|Reviewers Comments: ||Eating Smart, Being Active is a nutrition education tool for SNAP-Ed providers or anyone working with low-income audiences. This resource features a number of different components that help enhance the learning experience. The complete, detailed curriculum guide can help educators implement the program easily.
The curriculum consists of eight sequential lessons, each focusing on a specific topic: physical activity, food shopping and menu planning, vegetables, whole grains, calcium, protein, salt/sugar/fat, and a final review and celebration. Lessons range from 60 to 90 minutes long. Since the lessons have been carefully crafted to build on one another with adequate time in between, it is recommended that each lesson is taught in order once a week, over a two month period. Lessons have been updated to be consistent with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and to focus on the main messages of MyPlate. They are based on Dr. Joye A. Norris’ teaching approach of learner-centered facilitation. The curriculum was written to follow several adult learning theories, including the social learning theory and the experiential learning theory.
The curriculum is recommended for low-income adults who shop and prepare food for their families. It could also be adapted for use with whole family units. The recommended class size is less than 12 participants. More than 12 participants will make the lessons run longer and there may need to be some modifications made to the discussions and activities. It may also require an additional classroom assistant and another activity bin. Because each lesson incorporates a food preparation, demonstration or training, a classroom where food can be prepared is required. The facility does not need to be equipped with a full kitchen; however, a sink would be very helpful. Lessons can be adapted depending on the facility, time allotted for the lessons and number of participants.
The Educator’s Guide is the main resource component. The first section of the guide consists of an introduction and background material for the educator. It is recommended that the educator read this material thoroughly, as it will be very beneficial in implementing the curriculum. In addition to specific information on the lessons components and materials, the guide includes helpful information about teaching adults and practical tips on issues that may arise, such as food preparation questions and dealing with difficult participants. The guide also includes advice on creating a welcoming environment in the classroom and helping participants set attainable goals.
The bulk of the Educator’s Guide consists of the eight lesson plans. The long, detailed lesson plans are each contained in their own bound notebook, making it easier for the educator to grab and carry with them only the lesson he or she needs for the week. Lessons are printed in large font with a lot of pictures, making them easy to read and follow. Each part of the lesson is carefully spelled out in the lesson plan. Lessons each have their own goals, key messages, targeted food behavior change, participant worksheets and handouts. There are tips to help prepare the lesson for the educator, as well as an outline with a suggested duration for each activity or discussion. Icons are used throughout the lessons to help the educators easily identify and plan the lesson components. Each week there is a welcome and review, and participants are challenged to set goals for the coming week.
Eating Smart Being Active has a number of additional components that can help educators stay on track and help participants get the most out the lesson. Most lessons have 3 display visuals. Visuals are available in two sizes depending on the size of the group. These mini-posters consist of colorful photographs and highlight key messages from each of the lessons. Lesson planning and preparation tear sheets for the educators feature a checklist where the educator can list and check off lesson materials, food and cooking equipment, and other materials needed as they pack for the class.
The curriculum also contains three supplemental lessons that focus on infant and maternal nutrition: Eating Smart and Being Active During Pregnancy, Feeding Your New Baby, and Feeding Your Baby Solid Foods. Each of these lessons contains worksheets, a handout, visuals, and enhancements.
Participants also receive their share of additional components. Participant folders are a handy place for the participants to keep all their handouts together. For each lesson, there is a 7 x 8 ˝” booklet for participants featuring large text and brightly colored photographs. These participant handouts feature activity tips, money saving advice, and helpful hints from each of the lessons. The Physical Activity booklet includes low-impact exercises, such as stretching, strength and lower body exercises. There is at least one black and white photograph to go along with each activity described. The booklet also includes helpful information about warming up and cooling down, walking and exercise tips, and safety advice.
Another participant enhancement is a cookbook that also features cooking advice. This cookbook includes full-color pictures of all of the recipes in the curriculum and has tips on hand washing, measuring, cooking with kids, modifying recipes and recipe substitutions. It also has a list of foods to keep on hand, defines cooking terms and includes a basic review of label reading skills. Recipes are divided into chapters that correspond with each of the lessons. Many of the recipes are for Mexican or Tex-Mex foods. All of the recipes are appropriate for low-income participants, featuring few, low-cost and common ingredients. They include serving size, preparation time and cooking time. A nutrition facts panel is included for all recipes, which can enforce label reading skills. While many recipes are healthy, some are rather high in sodium, and a few are high in fat and saturated fat. The educator should stress the use of low-fat or fat-free dairy items in the recipes where applicable. The cookbook won the 2012 Award for Public Excellence (APEX) sponsored by the Editors of Writer's Web Watch, published by Communications Concepts, Inc.
Finally, participants are also provided with a lesson enhancement as a tool to help the participant adopt one of the key behaviors taught in the lesson. These incentives include reusable grocery bags, tote bags, an apron, measuring cups and spoons, a sports water bottle, a dishwashing brush, a grocery shopping checklist (designed to focus on key items and divided by food group) mini post-it notes, and an exercise band. Graduation certificates and volunteer are also included, which can be personalized with the participant’s or volunteer’s name and the educator’s signature.
Eating Smart Being Active is a well designed, comprehensive resource that includes tools a SNAP-Ed providers need to teach low-income families to make healthy choices.