Johns Hopkins Campus Tour

One component of the Food as Medicine Program is to encourage Waverly students to not only attend college, but also to consider careers in health and medicine. As a final activity, we invited the Waverly students that participated in the Food as Medicine Program this past year to the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus for a tour.

Students first heard from a Hopkins admissions representative. They learned that getting into college involves more than just having good grades, since admissions officers look at attendance and extracurricular activities among other factors. Students also learned about the Baltimore Scholars Program that supports admitted students from Baltimore City Public Schools with tuition and academics. Next, a representative from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Education and Wellness spoke to the students about her professional work as a health educator. Many of the Waverly students expressed interest in pursuing careers in health and science!   10441223_10152919266193135_1123378156473860961_n

We ended the day with showing the students around campus. Students visited the library, a few academic classrooms, the Center for Social Concern, and the recreational facilities. Overall, it was a great day, and we hope that the Waverly students will continue thinking about college and careers in health and medicine!      10423935_10152919198108135_1999617956553816175_n 10406555_10152919275978135_6695081533331401109_n

Heart Disease and Physical Activity

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States (, which is very saddening since it is a disease that is for the most part very preventable. heart disease 1

We began our workshop on heart disease and physical activity by asking the students how many of them knew of someone with heart disease and/or diabetes. It was scary to observe how many students raised their hands. We then divided into stations focused on different aspects of heart health and physical activity.

First, we showed students the physical activity pyramid and discussed physical activity recommendations for their age group. activitypyramid-500rWe focused on the idea that exercise is fun and can include playing with friends or walking your dog. We also talked about how physical activity is not only beneficial to your physical health, but also to your mental and emotional health. We then had the students do different activities like push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, jogging in place, calf stretches, and side bends, and classify those exercises into strength, endurance, and flexibility categories.

Next, we asked students to tell us what they knew about the role of the heart in the body. The students then filled in heart diagrams and learned about how the left side of the heart pumps oxygenated blood to the body and the right side of the heart pumps deoxygenated blood to the lungs. Students also learned about blood pressure by taking their pulse after sitting, walking, and jogging, and then comparing those rates.

Lastly, students learned about heart disease and diabetes, and some of the factors like diet and exercise that increase the risk of getting heart disease and diabetes. Students tested how arteries clogged by a poor diet and lack of exercise affect the flow of blood in the body by pouring water through our simple model of heart.IMG_2374 Students noted that “blood” (water dyed red with food coloring) flow was slower when the “artery” (straws with different diameters) was clogged and thus smaller in diameter. Overall, students gained an understanding of the role of the heart in the body, the importance of exercise in preventing heart disease, and why heart disease is so detrimental to one’s health. Heart_Disease-3

Macro and Micronutrients

In order to help Waverly students understand the importance of nutrition, we delved into each component of MyPlate: fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and protein this past year.

During our workshop on proteins, we first went over protein structure by having the students make paper clip necklaces out of 20 different color and size paper clips to represent the 20 different amino acids. Students really enjoyed this activity and it gave them a great visual to better understand the composition of proteins. Many of them even wore their paper clip necklaces home with them!IMG_2103

Then we went on to discuss how foods such as hummus and peanut butter are plant based sources of protein. Students knew that steak or chicken, for example, are sources of protein, but many of the students were shocked that you can get protein without eating meat. This led to a discussion of vegetarian and vegan diets, and many of the students concluded that they could never be a vegetarian, but never say never!1

We concluded the workshop by giving the students pieces of play dough to illustrate how much protein they normally eat. We then taught them the trick that you can use the palm of your hand to estimate the serving size of protein, and they corrected their play dough pieces.      2 

After discussing MyPlate and the three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats), we had a workshop focused on micronutrients. Students learned about the different minerals and vitamins by playing a matching game to connect the vitamin/mineral with its functions and sources. 3

Students also learned about vitamin C in different beverages like orange juice, fruit punch, Capri sun, and orange soda by comparing the drink nutrition labels and then ordering the drink from the greatest to least amount of vitamin C. We concluded the workshop by discussing the different parts of the digestive system and how most of the vitamins and nutrients are absorbed in the small intestine. Students completed body diagrams to see how all of the parts of the digestive system are connected.

Overall, students not only learned about how to create a balanced and healthy meal using MyPlate, but they also learned about why each food group is important, healthy sources of each food group, and appropriate portion sizes. We can now say that the students are MyPlate experts and that they are ready to take on any unhealthy challenges!

Positive Body Image

1Self-esteem is all about how much you feel you are worth and how much you feel other people value you. It is very important because feeling good about yourself can affect your mental health and how you behave. People with high self-esteem usually feel more in control of their lives and know their own strengths and weaknesses. They know themselves well; they’re realistic and find friends that like and appreciate them for who they are.

Body image is how you view your physical self – including whether you feel you are attractive and whether others like your looks. For many people, especially people in their early teens, body image can be closely linked to self-esteem. Puberty and Development is linked to self-esteem because it’s a time when the body goes through may changes, which makes people want to fell accepted by their friends and because of this they end up comparing themselves with others. The problem with puberty is that not everyone grows or develops at the same time or in the same way.

2The Media is also a huge influence on body image and self-esteem. We become aware of celebrities and media images at a decently young age. At this time, and long after we are young we compare ourselves with the other people or media images (“ideals” that are frequently airbrushed.) All of this affects how we feel about our bodies and ourselves even as we grow into our teens.

In workshop on Friday, we learned all about body image and did various activities that made all of the kids feel really good about themselves! First we started out with a sheet that made the kids fill in the ends of sentences such as, “I am good at…” or “I feel important when I…” etc. Then the kids got to share what they thought their best attributes are. We then looked at a Powerpoint of pictures showing all the different types of beauty in different cultures. The kids really enjoyed learning about all the different kinds of ways people around the world express beauty. We ended off by having everyone write his or her names down on a blank piece of paper. Everyone got to pass this piece of paper around the circle for people to write nice things down about that person. Everyone’s pages got completely filled up! This put a smile on everyone’s faces and everyone had a really great day!

Giant Store Field Trip

1As a parent, teacher, sibling, etc. you know that you are supposed to present kids with an array of healthy foods. Sometimes based how much money a person has, it is hard to provide health food for your kids because usually healthy food is a lot more expensive than unhealthy food. Going to the grocery store is an important step in the process of providing healthy food for your kids and making sure that your child’s health and attitude towards nutritious foods is affected in a positive way.

Making a list is one of the most important part of going grocery shopping. Making a list allows you to stick to just what you need and not be teased by the various drinks and snacks that don’t offer much nutritional punch. When making a list, focus on wholesome nutritious ingredients such as fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, lean meats and poultry, fresh fish, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.2

Shopping for food can be a learning experience for both you and your child. While shopping talk to them about the different foods that you see and encourage them to pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Try to keep these guidelines in mind when shopping at a grocery store:

  1. Eat fruits and vegetables every day
  2. Limit the amount of juice you drink
  3. Use vegetable oils like olive and canola oil instead of butter or shortening
  4. Eat whole-grains
  5. Restrict sugar filled beverages and foods
  6. Use non-fat or low fat dairy products
  7. Eat more fish
  8. Reduce salt

When shopping in a grocery store, keep in mind how the store is set up. Focus on the perimeter of the store; this is where the healthiest foods usually lie. We learned this in our workshop on Friday where we took a field trip to Giant Grocery Store. The first part of our workshop was going to different parts of the store such as soups, drinks, cereals and dairy, and finding the best kind of each category and the worst, and filling out charts that cover everything on the nutrition label from the amount of calories in the food/drink to the amount of fat. We then compared the best and worst.3

The second part of the workshop was where we picked the five main food groups and had each of the kids go to those sections of the grocery store and find a product. The total sum of the calories from the 5 products had to create a meal that was 700 calories or less. The kids had a lot of fun with this and tried really hard to make the meal have the least amount of calories possible. Someone even made a meal with only 325 calories! Overall the kids had a great day at the grocery store!

Fats can be healthy too!

Fat is a component in most foods. Fruits and vegetables are amongst the few foods that don’t include any fats. Nuts, Oils, Butter, Milk and Meats like beef have plenty of fat. Fat sounds like something you shouldn’t eat but it definitely is an important part of a healthy diet. A little fat in your diet allows your brain and nervous system to develop correctly. This is why babies need to drink a lot of whole milk while they are young.1

There are two main types of fats that we learned about during workshop: Saturated and Unsaturated fats. Saturated fats are considered unhealthy fats. They raise the level of cholesterol in your blood (fat in your blood stream). All of these changes increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Foods that are high in saturated fat include dairy products like butter, milk, cheese, cream and a lot of processed foods such as pies, pastries, doughnuts, cakes, etc. Animal fats, such as the fat on meat and skin from poultry are also high in saturated fats.2

Unsaturated fats are better for your body, and are necessary for good health. They help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by lowering the bad cholesterol in your blood. The foods that contain unsaturated fats are: sunflower, olive, peanut, sesame oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, oily fish such as salmon, and some vegetable oils and margarine spreads.

