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Michelle Geoffroy

on 27 April 2015

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A Nutrition Training for Food Pantries and Meal Sites
Learn about nutrition basics, such as...
The MyPlate model for healthy eating
How and why to read nutrition labels
How to identify whole grains
Healthy portion sizes
Recommended levels of salt and sugar intake
Learn about small changes your clients can make that can have a BIG impact on their health
Learn tips and strategies to help encourage your clients to make healthier choices
Discover LOTS of cool nutrition resources that you can share with your clients
Learning Objectives
First, a few basic guidelines, based on the MyPlate Model for healthy eating...
The MyPlate Model outlines what portion of our meals should be dedicated to each food group. Here are some basic rules to go along with MyPlate...
Half your plate should be fruits & veggies
Choose whole grains whenever possible - preferably at least half the time (more on whole grains later...)
Consider lower (and healthier) fat proteins like eggs, beans, and nuts, instead of meats - these options are often cheaper, too!
Dairy should be low fat (skim, 1% or 2% milk, part-skim cheeses, etc.)
Drink LOTS of water, and limit sugary beverages, like sodas. Actually...
Limit added sugars in general (again, more on that later)!
So, what are "whole grains," anyway?
Whole grains are things like...
Corn/Cornmeal (and popcorn!)
Brown rice
How can I tell if a particular food is "whole grain?"
Wheat products may not necessarily be "whole grain," so it's important to check the label. If something IS a "whole grain" product, it will be the first ingredient on the list! For example:
What about fruits and veggies?
Most of us don't get enough of them!

Remember, fruits and veggies should be HALF your plate! Here are some points to consider to help your clients get more affordable fruits and veggies...
Produce can be fresh, frozen or canned - all are delicious and nutritious options!
Frozen and canned produce can be cheaper than fresh, and can be stored much longer
If canned, encourage clients to rinse and drain produce to remove excess salt and sugar
Why are they important?
Whole grains are healthy for lots of reasons!
Reduces risk of heart disease
Helps with weight management
Higher fiber than processed "white" grains, which helps with digestion
Veggies don't have to be a side dish... they can be added to almost any meal! For example...
You can add ONIONS to pastas, mac & cheese or hamburgers
You could add BERRIES to yogurt or cereal (yum!)
You could add SPINACH to eggs or mac & cheese, or even a smoothie (seriously, if you don't like spinach, you won't even taste it!)
What other ways can you think of to add veggies to every day meals?
Love FRESH produce?
Lots of Farmers Markets accept SNAP! Some even have matching programs for SNAP recipients.
Farmers markets also carry produce that is "in-season," meaning that's what's growing right now. This can be far cheaper than imported produce from the grocery store!
SNAP recipients can also use EBT cards to buy seeds and plants! Herbs can be grown on a sunny windowsill, and vegetables can be potted on a porch or deck.
What about people who DON'T love produce?
Most Americans get plenty of protein, but it's still worth mentioning a few important things to remember...
Spread protein throughout the day to maintain energy and blood sugar levels. This means...
Protein at breakfast is key. Eggs, nuts, nut butters, yogurt and cheese are all good sources of breakfast protein.
Eggs may have gotten a bad reputation in the last few years, but experts agree that an egg or two a day is A-okay!
However, not all protein is created equal...
Foods that are rich in protein are usually also high in fat.

Red meat is high in unhealthy fats.

Non-meat proteins like nuts and nut butters are high in fat, but they're HEALTHIER fats that don't increase risk of heart disease.

Beans, canned chicken, tuna and salmon are also cheaper, lower fat protein options.
"Meatless Monday" is an international campaign, encouraging people to eat vegetarian once a week.

In addition to health incentives, eating less meat is more environmentally sustainable.

For more info, and for recipe ideas, check out http://www.meatlessmonday.com/.
Sugar is known to be addictive, and has been linked to a variety of chronic health issues, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and more.

