Picklesburgh and Pickle Juice

 

picklesburgh photo

Drink me.

I’ve loved pickles all my life. While I’ve only lived in Pittsburgh for sixteen years, I love the city. And I love that there is a festival all about PICKLES! It’s called Picklesburgh.

From their site:

What’s the big dill?

Picklesburgh is for everyone – from pickle fanatics to just pickle curious. With the help of our sponsors, vendors and volunteers, we’ve assembled a two-day event around all things pickled. It’s not just about pickled food though.  No celebration would be complete without music. A broad selection of local musicians and genres will grace the stage, all set to the backdrop of a glorious Downtown Pittsburgh.

I wish I could attend Picklesburgh, because there’s a pickle juice drinking contest. And I know just who would win. The main character of my novel Dare Club, a klutzy but brave kid with the unfortunate nickname Scabs.

Here’s an excerpt:

 

“We’re going to test your taste for danger.” She smiled and I gulped.

She set the items on the table in front of us.

“Are those pickles? I love pickles,” I said.

“What’s the butter for? Dry skin?” Inky said.

“What are you talking about?” I laughed. “People don’t put butter on dry skin!”

“I do,” he nodded. “It feels soft.”

I made a mental note not to eat butter at Inky’s house anymore.

Marta moved the jar of pickles in front of me. It was a half-empty jar and the long pickle spears splashed around in the green juice.

“I dare you to drink all of the pickle juice in this jar.”

“What?” I yelped. “The whole jar?”

She nodded and smiled.

“That’s so gross!” Inky laughed.

“But why? I don’t get it,” I stalled.

“Think of this as your initiation into the club,” she said.

“What club?” Inky asked.

“It’s a secret club,” she said.

“But what do you do in the club?” he insisted.

“Nothing big. Just figure out your fears and face them,” she said.

The small flame inside me sparked. That sounded exactly like what I wanted.

“So this is the test to see if you two can handle it. It’s not for little kids,” she said.

“We’re going into sixth grade,” I reminded her. “And Honors classes.”

“Grades aren’t everything,” she said. “This is about real life.”

“But what do we do?” Inky asked again.

“I already told you. You face your fears,” she said.

“Is it dangerous?” Inky said.

“It can be. Not always. But yeah, you have to be ready to for some danger.”

Her words were a SuperSoaker aimed right at my little flame of excitement. I didn’t need any more scrapes or scratches.

“And if you decide to do it, you have to do it all the way,” Marta continued. “No quitting. No backing out.”

I wasn’t sure this was such a good idea.

“But if you do it, you’ll be a different person.” she promised.

Never mind. It was a great idea.

“I want to do it,” I said.

“So you accept?”

I squinted my eyes shut and pictured myself at the mouth of the Tunnel. I felt nauseous. I pictured Gunderpants laughing at me. My nausea turned to anger.

“I’ll do it,” I picked up the jar of juice. “I’ll join the club.”

“Seb, maybe you just think about this,” Inky put his hand out to stop me.

“I know I want to be different,” I told him. “I don’t want to be Scabs anymore. Is there a time limit on how fast I have to drink this?”

“How about before I die of boredom,” Marta put her hands on her hips.

“OK,” I twisted off the lid and the familiar scent of vinegar and dill hit my nose and my mouth watered. I love the taste of pickles but I had never drunk just the juice. At least it was a flavor I liked. I decided to go big at the beginning and took a huge gulp from the jar. The cold liquid rushed down my chest and when it hit my stomach, I already felt different.

“Ah!” I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. “Not bad!”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this!” Inky said. “You don’t even know if that’s actually pickle juice!”

I stared at Inky in shock. I hadn’t thought of that.

“No, I did not poison you. But I like the way you think, Leo,” Marta laughed.

Inky smiled.

“And now it’s your turn.” Marta pointed at Inky.  His smile disappeared. She slid the butter toward him.

“What? Why me? He’s the one who wants to go through the Tunnel!” Inky jabbed a finger at me.

“Not by myself!” I yelped. “I thought we were in this together!”

“But–”

I interrupted him. “You’re my best friend! You can’t abandon me now!”

“But–”

I interrupted again. “I’ll owe you so huge!”

“What do I have to do?”

I breathed a sigh of relief. He was going to do it, too, but I could tell by Inky’s voice he wasn’t thrilled.

“It’s basically the same as Sebastian’s dare,” she said. “I dare you to eat that stick of butter.”

“Nope!” He shook his head.

“I double-dog dare you,” she said. I took a big gulp of pickle juice.

“Come on, Marta. Enough with the butter.” He crossed his arms.

“I triple-black-cat dare you,” she held up three fingers. “Last chance.”

“Not a chance,” he said.

“You better do it,” she said. “Or you’ll be sorry.”

“I’ll be sorrier if I eat that entire stick of butter,” he said. I took three little sips of pickle juice. It was harder to force myself to drink it, but I kept going.

“Aren’t you worried about what might happen if I get mad?” Marta asked.

“I’ll take my chances.” He shook his head and looked away from her.

“I see,” she said. “Not worried about yourself, are you?”

Inky definitely didn’t look worried. She slid her gaze over to me. There was about a half-inch of green juice still swirling around the bottom of the jar so I quickly put the jar to my lips and tilted my head back and the tangy pickle juice rushed into my mouth.

“Leo Martinez, I dare you to take one enormous bite out of that stick of butter or I will make life miserable for your friend Scabs here.” She put her hands on the table and loomed over him.

I coughed and spit out some of the pickle juice. “What? Why me?”

Inky shook his head.

“This is so dumb,” he said. He picked up the butter, unwrapped one end, opened his mouth wide and stuck the butter in. Slowly his teeth sunk into the creamy yellow rectangle and the bite broke off into his mouth.

“That’s a big bite,” I noted. I glanced at Marta to make sure she agreed, but she was just watching Inky.

He chewed slowly at first and I could see the butter making his cheeks bulge out. He took loud breaths in and out his nose. Marta watched him with a huge smile on her face. It took forever but Inky finally managed to swallow his enormous bite of butter.

“Gah! It’s stuck all around my teeth!” He kept smacking his mouth and moving his tongue around to get the leftover butter bits out.

“Thanks, Inky!” I grinned. I knew he’d never let me down.

“Finish that,” Marta told me. I swallowed once, twice, three times until it was gone. I opened my mouth to ask her if we had passed the test, but instead a huge pickle-stench burp came out. I cracked up.

“Disgusting, Seb, that’s not funny,” Inky complained and fanned his hand. Marta didn’t seem to notice.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” she said. “I think we all learned a lot from that little experiment. Come back tomorrow morning. Be here by nine. And bring some donuts.”

“9 a.m. Got it.” I said.

Marta walked back to her house and left us standing there. I couldn’t wait to come back tomorrow and do the club.

“Marta!” I called. “What’s the club called?”

“You haven’t guessed already?” Marta shook her head at my slow wits. “It’s called Dare Club.”

Wanted: Favorite New Recipes for Picky Eaters

Looking for some favorite new recipes for picky eaters in your house? Each of my kids can be picky eaters at one time or another. But even when they are picky, I can usually rely on three solid and healthy meals or snacks that each one will devour without question.

I like to make food fun but also encourage my kids to try new things without making it too elaborate. I don’t like to hide healthy foods in less healthy foods, because that undermines their trust in me.

Monster salad, picky eatersMonster salad –  this one’s easy. Grab your favorite collection of salad ingredients. Add in some new ones that have an interesting appearance and set them out on the counter or table. For a picky eater bonus, take your child shopping and let them pick out a fruit or vegetable that neither of you know and try something new together! Invite your child to make a monster face using their ingredients! Then find some fun monster eating weapons like tiny forks or toothpicks. If you can handle a little mess, allow the picky eater to use their hands so they can get familiar with the texture of the food first.
picky eatersPizza on a stick – this is a classic kids’ favorite deconstructed and represented in a new way. Help kids understand that familiar foods are made up of basic ingredients. For this recipe you can even grow the tomato and basil and get your picky eater involved in cooking and cutting and chopping. Start with some thin crust bread that resembles pizza dough. Slide it on a stick (eating things without a plate can make old foods more interesting) and then slide on tomatoes, cheese and a basil leaf. What other pizza toppings can you and your child add? Let your picky eater get creative and choose fun things for you both to try.

Dylan glasses eating, picky eatersPineapple with cinnamon – this sweet treat was introduced to us by Argentinian friends. I love how it encourages kids to combine two known flavors and try them out together. This dish is also a great way for picky eaters to try foods at different temperatures and think about how it changes the flavor. To serve it warm, grill the pineapple then sprinkle with cinnamon. Serving the pineapple cold or even room temperature will appeal to different taste buds. What other spices might taste good sprinkled on pineapple?

Don’t forget to keep track of your favorite new recipes for picky eaters in a copy of My Food Notebook and make mealtimes more fun with Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids.

New healthy food activity book for kids!

Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an activity book that helped kids eat healthy foods? Parenting can get so stressful. We want the best for our kids, but we can’t control everything we do. We can’t force feed them healthy food! Remember the old saying, you get more flies with honey than vinegar? When I do talks at parenting workshops and at schools, I always encourage people to add some fun to the dinner time!

That’s why I created Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids! This new electronic activity book is designed to change dinnertime from a food fight into a fun event. There are lots of ways to make healthy eating fun. This new book that I’ve created makes it easy for parents to encourage their kids to try new foods in a friendly, not scary, way. In this activity book, I share some silly jokes, interesting facts, easy activities and even some of our favorite fresh food recipes.

Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids is available as a pdf and includes six unique activities. Once you buy the activity book for only 5.99, you can print out as many sheets and copies as you need. Use the sheets and re-use the sheets.

My kids have tried the jokes and challenges in this activity book and find them to be fun, too, but I’d love to hear what your kids think. Which are their favorites? Did they try a new food or devour their first Monster Salad?

How do you make eating fresh food fun and healthy? Share your ideas and they might end up in the second edition of Fresh Fun Food Ideas for Kids!

Brain Food: SCBWI and SWPFSP

summer reading with kids

Food for Thought

 

I hate being hungry. I can’t concentrate and I’m really grouchy. Imagine if you were a kid who was hungry all summer.  But here in Pittsburgh, that’s not an imaginary thing. It’s real. In fact, there are more than 45,000 children in Allegheny County that are considered to be food insecure, and 73,500 children are eligible for free or reduced-rate school lunches or breakfasts.

So when Chris from the Southwest PA Food Security Partnership approached me and my friend Kathy about helping more kids take advantage of the summer food programs in our area, both of us said YES.

Kathy and I had tables next to each other at the 2015 Farm to Table conference, but we’re also both members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Chris loved the activities we were offering for children that centered around healthy eating but also had a literary and storytelling component. We met in early summer 2015 and he asked us if we could come to summer food sites and provide fun activities for the kids. He hoped that by advertising visits from local authors kids would be more interested in attending. Kathy and I loved the idea and both realized this was a chance to interact with children (something kids’ authors love) and a chance to feed their minds and their bodies.

But we like to think big. So Kathy and I invited all the members of SCWBI Western PA to join us. We had 14 volunteers sign up and they conducted over 10 visits in Allegheny, Somerset and Cambria counties. SCBWI volunteers read books, played games, and told stories while children enjoyed healthy, free meals.

I took my youngest son with me to two of my visits to my old home library, Carnegie Library Woods Run. I used to walk to that library with my young children and we spent many happy afternoons in the children’s section. When my son and I visited in August we found a welcoming staff and adorable kids with incredible imaginations.

For my visit, I brought copies of my book The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to share with the kids. I wanted give them something, a small gift to spark their imaginations. They gave me gifts, too, because in addition to reading stories we played StoryCubes and made up our own stories. And these kids were AMAZING! The little girl in the photo above and another little boy came up with an incredible tale about a boy who had the shadow of a beetle and a beetle who had the shadow of a boy. They traveled together to a castle where they discovered human king…but a beetle queen. You’ll have to use your imagination to find out what happens next.

We definitely plan to continue this partnership next summer so if you’re a local Pittsburgh author or illustrator get in touch and help us feed imaginations while kids get fed.

New Secret Tip for Picky Eaters

I’ve collected lots of tips for helping parents work with their picky eaters and get more fruits and vegetables into their diet. But new research shows that one of kids’ favorite things – recess – could be a huge help!

Schools in a Utah school district switched their schedules so that recess happened before lunch and guess what happened? Kids are more fruits and veggies. Lots more!

In the schools that switched recess to before lunch, children ate 54 percent more fruits and vegetables than they did before the switch, the researchers found. Moreover, there was a 45 percent increase in the number of kids who ate at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day. But in schools that kept recess after lunch, children actually ate fewer fruits and vegetables as the year went on.

