The Top 10 Reasons to Use HECAT: Promoting Healthy Eating


With the rise in childhood obesity, there has been an increased focus on nutrition education.  The 2010 Carol M. White PEP Grant requires nutrition education and improvements in nutrition policies.  The importance of connecting nutrition education and physical activity is clear. Without healthy eating and physical activity, healthy balance isn’t possible.  Traditionally, health education assessment has focused on testing knowledge through written exams.  While this has been useful in testing knowledge, we know knowledge doesn’t directly correlate with health behaviors!  Now, with the Centers for Disease Control Health Education Curriculum Assessment Tool (HECAT): Module Healthy Eating, it is no longer necessary to be in a quandary about nutrition education components.  Here are the top 10 reasons HECAT:  Promoting Healthy Eating takes the mystery out of nutrition education.

1.    Assurance: The concepts, sub-skills and skill examples were developed through a rigorous CDC process guided by research evidence and expert opinion.  Healthy Kids Challenge Director, Vickie James, RD, LD was one of the experts!

2.    Parent-Community-Teacher Justification: It provides clear justification to address why a nutrition education curriculum was adopted and what it contains.  A curriculum aligned with HECAT makes teaching easier, as well as effective.

3.    Healthy Behaviors Identified: Thirteen healthy eating behavior outcomes make content needs very tangible.

4.    Clear Learning Targets: Besides knowledge content, it gives standards to indicate what the student should be able to do (the skills needed).  For example, students will be able to describe foods and beverages that should be limited and analyze influences on their choices, set goals and make healthier choices.

5.    Grade Group Specific: It takes the guesswork out of age appropriateness.  Content and skills are specific for each grade group, pre-K-2; 3-5; 6-8; and 9-12.  For example, while pre-K-2 will be able to choose a variety of healthy snacks, the older grade groups will be able to plan and prepare a healthy snack.

6.    Academic Gains: Eating breakfast every day is one of the healthy behavior outcomes.  Studies indicate students who eat breakfast learn better.  One study even connects iron fortified cereals and math scores.  Besides, breakfast eaters have an easier time maintaining healthy weights.

7.    Resource Friendly: Eating more fruits and veggie is a national goal and another of the healthy eating behaviors.  Many recent grants and resources are directed at this behavior outcome.

8.    Self Esteem and Peer Support: There have been reports of bullying not only about overweight but also because of food allergies.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards incorporates lessons about how to provide support to peers for making healthy choices; and how to refuse foods that cause allergic reactions or that are less nutritious.

9.    Change Facilitator: Change can be hard.  Healthy eating standards are aligned with changes happening in the school cafeteria, vending, classrooms and other places food is offered.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards helps students have a good understanding of the concepts behind the changes and provides opportunities for positive discussion.

10.  Achieve Effective PEP and Wellness Policy Outcomes: Nutrition education is a critical PEP and Wellness Policy component.  A curriculum meeting HECAT standards, not only fulfills this requirement, but it provides a reliable way to measure the true goal of healthier schools, which is students with healthier eating behaviors!

The good news is that such a curriculum does exist!  Healthy Kids Challenge is excited to announce the release of new nutrition education curricula, Balance My Day!  Make it a New Year’s resolution to check out Balance My Day, available January 1, 2011.  There is curriculum specific for three grade groups, K-2; 3-5; and 6-8.  Balance My Day is aligned with HECAT: Module Healthy Eating standards and is very teacher friendly.  The Healthy Kids Challenge goal is to make teaching and learning simple and fun.

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