Healthy Nutrition For The New Year!



By: Cindy Nyquist (Guest Blog Writer – ECFE Teacher)

It is that time of the year when we try and make some positive changes! ECFE and School Readiness is trying to help our school snack be a much more healthy experience for our students. I am an ECFE teacher, not a dietitian, but here are some healthy suggestions that I have incorporated on my journey to better nutrition.

I think food is very complicated because it starts with how we were brought up. My parents grew up on farms where they did physical labor and ate 6 times a day. I don’t do physical labor, but unfortunately I grew up eating 3 meals and 3 sugary snacks. Eating healthy snacks was not done. I wasn’t exposed to raw vegetables with the exception of a carrot or even fresh vegetables. I don’t want to be offensive, but I don’t think anyone is going to jump up and down about a canned vegetable. When I see the kids that are exposed to fresh vegetables eating a piece of cucumber or a cherry tomato like it is the best thing ever, I have real regrets for not serving raw vegetables to my children. They say it takes 20 exposures to a new food to like it, so keep trying with those fresh vegetables!

If I could have a do over with my kids, I would swap out the orange juice they had with a green smoothie for breakfast. That way they are getting a vegetable even for breakfast. Spinach mixed with frozen fruit is very palatable! It is better for their blood sugar level also, and the increase in diabetes is definitely a motivator for wanting to have better nutrition! There are many inexpensive options for blending a smoothie. You can put beans in a smoothie and not even taste them, which is a good source of protein and fiber. I would also serve my children steel cut oatmeal or healthy multigrain pancakes instead of the high sugar, over-processed cereal they ate.

When I first started on a journey to better nutrition, I started with the goal of taking what I was already eating and adding more vegetables to it. Instead of tacos, I switched to chicken fajitas with peppers and onion; instead of spaghetti with just meat, I added zucchini, onions, mushrooms, and peppers. Now I look at a bunch of veggies and get excited. It has so much more texture and color than what I had been eating.

Next, I started to overhaul my starches. Out with the white bread and pasta, white rice, and potatoes. In with the multigrain foods you will prefer if you continue eating them! Yukon Gold’s or sweet potatoes are good! Grains like quinoa are now more easily available. You need to have the mindset that you will someday like this new choice.

Now I am working on getting more proteins. I try and add beans to dishes, eat almonds as a snack, and an avocado on my eggs instead of cheese.

Snacks can be a real downfall to good nutrition. Try and think swapping what you’re enjoying for something better. Try eating popcorn without butter instead of chips. Instead of fruit snacks, offer apple slices to dip in almond butter or yogurt. They have many healthy Popsicle recipes online and you can make them in a Dixie cup with a stick.

I hope that you implement some healthy choices that keep moving in the right direction in 2017!






Keeping Your Children’s Teeth Healthy

dental healthBy: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

I have noticed over the past few years of teaching, that more and more children are getting cavities at a younger age.  I was surprised at my daughter’s dentist visit when we went from no cavities to three in just 6 months!  That is when I decided to work with my daughter’s dentist to try to put a stop to her path of future tooth decay.  I came across some great tips to aid in the prevention of cavities:

  1. Reduce the frequency of sugary drinks and foods.  Juice, pop, and sticky candies should be avoided or limited.  My daughter’s dentist informed me to even stay away from gummy vitamins.  They stick to the teeth for a long period of time, which can contribute to cavities and tooth decay.
  2. Don’t put children over one year of age to bed with a bottle filled with juice or milk.  Just put water in the bottle  unless it is mealtime.  A sippy cup with juice and milk not used for meals is another factor for cavities.  Put water in sippy cups instead and try to switch to a small glass or cup for mealtime by age two.
  3. Get your child to the dentist by one year of age. That way dental problems can be detected early while creating good dental habits from the beginning.
  4. Brush teeth and/or gums at least twice a day (or after meals).  Even when babies have no teeth it is suggested to wipe gums off with damp wash cloth after feedings and begin brushing once teeth appear with non-fluoride toothpaste.  A small amount of fluoride toothpaste can be used around two years old.  It is best to begin flossing at this age too.  Brushing should last at least one minute and parents should have a turn at brushing their child’s teeth until their child is old enough to brush on their own (around 7 years old) while increasing brushing time to two minutes.
  5. Children should drink water with fluoride instead of bottled water.  If your community does not have city water treated with fluoride or if well water is used, talk to your child’s dentist or pediatrician about fluoride supplements.
    1. I found a great resource with oral health advice and articles for parents and fun games and activities for kids.  Just click on:
    2. If dental care assistance is needed, Give Kids a Smile is a charitable outreach event coordinated each year by the Minnesota Dental Association.

This year’s 2013 event will be on February 1st and 2nd.  For more information go to “Give Kids a Smile -Minnesota” on Facebook or you can receive reminders and updates about this program by signing up for e-mail notices at  You can contact the Minnesota Dental Association by phone at: 612-767-8400 or their website at:

You can also find information on reduced of free dental care at:

As a parent, I am trying my best to follow these suggested tips while visiting the dentist for regular check-ups twice a year.  We have purchased fun toothpaste and toothbrushes to help with teeth brushing motivation.  What are some things that you have tried at home to help encourage positive dental health with your child?

Do you have a picky eater? Tips for home and the classroom

By Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

b           Like many parents, I have a picky eater.  My daughter, since she began to eat solids, had a strong opinion about what she would or would not put into her mouth.  With a quick shake of her head and a clinching mouth, I was not able to get her to try anything.  She wanted her noodles or fruit.  I continued to introduce her to new foods and slowly she began to try them.  Today, she is still a picky eater, but at least we have a wide variety of food options to choose from since she keeps expanding her cuisine repertoire.  This past year, our Discovery Learning preschool program implemented, The Lana Preschool Program (Introduced to us by Sherburne County Public Health).  We began changing our snacks to healthy choices, introducing the children to many different types of fruits and vegetables, and cooking meals with the children that included diverse food options.  I have seen children who would normally not try new food selections, take part in taste tests, and discovering they actually liked the foods they were anxiously sampling.  It was also fun to see the children scarf down the veggie lasagna; not realizing they were eating broccoli, and lots of it!  The LANA program has great tips for families and resources that you can try at home.  Since we have introduced this program at school, I have made changes in our nutrition in my home.  I have been eating more fruits and vegetables while setting a good example for my daughter.  This summer we planted a vegetable garden.  My daughter loved the process and has eaten and enjoyed every vegetable she picked.  Since learning about LANA, in my classroom and home I have introduced an assortment of healthy foods in new ways, changed snacks to healthy choices, and made trying new foods FUN!

For more information on LANA or nutrition tips go to: