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‘Tis the Season to be Healthy

As always, we love sharing great content from our partners at TogetherCounts

If you’re like most people, this time of year doesn’t exactly inspire extra workouts and light meals. And if you’re like most people, when January rolls around you’re motivated to get moving again in an effort to trim that bit of holiday “cheer” you accumulated during the season.

As members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), we encourage busy families to check out their Together Counts™ program. A robust resource for teachers and parents, over the holiday season you’ll find free motivation to get ahead of the splurge with simple tips and tweaks to your usual routine.

The OrganWise Guys are all about friends, family and fun, but we always encourage you to make the healthiest choices possible. Even at the holidays where parties and celebrations are everywhere, it is still possible to enjoy yourself and even indulge, but within reason. We recently shared these 10 ways to beat the holiday temptations

Instead of overindulging now—with high hopes of rightsizing your portions, and your waistband in the new year—try to end 2015 with a healthy start and a few new habits. These three simple tips can help!

  • Starting today and for the next 30-45 days, make one or two small changes daily and stick with it! Take the stairs. Eat breakfast. Notice your portion size at every meal. All of these simple tweaks can improve overall wellness and after 21 days…new routines become habits.
  • Kids are on their best behavior this month, out to demonstrate who’s been naughty or nice…and they may be watching you too! Make your healthy, active lifestyle a family priority by involving the kids and modeling those healthy habits.
  •  Thinking bigger than yourself? Enter to win a healthy playground makeover on behalf of your local school. There’s no better way to say Happy Holidays than to bring hope for healthier kids to your community with a $30,000 grant. To learn more visit TogetherCounts.com. #HealthyCommunities



Holiday Ideas for a Healthy Classroom

We always enjoy sharing these unique, creative and festive ideas for a healthy classroom each holiday season. We appreciate the variety of holidays being celebrated during this season so feel free to modify any of these ideas to fit your specific celebration!


Practice Portion Control in December

practice portion control

Practice portion control all month long as we round out our series tracking healthy behaviors for an entire month (and hopefully beyond). With all of the holiday parties and gatherings that will take place this month, you and the kids will be tempted by lots of tasty foods. Try taking just a little sample of the not-so-healthy items so you will be less likely to overindulge. Sometimes all we need is a little taste! As another little tip, try loading up on some fruits and veggies before you head out to a holiday party so you aren’t as hungry going in. You can help teach kids about the importance of portion control with the help of this free calendar. So make sure to download and print your December Behavior Tracking Sheet and use in your home or other setting to encourage and track behavior change.


Watch as The Pirates of the Carrot and Bean practice portion control … Argh!

Here’s to eating healthy portions all month long and beyond!

Practice portion control all month long with this #free behavior tracking calendar! #healthyportions Click To Tweet

Thanksgiving Theme Never Gets Old

We always love sharing great resources from our partner, TogetherCounts!

Family walking on path holding hands

If you groaned when you saw pumpkins and Christmas trees lining the store shelves back in August, when you were busy buying school supplies, you’re not alone. Fall is a busy time and the pressure to decorate and celebrate weighs on us when we’re trying to simply get the family into a weeknight routine. But as the weather cools, welcoming the Thanksgiving holiday and all it’s traditions gets easier. Right about now we all start feeling grateful in anticipation of the holiday season.

As members of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), we encourage busy families to check out the Together Counts™ program. Planning to visit farms and take advantage of the local fall bounty? Check out Farming Spotlight—new agriculture resources for schools and families that highlight the connection of farms to food.

We at The OrganWise Guys, love this time of year where the primary focus is on family, friends, food, and fun! We encourage time spent together cooking (healthy foods, of course!) and finding time to be active together. Think about taking a family stroll after your holiday meals … great for exercise and quality together time!

Also, give back to your community this fall with a family activity centering on feeling grateful. Opportunities abound for volunteering this time of year and can remind children of the reason for the season. An easy way to give back is to enter to win a Healthy Playground Makeover for your child’s school. Two grand prize winning schools receive a $30,000 grant plus a new playground! Get your kids involved to start a campaign for their own school or one with greater need. Anyone can enter on behalf of a pre-K through elementary school. Getting 60 minutes of active play time each day is recommended for all children, but did you know there are many benefits to outdoor play and in particular for children ages 3-5? Pre-K schools and Head Starts can apply for one of 11 grants—up to $20,000—to improve wellness at school. Share news about Smart from the Start grants with an early childhood education teacher in your community. A simple post on Facebook can make all the difference and this time of year, a busy teacher in need of new resources will be grateful you did!

Farm to You Program Impacts Kids in Oklahoma

Today we are featuring a fantastic program that is working hard to create healthy kids in Oklahoma! Farm to You is a traveling interactive adventure for elementary school children that follows food from the farm to the market and through the body to explore the relationships between agriculture, food and health, ultimately showing how making good food choices positively impacts your health.

See what Cody Yount, the Farm to You exhibit coordinator, had to say about this great program:

Farm to You. An interactive hands on experience presented to school aged children across the state. The display fills most of a gym and takes visitors from the farm and making healthy choices to the mouth and into the digestive system showing how the making good food choices affect your health.

How long has the Farm to You program been around in Oklahoma? How did it come about and what organizations helped the idea come to fruition?

Farm to You is a collaborative effort of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service (Family and consumer sciences, 4H and agricultural education programs), OSU Department of Nutritional Sciences, Oklahoma State Department of Health (WIC service) and Southwest Dairy Farmers. The program was developed to address major issues facing Oklahoma youth (i.e. low consumption of fruits and vegetables, sedentary lifestyle, increasing rates of childhood obesity, and high prevalence of tooth decay). Since August of 2008, the exhibit has taught more than 100,000 elementary students about agriculture, nutrition, physical activity and health in 74 counties.

What type of information do the kids take away after visiting the Farm to You exhibit? What kinds of reactions and feedback do you get from the students and teachers/school staff?

Simply put, the exhibit is designed to involve kindergarten through 6th-grade students in learning how foods from the farm are used by their bodies for good health. We receive a number of different responses from the students and teachers. Primarily, teachers comment on how much their students connect what they learned during the Farm to You visit with the lessons they are giving. Student response is greatly varied, but students consistently comment about learning of the importance of a varied diet and maintaining good hygiene.

We have really enjoyed working with students in Oklahoma through Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension for a number of years now. How does the Farm to You program complement The OrganWise Guys healthy living messages?

Farm to You and The OrganWise Guys programming complement each other very well. Students at schools using The OrganWise Guys curriculum have a solid grasp on nutrition education. These students engage in fruitful discussions with the station presenters, and ask thoughtful questions. Conversely, Farm to You provides an immersive, interactive experience that serves to reinforce The OrganWise Guys healthy living messages.

If a school in Oklahoma is interested in having the exhibit come for visit, what is necessary for scheduling and how long does it typically take to get it confirmed on the calendar?

A Farm to You visit is free. The requirements for a visit are as follows:

  • Have an indoor space available of 40ft by 40ft (half basketball court)
  • Have between 250 – 450 students from K – 6th grades per day. Groups of approximately 10 kids will enter the exhibit every 6 minutes. 
  • Have 5 – 8 volunteers the day before to set up the exhibit and 5 – 8 volunteers to take down. No children should be present during set up.
  • Have 10 volunteer station presenters to work from 8 am to 3 pm. It would be nice to have water bottles for them. Presenters typically include: teachers, parents, grandparents, high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) or honors societies and OK Home and Community Education (OHCE) volunteers.

Farm to You interactive learning exhibit for school age children.

Any school interested in scheduling the Farm to You exhibit should contact their local county extension office, or contact Cody Yount directly at least a month ahead of the date they are interested in hosting the exhibit.

5 Tips for Growing “Microgreens” Indoors

Today we continue our gardening series with Dr. Mary Ball, PhD, who after a 40-year career as a college biology professor, became a Tennessee Master Gardener and enjoys gardening with kids. Dr. Ball has helped secure funding for gardening, nutrition education, and hundreds of dollars worth of donated seeds to schools and afterschool programs in rural East Tennessee. 

(11) Mary Ball - Let's Grow Radish Seedlings

It’s a great time to learn about growing veggie seedlings indoors. Microgreens are tasty nutritious little seedlings you grow and eat at a very young state, offering the advantages of quicker harvests and of textures, colors, and flavors that differ from the harvests you expect to get by growing the seedlings to maturity.

Here are 5 tips for growing “microgreens” indoors:

  1. You can buy Microgreen Growing Kits, but you can try out this gardening method with just a packet of seeds (expired are OK), a shallow plastic “clamshell” container (like one that held blueberries), and some seed starter mix. 
  1. Start out using seeds that germinate easily and grow quickly. These include amaranth, beet, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, mizuna, mustard, or radish. Sow them thickly over damp seed starter mix. Microgreens are ready for harvest when they reach the “true leaf” stage (at least one pair of leaves have grown in addition to the first pair of so-called “seed leaves,” usually when seedlings are about 2 in. tall. Time from sowing to harvest varies by crop (generally from 7 to 21 days). Use scissors to cut the stems off just above the surface. Try sprinkling some on cream-cheese-covered crackers as a tasty snack, or add them to soups and salads.
  1. To avoid the dangers of contamination that may occur when growing “sprouts” (by just repeatedly rinsing seeds in a cloth-covered canning jar, for example), water the seedlings “from the bottom.” This means planting in trays with drainage holes and watering if needed by setting these trays briefly into ones without drainage holes.
  1. There is no official definition of “microgreens” but seed companies are beginning to list suggested seeds for “microgreens,” ones to harvest as “babies,” or as “teenagers,” in addition to “mixes” of seeds for microgreens, for stir fry, and for “cut and come again” (a harvesting method in which inner leaves are left to keep growing). So enjoy browsing online seed catalogs for these words to find other types of greens to explore!!!
  1. For evidence-based advice, contact a state extension service for articles such as the one from the New Hampshire Extension Service entitled Growing Microgreens in Your Home and one from the Florida Extension Service entitled Microgreens: A New Specialty Crop. (My advice today comes from the Tennessee Extension Service that was shared at my last monthly meeting of master gardeners.)

Kids and first-time gardeners can learn a lot about growing plants from seeds by keeping a Microgreen Gardener’s Journal, recording drawings, photos, measurements, and other details. What a great way to keep them involved throughout the growing process!

(11) Mary Ball - Ready to Sow Radish Seeds

(11) Mary Ball - Our Microgreen Microgarden