Cooperative Extension is part of the University of California's systemwide Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
You may be thinking, “My family has eaten food that has been sitting on the table longer than two hours and survived.” Consider yourself lucky.
“We keep learning more about foodborne illness,” says Patti Wooten Swanson, UC Cooperative Extension nutrition advisor in San Diego County. “We probably did get sick, but we thought it was something else, like the 24-hour flu.”
She added that kids, diabetics, pregnant women, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illnesses.
For the holidays and all year long, Wooten Swanson offers these food safety tips:
- Thaw turkey or meat in the refrigerator.
- Don't wash raw meat or poultry in the sink before cooking.
- Use a meat thermometer to determine when meat or poultry is done.
- Put leftovers in the refrigerator within two hours.
- On the fourth day, throw leftovers away.
“Bacteria grow very rapidly,” she said. “From 40 degrees to 140 degrees is what we call the danger zone. We encourage you to get food out of that temperature range as soon as possible. Don't let food sit on the table after you finish eating and go to watch TV.”
While you're watching football, she also recommends not leaving food out the length of a game.
“Chips are fine to leave out,” Wooten Swanson said, “But put the salsa and guacamole in small containers, then put out new bowls at halftime. Take away the original containers to wash or discard.You don't want to refill a bowl that has been out for 2 hours.”
“We put an emphasis on hand washing because it can prevent cross-contamination, which helps prevent foodborne illness and can keep us healthy during the flu season,” said Connie Schneider, director of the UC Youth, Families and Communities Statewide Program.
She recommends rubbing your hands together with soap and water for 20 seconds to thoroughly clean them.
The UC Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) teaches hand washing as a food safety practice in its nutrition classes for adults and children. After taking the class in San Diego County, 72 percent of the 340 participating adults improved their safe food-handling practices and 55 percent of 1,231 children improved, said Wooten Swanson, who oversees the nutrition and food safety education program.
For more food safety resources, visit UC Cooperative Extension's "Food Safety for the Holidays" website http://ucanr.edu/HolidayFoodSafety and Nebraska and Iowa State Cooperative Extension's food safety website at http://www.4daythrowaway.org. For USDA recommended temperatures for cooking meat, visit http://blogs.usda.gov/2011/05/25/cooking-meat-check-the-new-recommended-temperatures.
Family nutrition educators from University of California CalFresh [UC CalFresh] and Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program [EFNEP], two federally funded nutrition education programs that provide free nutrition workshops to low-income families, have joined together to practice the lessons they teach to their participants in San Joaquin County, including exercising for at least 30 minutes a day.
“I wanted to exercise more regularly,” UC CalFresh nutrition educator Lorena Hoyos said. “But doing it alone wasn't working, so when the idea of working out as a group came about at training, it was the perfect opportunity. Exercising with others is a great motivator, they keep you active.”
Using home-brought exercise videos like T-25, The Firm, Hip Hop Abs and others, the nutrition staff have been sweating to the beat.
“I noticed that my endurance has gone up,” EFNEP nutrition educator Houa Lee said. “I have more confidence at work and in conducting the physical activity breaks at my classes.”
Prior to the videos, the nutrition staff, along with other San Joaquin County UC Cooperative Extension employees, were doing activities like walking around the block or going to the gym together after work. Some educators even participated in weekend races or rides, such as the Color Run, Hit the Street for Hunger Run, The Electric Run, Cinderella Bike Ride and others.
“I think it's important to show participants that we are not just preaching the goals, but living them,” said Raquel Fernandez, a program representative for the UC CalFresh and EFNEP programs. “This makes them seem a lot more attainable and helps us relate better to our participants. It also helps establish trust and credibility to our lessons.”
Participants have been asking for more physical activity,” EFNEP nutrition educator Monica Radrigan said. “It's the main reason they come and they love it! And as a result, we've noticed retention has been increasing too.”
The exercise sessions have also improved team-building efforts.
“I like to be able to come into workplace where we can support each other,” Community Nutrition Action Plan facilitator Tina Her said. “Not only in a work setting, but on a personal basis as well. This helps me connect with my coworkers better.”
UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor Anna Martin said after-work exercise program is a win-win situation.
“I am proud that our staff has initiated activities that not only promote their own physical health, but improves their relationship as a team," Martin said.