Using the new "Food Plate" model, School of Public Health dietician Jamie Stang offers tips on how to pack a healthy and well-balanced school lunch.
U of M experts available to discuss back-to-school topics
Topics include packing healthy lunches, learning new technologies, teaching social media, staying healthy and choosing a major
Packing the perfect lunch
Jamie Stang, associate professor and dietician, School of Public Health
It may be easy to toss a bag of chips, a juice box, a pre-packaged sandwich and a few cookies into a lunch pail -- but it’s certainly not the most nutritional option when it comes to school lunches.
When packing a lunch, Stang says parents should use the new dietary food plate as a model. That means about one-half of the lunch should consist of fruits and vegetables (carrot sticks, bananas or grapes) and the other half should provide protein and carbohydrates (tuna, PB&J, crackers, yogurts and cheese).
As far as beverages, Stang says to drink water instead of sugary drinks and switch to fat-free or 1 percent milk.
“Parents should stay away from foods high in solid fat and added sugars,” Stang says. “These are the foods we try to keep at a minimum for Americans, and particularly kids.”
Stang says consumers should always check food labels before purchasing. An item may look healthy but could have a lot of added sugar or be extremely high in sodium, which effectively cancels out most of its nutritional value.
Ready-made lunches are not cost effective either, she says.
“People will buy pre-made and processed foods because they think they’re cheap and quick, but you can make healthy alternatives for a similar or lower price.”
Watch a video of Stang offering tips on how to pack a healthy lunch at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wr76NJujOU0.
Stang’s research interests are in gestational diabetes prevention and treatment; maternal and child health and nutrition; community-based participatory research; and nutrition in children with special health care needs.
Keeping kids healthy and safe from germs
Dr. Emily Borman-Shoap, pediatrician, Medical School, University of Minnesota Physicians
Keeping kids in the classroom rather than at home sick is easier said than done -- especially since the common cold and other illnesses can spread quickly in a school setting.
Borman-Shoap has a couple tips for keeping kids healthy this fall:
- Begin the day with a healthy breakfast
- Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Stay active
- Get enough sleep, at least 8 hours per night (even more for younger children)
And if a child is sick, don’t send them to school, Borman-Shoap says. They’ll have a quicker road to recovery resting at home and won’t run the risk of infecting other students.
Borman-Shoap’s clinical interests include medical student and resident education. She serves as the director of the continuity clinic rotation for the U of M pediatric residency program.
Teaching kids how to handle social media
Shayla Thiel-Stern, assistant professor, School of Journalism and Mass Communication
Thiel-Stern says social media can be an intense experience for children and adolescents who generally do not have the emotional maturity to handle the immediacy and publicity.
“They want to participate in sites like Facebook at a young age because it represents a space that's free from parents and teachers, and a space where they can negotiate their social lives and identities interactively with their peers,” she said. “That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but parents should be wary of letting their kids dive in before they’re emotionally ready and responsible enough to handle all of the ramifications of their participation."
Thiel-Stern’s research interests focus on the intersections of new media, youth and gender. Her first book, “Instant Identity: Adolescent Girls and the World of Instant Messaging,” was published by Peter Lang Publishing in March 2007.
Technology: An impetus for education innovation
Cassandra Scharber, assistant professor, College of Education and Human Development
Just like modern life cannot be separated from technology, education cannot be separated from technology. The key to meaningful teaching and learning is inquiry: technology is simply another tool to use for teaching and learning, Scharber says.
“Parents should advocate for and support technology-infused teaching and learning in schools. Parents should also understand that teaching/learning does not ‘look’ the same as when they were in school,” Scharber says. “Parents should be willing to play with technology and their kids, and also encourage their kids to teach and share technology-related questions and skills with them.”
The range of technology being used in schools runs the gamut from little to no use to fully online schools. Sometimes little or no use has to do with access to technology.
She says iPads are the newest “hot” technology being used in schools and mobile/smart phones are one of the most underutilized technologies.
As a former middle and high school teacher, Scharber’s professional life is centered on education and the possibilities it holds for a brighter future. Her research explores the nexus of literacy, power and technology and the possibilities technology offers in aiding the transformation of teaching and learning.
Choosing your major: For love or money?
Paul Timmins, career services director, College of Liberal Arts
What’s more important when choosing a major – picking a degree that has potential to help someone earn lots of money or choosing one that fits their skill set and strengths?
Timmins says many students are interested in finding the "best" major, but what they should really be looking for is the one that is the "best" for them. They should choose a degree according to their unique strengths, interests and priorities, he says.
“Employers are looking for job candidates with the skills that are needed for their jobs,” Timmis says. “For some jobs, the major is an important determinant of the candidate's ability to do the job. But for many jobs, the major is only one part of the candidate's qualifications.”
In fact, Timmins often reminds students that their major might literally be one single word on their resume. The rest of their experiences, including internships, volunteer work, part time jobs and other things also may be important ways of building the skills that employers require.
Paul Timmins is the career services director in the College of Liberal Arts and has been in that role since coming to the university in 1999.