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.

 

 

Healthy Snacks for Kids

Let’s Move Pittsburgh hosted their first ever Symposium on November 7, 2013 at Phipps Conservatory. The title was “Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.” I really liked that title because so much research shows that when you give children choices at the grocery store, during preparation and during meals – and those choices are healthy choices – kids will choose good-for-them-food.

I also learned from Let’s Move that the USDA is rolling out a new Smart Snacks in Schools program.
Print

 

Healthy Snacks for Kids

I started thinking about places where I could increase healthy choices for my children, and our wonderful community soccer program came to mind. My boys have played soccer for about two years and I always cringe when they ask to buy Hugs at the snack bar after games.

So I started asking people about alternatives at the Symposium.

“Instead of Hugs, give the kids their water bottles at the beginning of the season and get them filled up at the snack bar,” suggested Jesse Sharrard, Food Safety and Nutrition Manager from Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

I loved that idea because water is so important for young athletes and getting rid of those Hugs would reduce litter on the soccer fields.

But I know the soccer league relies on snack bar sales to fund a lot of the program. And if the snack bar has candy for sale, the kids will ask for that.  So I asked parents on Facebook what healthy snacks their children would actually buy.

Here are some of their answers:

  • Squeeze applesauce
  • Peanut Butter and apples
  • Fig Newtons
  • Carrots and celery sticks
  • Kid-styled Luna Bars
  • Pirates Booty
  • Frozen Go-Gurts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Peanuts
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Bananas, Oranges, Apples
  • Yogurt-covered Raisins

So what are your thoughts? What healthy snacks would your kids buy at school or at concession stands?

Get Your Social Media Team into Shape

You have to use the right tools for your goals

You have to use the right tools for your goals

PRDaily recently ran my blog “6 Reasons Why An Athlete Should Run Your Social Media.” It should be obvious by now that I firmly believe running inspires me personally and professionally. But I’m not the only one. Here’s what folks on Twitter have been saying:

Those are just a few of the replies. I used Storify to collect many more responses to this post and can help you learn how to use Storify to capture responses to your campaigns, too!

Does Your Business Need a Social Media Coach?

I work out a lot – for fun, for stress relief, and because it’s in my nature to set and strive to achieve goals. To help

Work Hard for the Results You Want

me reach these fitness goals, I hired a coach. Having a coach gives me accountability and someone to help me overcome obstacles and celebrate my successes.

For my clients, I’m their social media coach. I don’t always write all their content – many times I’m just laying out their editorial calendar (training schedule) and teaching them how and when to use new platforms (workouts).

But my own training hit a bump in the road when my coach accepted a new job in another state. Now I am meeting her replacement and I have to bring her up to speed on my goals, my philosophy, my strengths, weaknesses, what I’m afraid to try and what motivates me. The good part is – I know what I want her to know.

I try to help my customers with the same thing. One thing I offer my customers is the creation of a social media policy or guidelines. I know there will come a time when I need to move on or they decide to take over these tasks in-house. By working with my customers to build a social media policy, my goal is to make the transition and education of their new social media manager as simple as possible. I can’t make it seamless, but I can give them a sense of history of what customers have hated and what they’ve loved, what we’ve tried (and where we’ve failed) and the overall goals all of this creative work!

The Best Fitness Advice for your Social Media Strategy

If you don’t already go running, walking, lift weights, or some other kind of physical activity to increase your creativity and productivity, stop reading now and do 50 push-ups. If it takes you all day, so be it. Get it done.

During my most recent run, I realized that the best fitness advice is also excellent advice for businesses embarking of their first forays into social media.

1. Set goals. You don’t want to start any running or workout routine without a goal.  Couch to 5K is a great program with a reasonably challenging long-term goal – get off the couch and run a 5K. Your social media goal could be similar. For instance, “Connect with 250 followers on Facebook.”

2. Start small. A friend’s personal trainer asked her to see how far she could run in 12 minutes.  It was a very small step toward her goal but it was essential to completing the 5K. Same goes for your social media campaign. Set a goal like “Create a Facebook page for my business today.” You’re not going to get any followers unless you start somewhere.

3. Be consistent. Every day, do something to work toward your goal. Some days you may walk more than others, but you have to get out there. For your Facebook followers goal, make sure you work on this every day. Plan relevant content to share. Reach out to potential followers and engage on their terms.

4. Be honest. Don’t cheat your running goal by stopping short on that difficult hill. Don’t cheat your social media campaign by avoiding customer research, addressing negative feedback and product improvement. Give your best in each endeavor.

5. Be accountable. A great tweet suggested marking red x’s on the calendar when you miss a workout. The same thing goes for building your online relationships. It takes work. Seeing a lot of red x’s in a row could be the thing that motivates you NOT to skip your activity for the day.

6. Get a partner. Running is lots more fun with someone and you’re less likely to bail if you know someone else will call you out! This can work for your Facebook strategy, too. Find a non-competing fellow business owner or even a willing friend and ask them to check on you. Bounce ideas off them, too.

7. Cross-train. You get better at running if you add in stretching and weights. You’ll get better at social media if you experiment with different methods, like using video or images to build relationships, engage customers and earn followers. Try out some other platforms, like LinkedIn.

8. Limit your junk food. Eating healthy will help you run better. Include some fiber in your diet. Check the nutritional content of your own social media feeds. Are you including too much junk? Are you filling up on empty calories and left feeling hungry? Get some high quality content from leading experts.

9. Get good gear. Those high-end running shoes cost more but can improve your total workout experience. And ladies, do not neglect the sports bra. Great gear can prevent injury, increase your enjoyment and enhance your performance. Try a refurbished smartphone if your budget is tight. Other tools can be accessed for free, like HootSuite and LinkedIn.

10. Reward your efforts. When you finish that 5K, celebrate! It doesn’t matter how fast you did it, save that kind of competition for your next effort – the 10K! When you hit 250 followers, celebrate! Host an event for your followers and promote the heck out it, starting with the next social media platform you plan to master…there’s no stopping you now!

A version of this post appeared on 12Most.com – read it here!