54 percent! That’s a lot of broccoli! Active kids are hungry and hungry kids are less likely to be picky eaters. And it’s exciting that there was an increase in children actually eating fruits and vegetables. This shows it wasn’t just kids who already ate these foods, it was new children eating these foods. I’m all for increasing physical activity in schools. I’ve learned a lot from Action for Healthy Kids about the value of recess when it comes to academic learning and positive behavior. But now we can add eating healthier foods as another benefit of recess! I encourage every one, kids and adults to be more active. Being active is invaluable to me as a writer. It’s a win-win decision.

But the great news doesn’t stop there. The study also showed a decrease in wasted healthy food, too. I can’t stop smiling at this good news! Why aren’t we hearing more about this? What do we need to do to convince schools to switch their lunch and recess schedules? I am betting that the decrease in food waste could be the stronger argument if it can be connected with saving money.

This article also argues that parents and children who sit and eat together also eat better. How often does your family sit and eat? We try to sit and eat dinner together every night if we can, but we also find time for breakfasts and lunches together over the weekend. It’s one of the happiest times of our day, now that we’ve developed new ways of working with our picky eaters. No more food fights!

secret tip for picky eaters

Give those new foods a try!

You have to read the entire article and let me know what you think. The full study is out in the Journal of Preventative Medicine. Why aren’t we hearing more about this good news? Do people just not care about kids eating healthy? Would your school flip lunch and recess? Why or why not?

Take a look at more tips for picky eaters in these posts and if you want to help your picky eater have some fun trying new foods, grab a copy of My Food Notebook.

New Food at Pittsburgh’s Farm to Table

Open wide! New food

Open wide!

It’s almost time for the ninth annual Farm to Table Conference here in Pittsburgh! This is one of my favorite events in the city because I get to meet new people and try new food! I’m really thrilled to participate this year for several reasons. As usual, I’ll be hosting a table and selling copies of My Food Notebook, but I’m also going to unveil a new game for kids called “TASTE or TEST.” When kids visit my table they can choose to TASTE a Mystery Food or take a TEST and answer a really tough (wink, wink) question about Pennsylvania farms and agriculture. If kids are really brave, they can tackle both challenges! When a child does a TASTE or TEST, they will earn an entry into a raffle drawing for a basket of fun, healthy prizes.

I’m also going to bring this fun TASTE or TEST game into the first grades at my local elementary schools to coincide with the Farm to Table unit in the curriculum. As I work on different projects and books for children, I find that taking a look at the standards really helps. I use the PA Standards Aligned System site to see what teachers need to cover in the classroom. Then I try to make sure that the information in my games, activities and books matches the needs of the teacher.

Just because information is required doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! I know kids love learning about healthy foods because I worked with the folks from Farm to Table to create the Super Fun! Local Food Challenge assembly and have performed it in front of screaming crowds of school agers.

I think the TASTE or TEST game is going to be a hit for parents and kids, because trying a new food is a tough challenge for many people.

Trying New Foods

When’s the last time you ate a new food? And I don’t mean trying a new flavor of Triskets. I mean a new fruit or vegetable, maybe a new kind of cheese, or even a new kind of grain.

We get into habits (or ruts) where we eat the same things every day. I know personally it’s easier for me to cook familiar foods. I know how to cook them and (usually) don’t ruin or burn them. But it’s important for parents to model trying a new food if they want their kids to try a new food.

Here’s a challenge. Try to eat one new food every day. Could you do that two days in a row? Could you do it for a week? I’m thinking the next time I go to the grocery store, I could grab five new kinds of fruits and vegetables and give them a try once a day. Sounds intimidating but also a little exciting!

Parents want their kids to try new foods. I asked friends on Facebook what new foods they wished their kids would try and got a great variety of responses. Here are some of the foods:

  • Kiwi
  • Spinach
  • Peppers (red, yellow, orange, green)
  • Tomatoes (twice)
  • Rambutan (I don’t even know what this is!)
  • Mushrooms (twice)
  • Eggplants (twice)
  • Mangoes (I’m allergic)
  • Lima beans
  • Roasted brussel sprouts
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Grapes

That’s a pretty good list of new foods to try! Some of those are delicious. But what the heck is a rambutan? Sounds like a new food I need to try.

Be honest now: Which of those foods have you eaten yourself? Which have your kids eaten? If you’re going to tackle this list of new foods with your family, let me know which ones they taste!

Do you think the TASTE or TEST game would be a hit at your child’s school?

 

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Help for Moms of Picky Eaters: Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa

I am so thrilled to share the link to a truly fun conversation I had with Denisa LaRosa, host of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa. Denise and I are both Pittsburgh moms, but she is raising girls and I have all boys. We share a common goal in helping our kids develop a healthy relationship with food. Denise is a former elementary school teacher and I admire anyone who can tackle a classroom full of kids.

Denise is the founder and CEO of Mom Talk with Denise LaRosa, LLC, a multimedia platform designed to motivate, inspire and inform mothers. Denise’s website focuses on “providing mothers with encouragement, support and resources as they travel the journey of motherhood.”

Denise and I had a inspiring talk about what inspired my books and how I encourage my kids to try new foods. But her website has many more resources for moms.

Moms learning from Moms

Moms learning from Moms

Denise and I are both supporting the Burgh Baby Diaper Drive and collecting diapers for the smallest members of our community.

Make a change in a little one's life!

 

It can be hard to be patient when kids refuse to eat. Moms know that many times dinners and meals with picky eaters end up in food fights and battlesI Denise and I shared great ideas on how we take our children to the grocery store, get them involved in cooking and encourage them to try new foods. I invite you to listen to this podcast and check out more from Denise!

 

 

More tips for picky eaters!

Boy eating whole wheat bread

Boy cannot live on bread alone.

Looking for more tips for picky eaters? If you have a picky eater in your family, you are probably familiar with the feeling that you’re in the middle of a food fight. You’ve prepared food but your picky eater won’t try a bite. Let the battle of wills begin! But I found that getting into a food fight with my picky eater left us both feeling defeated and angry. I want my children to have a healthy, curious attitude about food. And I don’t like arguing at every meal. So I looked into ways to work with my picky eater.

One important change was the creation of My Food Notebook. Not only did it help my child remember what foods he had tried and liked, it helped me remember if he liked foods prepared a certain way or with a certain condiment, which we call a “Flavor Buddy.” I also did a lot of research on techniques to that make it easier for kids to try new foods. Some of those tips are available here. But if you need additional ideas, here are five more tips to help create a win-win situation at your dinner table, too.

 

More Tips for Picky Eaters

1. Family Style – Instead of giving each person the same size serving and preparing plates in the kitchen, bring your food to the dinner table in family style bowls or platters and let your dining companions, young and old, choose the size of their serving. You may be surprised how many vegetables your children consume when they are allowed to serve themselves. And for those picky eaters, starting with a smaller portion is a lot less intimidating that facing a huge mound of spinach.

2. Choices – Whenever possible, I offer two or more vegetable choices at our family style dinners. I remind my children that a healthy meal includes some protein, some carbohydrates and a large serving of produce, then I let them choose. I highlight the nutritional benefits of each vegetable in language my kids can understand. We talk about Vitamin A in carrots and how it helps your eyes and Vitamin C in sweet potatoes and how it helps you fight off germs. But giving them a choice usually means they will eat more of their chosen food than if I have forced them to eat a certain vegetable.

3. Sticks – Putting food on sticks is like waving a magic wand for many picky eaters. Foods on sticks, whether it’s a kebob stick, a toothpick, or a really cute bento box mini-fork seems to make trying that food so much more fun.

4. Faces and fun – Since kids eat with their eyes and many children prefer to touch their food before putting it in their mouths, I often let them create faces and have a little fun with certain foods. Especially if we’re building a salad, creating a little monster face or cartoon character out of the salad ingredients can take the pressure off of trying new foods.

5. Be consistent –  There will be times when your picky eater is completely resistant to all tactics. Maybe they just aren’t hungry or aren’t in the mood to have fun. That happens here, too. But we don’t let our kids off the hook, they are required to have one bite of a vegetable – any vegetable they choose – at dinner. We call it our hop-down bite. You can’t hop-down from the table until you’ve taken the bite. And we never waver on this rule. Stick to it and the arguments and testing will fade. Do not give in. Not even once.

My Food Notebook helps picky eaters

My Food Notebook helps picky eaters

Once you’ve started using these tips to work with your picky eater, don’t forget to keep track of the foods they’ve tried in your very own copy of My Food Notebook. And let us know what foods become favorites – or not.

Check out MORE tips for picky eaters here!

Why Farm to Table is Great for Kids and Families

 

Farm to table Pittsburgh

March 21-22, 2014

This weekend is the 8th annual Farm to Table Conference in Pittsburgh! I am really excited to be involved in this year’s event again. The theme for this year is Food Sources and the conference again offers lots of excellent activities for children. The conference has always been family friendly, but a new feature of this year’s conference is the special Kids’ Track of programs! Both Friday and Saturday there will be programs and speakers just for kids and families. The Kids’ Track is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of eating healthy, local food. And if you’re not already convinced to bring your kids downtown, remember that kids under 12 are free!

We are so lucky to have this event in Pittsburgh. I recently spoke at the Parenting Expo here in Pittsburgh and discussed how helping children experience food with all of their senses increases their comfort level with foods and can help them learn to try new foods. Growing foods, shopping at farmer’s markets, attending events like Farm to Table and seeing gorgeous photos of fresh foods being grown, even meeting our local farmers, are all positive ways to help children develop a willingness to try new foods.

I’m so excited to be a part of the Kids’ Track on both days. On Friday, I’ll be hosting a special Tasting Party for kids, and on Saturday I’ll be hosting the Super Fun Local Food Challenge School Assembly! Both of these programs are available as school classroom workshops or assemblies and work with the Social Studies standards for Pennsylvania schools.

Of course in addition to these programs there’s the Local Food Tasting on Friday night and the Saturday Networking Breakfast. Both events are hugely popular. By the time I got to the Saturday breakfast last year all of the food was gone – it was so good no one left a crumb!

I’ll have an exhibitor table again and I’ll offer an encore to last year’s very popular Pizza on a Stick Tasting Party. My boys love coming to Farm to Table and roaming the tables, trying everything from local honey to local cheese, pickled vegetables, fresh milk, apples and more. This year I have decided to get one of those mushroom logs. I love mushrooms and Pennsylvania is the nation’s leading producer of these tasty fungi!

Looking forward to seeing you at the 2014 Farm to Table Conference. Bring the kids, stop by and say hello!

 

March Madness and the Healthy Food Challenge

It’s the perfect time of year for a healthy food challenge! March is National Nutrition Month and it’s also March Madness. So on a run, a time when I often get my best ideas, I decided it would be really cool to combine these two great activities into a Healthy Food Challenge!

healthy food

Healthy Food Challenge Bracket

Luckily our elementary school has a principal who supports healthy eating, I have a great working relationship with our PTO and the new Kids of STEEL club is a hit, and our new Food Services Director is setting a tone of cooperation with parents. So many factors came together just right for this activity.

Healthy Food Challenge:

I worked with food services to determine which eight fruits and vegetables would be available every day in the cafeteria. Then I created the match-ups, randomly setting up eight fruit opponents on one side and eight veggie opponents on the other.

vegetables for kids

The Veggie Conference

fruit for kids

The Fruit Conference

We sent the brackets home in advance so kids could fill them out and turn them in. I entered all the picks into a spreadsheet to track the winners. This took a lot of time! Over 200 kids turned in brackets, that’s about 1/3 of our school population.

The first round happened today. I walked around the cafeteria for each of our three lunch periods and asked kids what fruit or veggie they wanted to vote for. They could only vote for fruits or veggies they had tasted that day at lunch.

I must admit, I was surprised how many kids claimed they had not eaten any fruits or veggies for lunch that day. Some tried to claim fruit snacks were a fruit. Not a chance. One kid tried to tell me pistachios were a fruit. As much as I love pistachios and prefer them to fruit snacks, I still had to tell her no. But I told her to keep eating pistachios.

That’s why the title Healthy Food Challenge is perfect. We are challenging the kids to get more healthy foods into their daily diets.

Winners will be chosen from the most accurate brackets. We’re also pulling a few brackets from all the entries to give away some small random prizes.

My motivation to try some fun, healthy activities at school came from listening to a webinar hosted for parents by Action for Healthy Kids. I was really excited to learn tips and techniques for working with schools to increase nutritious foods and more physical activity in the school day, especially after some unfortunately negative experiences with a “wellness committee” that didn’t do much in our district when my oldest son was in kindergarten and first grade.

We have a great district and a great school. I think there’s a lot of potential here. And our principal really supports our Kids of STEEL running program. Unfortunately I’ve also received an automated call from him asking families to support a school fundraiser where teachers work behind the counter at a local McDonald’s. That activity drives me nuts.

I still have a lot to learn about increasing wellness at our school. Luckily there are more webinars from Action for Healthy Kids coming up. I have a dream of the school having a community garden before my youngest, who isn’t even in kindergarten yet, graduates sixth grade. I’m excited to learn more about why taking away recess time as punishment is bad for academic achievement.