Guest Editor: Jaffia Lewinsky, BS, Dietetics and Nutrition
Every day we read about how to increase our fruit and vegetable intake. Mainstream America has their version of “eat this not that,” “pomegranate is the new super food.” However, how can we get people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and developmental challenges to try eating more fruits and vegetables?
During my internship at the Special Olympics Health Community Program with Karlyn Emile, we created awareness on this topic by using two of very few health promotion curricula tailored to individuals with intellectual disabilities: HealthMatters, and Health U. While using both curricula, my fellow interns and I vowed as a team to help foster better eating habits and physical activities at the developmental center where we were.
So, what did we do to entice our students to eat more fruits and vegetables and engage in physical activities?
- Zumba fitness: An engaging activity that incorporates exercise disguised as dancing. In addition, the participants made maracas from recycled plastic bottles filled with dried beans to encourage all participants, especially those who are wheel chair bound to move.
- Wellness Wednesdays: In this activity participants experienced a world of new flavors that included tasty fruit and vegetable smoothies. After participants sampled our smoothies they were asked to rate the flavor on a Likert Scale. We then used this data in the selection of other fruits and vegetables that are best liked by this population.
Awful Not very good Good Really good
- Taste testing: This component was included in the weekly class sessions based on the topic of the week, e.g. whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, protein, fats, sugar etc. For example, when we taught about the importance of grains in the diet we did not only talk about what grains are but we prepared a simple tasty recipe of a grain for everyone to try.
- Nutrition Education Re-enforcement: This section was incorporated in each lesson plan, with the use of visual displays on boards, charts, memory joggers and overhead display (PowerPoint®) to enforce the message for the week.
Overall, when teaching and counseling our students with IDD, we found that what they have to say was usually the most important source of data. We also found that restating educational materials via repetition, and utilizing patience was essential to their success.
The aforementioned health curricula tailored to individuals with IDD can found here:
Health U.: A Nutrition Curriculum for Teenagers with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Health Matters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for People with Developmental Disabilities 1st Edition
Health Promotion for People With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities