Cooperative Extension Fresno County
University of California
Cooperative Extension Fresno County

Posts Tagged: nutrition education

UC Cooperative Extension supports healthy school environments

When I was in elementary school, an upcoming field trip meant we were selling candy bars. Around the holidays, it was not uncommon to have your pick from five dozen cupcakes at the school party. Now that I am in nutrition education, my eyes grow wide when I think back to all of the high-sugar, high-fat foods we brought into the classroom.

With that in mind, I take a lot of pride in the fact that the UC Calfresh Nutrition Education Program in Fresno County is creating healthier school environments.

A healthy school environment includes:

  • Nutrition education for students and their parents
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy lunches
  • School wellness policies that support healthy fundraisers and celebrations
  • An environment that promotes the benefits of healthy choices

The list can go on and on!

In addition to supporting all of the above, UC CalFresh has been working with school administrators, teachers and food service staff to "brand" the cafeteria and classrooms as healthy spaces. This is accomplished through distributing nutrition corners.

Nutrition corners are essentially the materials to create nutrition bulletin boards in school cafeterias. They are updated regularly with nutrition and physical activity information for students, teachers and parents. Information on seasonal produce, recipes, student work and MyPlate decorate the corners.

Nutrition corners are also posted in classrooms, school libraries, teacher lounges and common areas.

Here are a few of the most recently added corners:


Did I mention students love reading nutrition corners?

A healthy environment that supports nutrition and physical activity is key to the health of the families in the Central Valley. For more information on the way we are creating healthier school environments, visit the UC CalFresh Fresno County blog.


Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 7:00 AM

What does 'eating right' really mean?

book cover
A vintage food chart graces the cover of "Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food & Health."
These days you can barely pick up a magazine, turn on the TV, or click open Facebook without being told how to eat, what to eat or what not to eat. 

But the truth is, dietary advice is nothing new. Some of our rules for eating date back to ancient times as part of religious teachings, and food traditions are central to our understanding of culture. What is new over the last century or so is the application of science to our diets, so that we can know more exactly what nutrition science tells us is best when it comes to filling our plates.

A new book by a UC Davis researcher argues that modern dietary advice is not merely scientific, but also continues to have cultural, ethical and moral messages attached to it.

Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food & Health” analyzes how modern dietary reform movements in the United States do not just tell us how to eat right, but how to become a good person and a good citizen. Can eating a certain way make us into different, somehow better people? And who defines what sort of people we should strive to become, though improved eating? Author Charlotte Biltekoff calls for changing the way we think about what it means to “eat right.”

The book analyzes four dietary reform movements over the last century:

  • the rise of domestic science and home economics,
  • the national nutrition program during World War II,
  • the alternative food movement, and
  • the anti-obesity movement.

These reform movements cover nutritional advancements such as the science of cooking, the discovery of vitamins, the shift in emphasis from contagious to chronic diseases, and the increasing importance of diet and lifestyle as a part of health. The book examines how dietary ideals have shifted, how social ideals have shifted alongside them — and the relationship between the two. Notions of middle class identity, good citizenship and individual responsibility each have been mixed in with nutritional advice before it is served to the public, according to the author.

Rose Hayden-Smith, leader of UC ANR’s Sustainable Food Systems strategic initiative and a historian of gardening, said she can't wait to read this book.

“This whole idea of both empirical and ethical considerations of food choices really makes sense to me, rooted in the Progressive Era,” she said. “All of these scientific advances don’t matter if people don’t adopt them. So I think it’s really important for scientists to understand the cultural context into which their work is going.”

Beth Mitcham, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, was intrigued by a presentation given by Biltekoff at UC Davis recently. 

“This expands my way of thinking about the struggles we have with food choices and the potential for complicating well-intentioned messages,” she said. “We can’t ignore the scientific evidence that food choices have a huge impact on our health, but we must also realize when the things we’re saying are charged with judgments."

In a recent interview on Capital Public Radio, Biltekoff pointed out how analyzing history can shed light on difficult truths.

“History is such a great tool for learning to see things differently,” Biltekoff said. “The history that I tell in the book suggests that we worry so much about what is good to eat because of the social stakes involved in 'eating right.' Because it’s not just about our physical health, but also about our sense of self and about our social standing. There's a lot at stake that we may not be conscious of, but really is part and parcel of the conversation about 'good' food.”

Posted on Wednesday, November 6, 2013 at 9:06 AM

Developing a taste for fruits and vegetables

If I told you I've found the secret to overcoming picky eaters, you'd probably look at me puzzled. How could I have found the secret and NOT SHARED IT YET?!

Unfortunately, there is no "secret." However, there are many ways to encourage children and even adults to develop a love of fruits and vegetables. 

UC CalFresh works with low-income families to encourage healthy food choices through nutrition education and healthy taste testing.

Taste testing has been a helpful tool in providing children and their parents an opportunity to explore foods they wouldn't have otherwise tried. Sometimes they have had the fruit or vegetable before but didn't enjoy the way it was prepared. A fresh approach with a new recipe can mean all the difference! 