Naturally occurring sugars, like the kinds found in fruits, non-starch vegetables, and unsweetened dairy products like milk and plain yogurt, are okay. Added sugars should be avoided as much as possible. Added sugars can come from:
Sodas and fruit juices
Snack foods

Men should aim for no more than 38 grams (9.5 tsp) of added sugars/day. Women should aim for no more than 26g (6.5 tsp).
4g = 1 tsp
Read the label!
Many sugary drinks, even ones like fruit juice and lemonade, contain more than a whole day's worth of added sugars!

(Click to enlarge)
A sugar by any other name will still taste as sweet...or sweeter!
Check food labels for these sugar "code words:"
agave syrup
barley malt
beet sugar
brown rice syrup
cane crystals
cane sugar
coconut palm sugar
corn syrup
fruit juice concentrate
, high-fructose corn syrup,
malt syrup
rice syrup
, sorghum,
Basically, beware of syrups and words that end in "-ose."
Let's do a little label comparison...
Here's a label for
"Kellogg's Smart Start Healthy Heart"
(Click image to enlarge)
Despite the healthy-sounding name, "Smart Start Healthy Heart" cereal has 17 grams of sugar (that's more than 4 tsp)!
Now, here's a label for
Cheerios (Plain)
Plain Cheerios have only 1g of sugar... AND they're a whole grain!
Ways to cut back on added sugars
Encourage clients to try some of the following tricks to cut back on added sugars, and still enjoy the sweeter things in life:
Add berries to plain cereals to add some natural sweetness
Cut fruit juice with seltzer for a drink that's still sweet and bubbly, but without the extra sugar found in many sodas
Instead of buying flavored yogurt, try buying plain yogurt and adding flavor - like vanilla, berries, dried fruit, honey or granola - at home
Try mixing sweeter cereals with plainer ones
What about sugar substitutes? Are they a good way to cut back on sugar?
Sugar substitutes, like Sweet N' Low, Equal and Splenda, are lower in calories than "real" sugar, and may be helpful for people with diabetes. But, some have been linked to negative health outcomes.

Our advice: Use in moderation.
Salt (Sodium)
Most of the sodium in our diets comes from processed and prepared foods... and we get a LOT of sodium. In fact, most people get TWICE the recommended amount of sodium each day!

The recommended amount, by the way, is
. For seniors, African Americans, and people with high blood pressure, the recommended amount is even lower: 1500mg/day. Most Americans get closer to 4500mg!

As most of you probably know, excess sodium is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.

See the "Salt Mountains" graphic below to see just how much sodium is actually in some common food items. (Click image to enlarge)
How to read nutrition labels
Serving size
Encourage clients to measure out the serving size for some of their favorite foods, just once, so that they know what a serving actually looks like. Most of us eat more or less than the serving size on the box.
measure how much energy you will get from eating a serving of food.
Total fat, saturated or trans fats, cholesterol, or sodium
: a diet high in these may increase the risk heart disease and stroke, some cancers, and high blood pressure. Emphasize healthier fats found in olive and canola oils, walnuts, avocado and fish, and limit total fat in the diet.
A food is a good source of fiber if it has 2.5-4.9 grams (g) of fiber per serving and a high source of fiber if it has 5 g or more.
Vitamins and minerals
in foods are also important, helping to maintain the health of your body.
Choose foods with a
lower % Daily Value
of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium (found in the

Choose foods with a
higher % Daily Value
of fiber, vitamins, and minerals (found in the
will be listed in order from highest amount to least. (That's why we look for the first ingredient on "whole grain" products!) If a product contains less than .5 grams of any given ingredient, it doesn't have to be listed.
Some snack foods have a
"cheat sheet"
on the front of the package, which can be a quick way to get nutrition information at a glance. Note, though, that the values are "per serving," but the serving size may not be listed! This is just one of the reasons to read the Nutrition Facts!
Food Allergies
Another reason reading food labels is important is knowing what to look for if your client has food allergies... these can be very serious! Here are some common food allergies, and what ingredients to watch our for for each of them:
If allergic to
, a
Artificial nuts
Beer nuts
Peanut oil
Ground nuts
Mixed nuts
Nut pieces
If allergic to
Tree Nuts
, avoid:
Brazil nuts
Pine nuts
If allergic to
, avoid:
Caesar dressing
Worcestershire sauce
Barbecue sauce
Fish ingredients are common in Asian dishes, even if they aren’t seafood dishes! (Pad Thai, for example, is made with fish sauce.)
If allergic to
, avoid:
If allergic to
, avoid:
Egg substitutes
Dried egg solids
If allergic to
, avoid:
Cream cheese
Sour cream
If allergic to
, avoid:
Soy sauce
If allergic to
, avoid:
Teriyaki sauce
Special Populations:
Things to consider:
Not used to cooking and shopping for one or two
Fixed income
Decreased appetite
Weight gain due to decreased metabolism and physical activity
Weight loss
Chronic diseases
Difficulty preparing meals due to limited mobility
Eating alone
Potential Solutions:
Cook in bigger batches, then freeze leftovers in portion-sized containers
Stay physically active as much as possible
Limit sodium
Cut back on prepared foods
Use other spices
Try to avoid getting more than 400 mg of sodium in a single meal
Share a meal with a friend
Weight Loss
According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese! This increases risk for a variety of chronic health conditions, including diabetes.
There is no "quick fix" for weight loss. Low-carb and other fad diets only work as long as you follow them! Any weight lost is usually gained back when someone returns to "normal" eating habits.

The only tried-and-true way to lose pounds (and keep them off) is to change your body's "energy balance" - that is, to burn off more calories than you take in.
Here's something to consider...
(Click image to enlarge)
Today's portion sizes at most restaurants are WAY larger than they were a few decades ago! Note that today's restaurant portions are probably SEVERAL servings, not just one.
THIS is what a "serving" actually looks like:
(Click image to enlarge)
Healthy Eating for Diabetes
A healthy diet is especially important for people who have diabetes or pre-diabetes. Here are some tips for health eating for diabetic (and pre-diabetic) clients:

Follow MyPlate guidelines, emphasizing...
Whole grains
- helps people feel fuller longer, and helps maintain more stable blood sugar levels, preventing sharp blood sugar spikes and drops
More fruits and veggies
- they're lower in calories, but higher in fiber, as well as other healthy vitamins and minerals. Remember to rinse canned veggies to cut back on salt, and opt for canned fruit in water or juice instead of syrup to cut back on sugar.
Reduce sugary beverage intake
- large amounts of sugar in these drinks can lead to sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar. Because these drinks are also high in "empty calories," cutting back can also help with weight reduction.
Try to steer clients towards zero calorie or sugar free beverages whenever possible, keeping in mind water is ALWAYS the best beverage choice. Unsweetened teas, coffees, infused water, and seltzer are also good choices.
Recommend that diabetic clients with lots of questions talk to their primary care doctor about a referral to a
Registered Dietitian
. This service is covered by most health insurance plans, including MassHealth.
Knowing how to read nutrition labels is key to understanding what we're putting in our bodies!
Special Considerations for Specific Dietary Concerns
Healthy Eating on a Budget
Encourage clients to look for
and weekly specials in newspapers and online
Go grocery shopping with a
, and
don’t shop hungry
Plan for
- make big batches and incorporate leftovers into other meals
Stretch those dollars!
Tips for reducing sodium
Rinse and drain canned veggies
Use low-sodium broth and add veggies to make high-sodium canned soups healthier... and create a bigger batch of soup (feeds a larger family, or freeze portions for leftovers)!
Watch out for prepared frozen meals. Lean Cuisine and Smart Ones meals are usually lower sodium than brands like Hungry Man, Stouffer's or Friday's.
Try using other spices for flavor instead!
Ramen noodles are a common pantry item, and lots of people buy them at the grocery store because they're cheap, but they're also very high in sodium. Encourage clients to use their own broth and/or seasoning, instead of the flavor packets that usually come with the noodle, and add veggies like peas, carrots, corn, beans, etc.
(Click image to enlarge)
Encourage clients to try using a meal planning worksheet like the one below! While it might not be practical to use this worksheet every week, trying it just once can help clients think about what their family is going to eat for the week and plan what they'll need to buy.
You can find similar meal planners online with a quick Google search!
Meal Planning
The well-stocked pantry
Buying staple/multi-use items that store well in bulk and keeping them in stock can be a great way to save money on frequently used food items.
Encourage clients to identify staple foods for their household and keep them on hand. Examples include:
Rice (preferably brown rice, since it's a whole grain)
Tortillas (whole wheat and corn tortillas, especially... again, they're whole grain choices)
Oats - buying them in a canister and adding your own maple, brown sugar or apples tends to be cheaper and healthier than purchasing the pre-packaged kind
Beans (canned or dried)
Nuts and nut butters
Canned chicken, tuna, or salmon
Make use of the freezer!
Certain items freeze well, and can be purchased on sale or while prices are low, and then easily thawed for later use. Some examples include:
Meats, like ground beef or chicken
Oils and vinegars
Dried spices
Baking supplies such as sugar, flour, and baking soda
Bread crumbs
Healthy Substitutions
When baking, replace 1/3 to 1/2 of the butter or oil with:
Apple sauce
Pumpkin puree
Plain yogurt
Use plain yogurt instead of sour cream or mayonnaise
Encourage broth-based over cream-based soups
Bake, broil, or sauté instead of frying
Replace store-bought salad dressings with balsamic or apple cider vinegar and/or lemon juice, or make your own!
Substitute part-skim or lower fat cheeses for full fat cheese
When cooking, use olive or vegetable oil
Tips from our "experts"
At our "Healthy Choices, Happy Clients" training sessions in March and April of 2015, we heard a lot of great tips from our panel of "experts," who spoke about their experiences and shared their tips and strategies for encouraging their clients to make healthier food choices. Here are a few "gems" from those discussions:
Ana Jaramillo of the Holyoke Health Center
holding cooking demos during serving hours
. This is great for introducing new foods, or new methods of preparing them!
Try a taste test!
This is especially helpful with unfamiliar foods, like certain kinds of squash, that people may not be familiar with preparing.
Host a supermarket tour!
It's a great way for folks to learn some basic nutrition info, compare prices, and share their own tips for saving money and eating healthy. Contact The Food Bank for more info on how to schedule a Cooking Matters at The Store Supermarket Tour with our Nutrition Department.
Dino Schnelle of The Center for Self-Reliance
says that his program held a hugely successful
crock-pot drive
for their clients after learning that many did not have cooking facilities or didn't know how to cook. Crock pots are simple to use, don't require a lot of prep or cooking skills, and they're ideal for people who might be pressed for time.
Sarah Pease of the Northampton Survival Center
"healthy tips" posted in the program's pantry,
including suggestions like rinsing canned veggies to reduce sodium.
Keep a recipe file
, and put recipes out for clients to browse, or hand them out during service hours. You can even
solicit recipe ideas from clients and volunteers!
Simple recipes with fewer ingredients are preferable.
Jennifer Munoz of The Growing Healthy Garden Program
, says that when working with children, she encourages them to try new things, or re-try things they think that they don't like, because
our taste buds change as we get older
. This works for adults, too!
Joan Strycharz of the Springfield South WIC Program
, and
Allyse Wiencek of the Berkshire North WIC Program
, both stressed the importance of
getting to know your clients
- what they need, what's important to them, and what barriers they face in moving toward their goals. There may be other challenges in their lives that take priority over nutrition... and that's okay!
Meet your clients where they are, and work from there.
Allyse Wiencek of Berkshire North WIC
also reminded training participants of the importance of
when motivating clients. You can offer suggestions, but clients will be more invested in making healthy changes if they make those decisions for themselves. Allyse recommends offering a variety of options, including nutrition advice and programming, so that clients can choose what works best for them and their families.
To begin, click on the full-screen icon in the lower right corner of this frame.

Click the right arrow at the bottom of the screen to move to the next slide.

You can enlarge anything in this presentation by simply clicking on the object you'd like to enlarge. Zoom back out by clicking on the arrows at the bottom of the screen.
Look for the Whole Grain Stamp!
This is an easy way to identify whole grain foods! If a product bears the 100% stamp, then ALL of its grains are whole grains. If a product has the Basic Stamp, it had at least 8g of whole grains per serving, but may also contain some refined grains.
Full transcript