Making Healthy Choices A Fun ExperienceTue 16 Jul 2013
Story by Wendy Cooper
Healthy Highway - an innovative program to incorporate nutrition concepts into your every day choices.
I was a Physical Education specialist for 30 years and during the last 5 years of teaching, I discovered a fun way to implement healthy choice “lessons” into my curriculum. As I watched the children embrace these concepts, I knew I had to share the program with others and Healthy Highway was born.
Healthy Highway is an imaginative and interactive method that utilizes traffic metaphors to give children tools and beliefs they need to embrace healthy choices throughout their life.
The Healthy Highway concept is designed to encourage students to relate their bodies to engines. Traffic light food cards and fuel pump food cards give a visual of example of foods in each food group. Traffic signs incorporate nutrition slogans i.e.: “Yield” reminds children to watch out for oils, slow down on fats, and pass by sugar. By understanding we need “high performance fuels” to keep our engines strong, it creates a fun way to be aware of the choices we make. It is much easier to grasp that if we put a lower grade fuel into our engine it may not be as efficient, so we need to choose a “green light” food to balance that choice. This symbolism is successful in helping children be accountable for their decisions.
One of the benefits of Healthy Highway is that the traffic theme lends itself to the creation of new ideas. One such idea is the Healthy Highway Pledge: “I promise to make ONE healthy choice EVERY day.” Anyone can do this… schools, organizations, families. Just make the commitment to making this choice every day and you will observe that your awareness of your decisions will heighten, there will be more conversation about the choices you make, and you will demonstrate a commitment to these choices. Simple but effective. My local UPS store jumped on board by making pledge banners to hang in the school cafeterias as a great reminder for the students.
The latest expansion of this idea was 2 schools making a goal of “eating” 500 healthy choices in one week. A fuel gauge poster was used to track the number of choices, going from empty to full. The kids were so excited to reach the goal…what an accomplishment. The cafeteria manager observed that she had to order 7 ½ lbs of broccoli and cauliflower during that week, and that almost all the fruit choices doubled!
To celebrate the 500 choices, one school made a “veggie power” snack comprised of peppers, cucumber, grapes, and carrots to serve to the school. The other school had an assembly with a “snack attack’ play and an original Healthy Highway song written by the students.
It is such a high compliment to watch schools commit to implementing Healthy Highway as a school wide, yearlong initiative. I have had the privilege of watching schools be inspired to incorporate new ideas and innovations to match their needs and objectives. Listed below are several examples of these expansions:
• 2nd grade chefs: connect with a grade level objective, students write a healthy snack recipe, make it, and serve to the entire school.
• School garden: plant vegetables that then can be used in the school snack!
• Class projects: food group collages; healthy plate displays; research food facts; snack attack play; morning announcements; creating original healthy songs.
It is interesting now to look back over these past 5 years to see how far the program has gone. I have had the opportunity to meet so many great people who share the same passion as I do, learn from these people, and be introduced to new opportunities. But the best part is to watch the excitement on the faces of the children I meet when they tell me about their healthy choices, and the pride in their voices as they tell me they love being on the Highway.
My goal from here is to continue to share Healthy Highway with as many people as I can, to show them it is fun to make healthy choices, and that it feels good to run at “top performance”.
About the author: Wendy Cooper continues to educate schools and families on the importance of healthy lifetime choices in the Rochester, New York area. She has presented at many state and national conferences, but finds working directly with the children the most rewarding.
For more information on the Healthy Highway program please visit the website:
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