During workshop we did two activities. We first brought three different types of milk including: whole milk, skim milk and whipped cream. We put each of these milks in three different parts of a plate, and in each milk sample we put a few drops of food coloring. In the whipped cream, the food coloring didn’t move. In the whole milk, the food coloring moved a little. In the skim milk, the food coloring moved a lot! The movement of the food coloring in the skim milk shows how little fat is in the skim milk, because if there was a lot of fat, such as in the whipped cream, the food coloring wouldn’t move because all of the fat particles would keep it in place. The kids really enjoyed this activity and really understood what it meant to have a food containing a lot of fat!3

The second activity the kids did was putting in order ten different foods in order, from the most amount of calcium to the least amount of calcium. Calcium is important because it allows your bones to grow and become strong and fight bone loss later in life. You can get calcium from dairy products, vegetables, soy foods, calcium-fortified foods, beans and canned fish!  The kids didn’t have the easiest time putting these in order, but once they got the correct order they understood why it was that way! Overall the day was a success!

Grains for your Brain!

The grains food group provides energy, fiber and nutrients. The grains group is the orange part of the new MyPlate and the Food Pyramid. Grains are foods made with wheat, rice, pasta or corn. They are important because they provide the body with carbohydrates. Grains are one of the three macronutrients. There are two types of grains, whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain: the bran, germ and endosperm, while refined grains only contain the endosperm. It is necessary to have all three components of a grain in order to get all of the fiber, vitamins and minerals that are important to the health of your body. The three components of a grain are also important because they taste good and help us feel full, have fiber that helps our digestive system flow smoothly, and can help lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

grains 1

We began the grain workshop by splitting up into different groups, each with a different grain activity. The kids in the whole grains v. refined grains group filled out a crossword puzzle that ended up telling the kids to eat whole grains. Then we showed them how long the digestive system was by having them stretch a 22-foot rope across the room. They were pretty amazed how long the intestines were that fit into your body! Another station talked about nutrition labels and how they are important and show what ingredients are in the products and the amount of fiber in each item. The kids learned that the more fiber in a food, the better it is for you! A third station talked about complex versus simple carbohydrates by using construction paper chains to illustrate each type. The kids learned that simple carbs are worse for you (examples: candy, ice cream, cookies) and give you short bursts of energy while complex carbs (examples: brown rice, whole wheat bread, vegetables) give you longer lasting and a greater amount of energy.

grains 2

We finished the day with a physical activity relay race. We were on one end while the kids were on the other lined up in groups. We called out a question about grains and the first person to know the answer would run over and tell us the answer then go back to their group and tag the next person if they were right. Overall the students really enjoyed this activity and learning about grains as a whole!

Real Food Farm Field Trip

We went on a field trip to Real Food Farm last Friday. Everyone enjoyed getting to learn about the farm, sample produce, and learn about how it is important to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. It was also a great way to end our Food Systems Unit and transition into our MyPlate & Healthy Eating Unit! 

RFF 2Students sampling vegetables grown at Real Food Farm.

RFF 3 Students learning how different color fruits and vegetables benefit different parts of the body.

???????????????????????????????Students feeling accomplished after learning how apple sauce is made and how food gets from the farm to the consumer.


Thanks for a great field trip, Real Food Farm!

MyPlate: Fruits & Vegetables!

The MyPlate lectures have begun! MyPlate is the United States Department of Agriculture’s newest attempt to help families easily understand the different aspects of nutrition that should go into each meal. Long gone are the days of the food pyramid that many of us grew up with. MyPlate is simpler for both children and adults to understand.  The five aspects are fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and proteins. MyPlate also shows a physical representation of what a healthy meal plate looks like on your plate. This week we started off reviewing the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.myplate_blue

We began with a physical activity. The children had to decide if the food said was a fruit or a vegetable and there was an exercise associated with each guess. Then after reviewing GMOs, organic foods, and MyPlate, we dove more deeply into fruits and vegetables. We went over the difference between fruits and vegetables and defined why they are important for our bodies. Then we  discussed the “rainbow of fruits and vegetables” and talked about what kinds of vitamins and nutrients are associated with different colored fruits and vegetables. Overall, the students seemed to be very engaged with the material and showed a lot of enthusiasm to learn about the foods they eat each day.  We’re moving on to learning about proteins next. Stay tuned!tumblr_mlmh393Bgi1qese7mo1_1280