Lesson Plans

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Lesson Plan: Simple Steps to Upgrade Your Diet

31 January 2012

lesson_feb12A free web-based tool for nutrition educators shows how to “upgrade” favorite meals by changing the type of meat and poultry, side dishes and condiments to decrease fat and calories in breakfast, lunch and dinner menus.

Courtesy of the National Turkey Federation

As a nation, we are experiencing an epidemic of obesity. Today, an estimated 32.7% of U.S. adults 20 years and older are overweight, 34.3% are obese and 5.9% are morbidly obese, resulting in approximately $147 billion in direct and indirect healthcare costs annually. And because there is a strong correlation between obesity and such co-morbid conditions as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers, these costs are expected to double every 10 years. More problematic is the escalating rate of childhood obesity and the potential consequences for increased prevalence of chronic disease in future years.

In recognition of this growing health threat, former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, the current and all living former U.S. Surgeons General and many other health leaders have joined with virtually every major medical society and public health organization in advocating for a comprehensive approach to combating childhood obesity—from providing healthy foods in schools to empowering parents and caregivers to serve healthier meals at home. One of the goals of the Let’s Move! campaign is to “offer parents and caregivers the tools, support and information they need to make healthier choices and instill healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.”

In response to this challenge, Shape Up America! and the National Turkey Federation recently launched an awareness campaign to teach Americans that making small modifications to favorite meals is a simple strategy to reduce calories and fat in the family diet. Called “Simple Steps to Upgrade Your Diet,” the campaign features a free web-based tool—the Meal Upgrade Calculator—that shows how to “upgrade” favorite meals by changing the type of meat and poultry, the side dishes and even the condiments to decrease the amount of fat and calories in breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Developed by a team of Shape Up America! nutritionists, the calculator features 24 different meals where simple “upgrades” will improve the nutritional profile. Each time the “upgrade” is selected, the calculator shows the amount of fat and calories saved.

Now that the Meal Upgrade Calculator is readily available, nutrition educators have a new way to help Americans appreciate the cumulative benefits of small dietary changes and see how easy it is make these changes. To help put this resource into practice, this kit was developed to provide all the background information to incorporate the Meal

Upgrade Calculator as a teaching tool. Contents include:

  • Information on childhood obesity and the goals of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign
  • Background on the “meal upgrade” concept and how the “calculator” was developed
  • A list of questions and answers about the Meal Upgrade Calculator for responding to questions from students
  • Two reproducible fact sheets to use as handouts

To view and download “Simple Steps to Upgrade Your Diet,” visit http://www.eatturkey.com/upgrade_calculator_tool_kit.pdf.