For great recipes, check out MyPlate's Pinterest page. They offer recipes like:

Green beans with almond gremolata (pictured above) and provide clever ways to prepare foods like watermelon kabobs (pictured below)

Allow children to take part in developing healthy meals and snacks by giving them a fun name. A child participating in our recent Healthy Lifestyles Fitness Camp shared her favorite healthy snack in her nutrition journal. She enjoys eating what she calls "ants on a raft."

Enjoy the bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables available this season. Try something new! Even better yet, try a food you haven't enjoyed in the past, but prepare and serve it in a new way. 

Posted on Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 8:59 AM

Alice Waters calls for slow-food values

Alice Waters (chef, author and UC Berkeley alum) spoke at UCLA's Science and Food event, Edible Education, about the ways in which food can be a catalyst for deeper transformations in education and culture.

The Edible Schoolyard at Berkeley teaches essential life skills and supports academic learning through hands-on classes in a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom.

Waters' commitment to education led to the creation of the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, a one-acre garden and kitchen classroom at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. The success of the program led the Chez Panisse proprietor to found the Edible Schoolyard Project, a nonprofit organization with the goal of building and sharing an edible education curriculum from kindergarten through high school. Its vision is for gardens and kitchens to become interactive classrooms for academic subjects, and for every student to have a free, nutritious, organic lunch.

“Yes, there is a fast-food culture operating in this world and, yes, it permeates every aspect of our lives; but fortunately there is a counterforce to all of this, an antidote, and I call it – no surprise – ‘slow-food culture,’” Waters said. “Now, slow-food culture is not as flashy as fast-food culture, but it’s richer and deeper and truly fulfilling and life-affirming.”

Listen to Waters’ talk to learn more about fast-food values versus slow-food culture.

Posted on Monday, July 1, 2013 at 8:56 AM

Eating out … again? The nutrition of food prepared away from home

Food prepared at home is slowly getting healthier, but food prepared away from home is not, according to a new study by the USDA Economic Research Service.

  • Food prepared away from home accounts for 32 percent of Americans’ caloric intake and 41 percent of food expenditures. (Food prepared away from home includes restaurants, fast-food establishments, and take-out or delivery meals.)
  • Americans increased their away-from-home share of calories from 18 percent to 32 percent in the last three decades, mainly from table-service and fast-food restaurants.
  • Caloric intake rose over the last three decades from 1,875 calories per person per day to 2,002 calories per day.
  • Food prepared at home became significantly lower in fat content and richer in calcium over the past three decades; food prepared away from home did not.
  • Food prepared away from home is higher in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and lower in dietary fiber than food prepared at home.

Poor diets contribute to obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health conditions. The trend toward eating out is expected to continue, so Americans need to learn how their food is prepared, and what’s in it. Only then will they have the information to make wise food choices.

Consumers should be health-savvy when they eat away from home. Don’t be afraid to ask for nutritional information or preparation methods, and don’t assume that restaurants (even high-end restaurants) serve healthy food. Restaurants serve what consumers like — fat, salt, sugar and lots of calories. The American Heart Association offers a variety of very useful information for dining out, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has guidelines on labeling at fast-food and chain restaurants.

Some fast-food restaurants have pamphlets available with nutritional information — it’s surprising to find how high in calories and fat some menu items are. Beware, though, of what they consider a serving size — it may be less than what is purchased as a single serving. A report in the Los Angeles Times notes that few entrees at fast-food restaurants meet the USDA-recommended limits for calories, sodium, saturated fat and fat combined.

Opt for healthier choices, and don’t feel compelled to “clean your plate” at meals. Some people routinely eat no more than half the restaurant meal, saving the other half for another meal. Ask your restaurants to serve healthier options — restaurants will respond only if consumers commit to making healthy food choices.

There is hope. Americans may be getting the message about dietary fat — consumption of fat has dropped from 86 grams of total fat per person per day to 75 grams per day over the last three decades. But, on average, food prepared away from home still has more fat (37 percent) than food prepared at home (30 percent).

Due to the increase in consumption of food prepared away from home, we may see more of a push to include nutritional and health information on menus (see the proposed FDA guidelines). Whether this impacts consumer food choices remains to be seen. But by learning some basics about food and nutrition, you can make healthier choices, even when eating at restaurants.

The University of California offers many free and low-cost publications on food, health and nutrition. Here are a few:

  • Nutrition and health information sheets – free downloads on fat, fiber, calcium, cholesterol, energy drinks, and other topics.
  • Lunchbox series – free downloads on healthy lunches for preschool children.
  • Healthalicious cooking – free after-school curricula on food and physical activity.
  • Food, nutrition, and health publications in the UC ANR catalog: some free, some with a cost.
  • Free nutrition publications from the Department of Nutrition at UC Davis.
Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 9:03 AM

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This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. The USDA does not endorse products, services, or organizations. 

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