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Why Education on Healthy Eating is Important

Childhood Obesity is an epidemic affecting children of all ages. But poor nutrition doesn’t only appear as excess body weight. A poor diet can contribute to problems like chronic constipation, gastrointestinal reflux, urinary tract infections, bedwetting, difficulty paying attention, anxiety and fatigue.

Feeding disorders are also increasingly more prevalent in young children. Feeding disorders can range from picky eating to more severe issues requiring specialized therapy. Often parents are not sure how to overcome picky eating in toddlers and preschoolers. Children can easily fall into eating the usual “kid-friendly foods” which are low in nutrients, but high in fat, salt, and sugar.

But what if there is a better way? What if we can introduce preschoolers to the delicious flavors and health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables and get them excited about preparing foods themselves in the classroom? What if that excited preschooler takes their new knowledge and skills home, encouraging his or her family to try new foods and cook together?

How It Works

Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure is an evidence based interactive curriculum designed to introduce preschoolers to the joy of eating fruits and vegetables. This curriculum was written by Nimali Fernando, MD, MPH, (“Dr. Yum”) a pediatrician and founder of the nonprofit The Dr. Yum Project, and Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP (“Coach Mel”), a certified speech language pathologist specialized in pediatric feeding, and owner of My Munch Bug. Dr. Yum and Coach Mel are also co-authors of the award-winning book, Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Parent’s Handbook.

This 6th edition of our proven interactive curriculum features 24 lessons (which can be used over two years) presented by preschool teachers once a month. Using the fun characters, Dr. Yum, Coach Mel and Munch Bug, each lesson introduces a seasonal fruit or vegetable, explains their nutritional benefits to preschoolers, and guides them through a mindful appreciation of the new food using all of the senses. Many extension activities, which meet NAEYC standards, can be used to deepen the experience and familiarity with the new food through art, literacy, movement, music, science and community connections. Lastly, students work together with a few basic kitchen tools to prepare a simple snack using the featured fruit or vegetable. Preschoolers practice motor skills like pouring and cutting while continuing to practice cognitive skills like mathematics and language. Teachers are provided materials with helpful tips and ideas on how to use encouraging language and engage preschoolers in enjoying healthy foods. Coach Mel also includes valuable information on overcoming some of the challenges presented by selective eaters, with fun ideas that can be applied to all types of preschoolers. Parents are also given a variety of materials and information about the program so they can continue the joyful approach to healthy eating in the home.

What is included:

  • Teacher training in the beginning of each school year with teacher training certificates for all who successfully complete the program
  • Feedback and support throughout the year from the Dr. Yum Project Team
  • Link to training videos for new teachers
  • Teacher Manual
  • Curriculum binders containing 24 monthly lessons with family-tested recipes that can easily be prepared without the need for a kitchen.
  • Circle time experience and extension activities for each lesson
  • Class Party Toolbox: includes ideas for healthy class parties with recipes
  • Parent Manual (English and Spanish)
  • Parent feedback sheets for each lesson (English and Spanish)
  • Monthly e-letters for teachers and parents
  • “Dancing in the Kitchen” Music Download Card
  • EZPZ Happy Mat to present foods at Circle Time
  • 6 Kuhn Rikon kid-safe “dog knives”
  • 6 colorful cutting mats
  • Yum Scores for kids to use to talk about how food tastes
  • “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater,” an award-winning book, and a top seller in Children’s Health written by Dr. Nimali Fernando and Melanie Potock
  • “Adventures in Veggieland” by Melanie Potock with more recipes and healthy eating tips
  • “Broc and Cara’s Picnic Party” - a delightful kids’ book on healthy eating
  • “Broc and Cara’s Gut Book” which explains the microbiome and health to kids
  • Window cling to display in your teaching facility and graphic for your school’s website to announce to families you are participating in the Dr. Yum Food Adventure

Why it works

This one-of-a-kind curriculum works because it was written by a pediatrician and a pediatric feeding therapist who understand how preschoolers become picky eaters and how to prevent picky eating with a joyful approach. Rounding out the creative team are seasoned preschool teachers and registered dietitian, making sure kids learn nutrition in the most fun and engaging ways. Parent involvement is a key to success so a parent handbook, monthly feedback sheets with recipes and a monthly newsletter give parents the language and approach to continue the education at home. The curriculum is designed for kids of all abilities, and in particular, has shown impressive results in classrooms which include children with special needs.

Research & Impact

Dr. Nancy Zucker, director of the Center for Eating Disorders at Duke University, teamed up with the Dr. Yum Project to study the effect of this program on attitudes and behaviors around healthy eating at home and at school. Parents and teachers were surveyed about individual students’ eating behaviors before and after the curriculum. The parents showed an increase in understanding the importance of cooking with children, as well as a significantly higher appreciation of introducing plain water as a preferred drink. But that’s just the results of the parent surveys.

In the United States, 64 percent of preschoolers are cared for weekly by someone other than their parents or primary caregivers, so it was important to determine if teachers noticed changes in their students’ eating behaviors as a result of the curriculum. Our teachers evaluated roughly 400 students and were asked the following nine questions, in pre and post surveys, about the feeding behaviors of each child:

  • My student loves food.
  • My student is interested in food.
  • My student refuses to eat food at first.
  • My student enjoys tasting new foods.
  • My student enjoys a wide variety of foods.
  • My student looks forward to mealtimes.
  • My student enjoys eating.
  • My student enjoys tasting new foods that he/she hasn’t eaten before.
  • My student decides that she/he doesn’t like a food, even without tasting it.

Results showed that after nine Dr. Yum Preschool Food Adventure lessons, students showed significant improvement in ALL nine areas. These findings were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Meeting in Orlando and at the American Speech Language Hearing National Convention in Boston.

Testimonials

“One year one of our students was a very picky eater and was suffering from constipation. After using the Dr. Yum Preschool Food Adventure, he found healthy snacks that he loved and his mom started making them at home, too. His digestive issues quickly improved and he was even able to stop medication. We learned from Dr. Fernando that constipation can lead to urinary issues, and our teachers noticed that as this student began eating better and his constipation improved he stopped needing a pull-up at naptime. This curriculum really helped him in so many ways!” —Debbie, Daycare Director
“It’s been amazing to finally have a snack program that works in the special needs population. It encompasses all of our philosophies and techniques when working with children who have Feeding difficulties And at the same time is easily modified to meet the needs of any child. When your students request, ‘more’ of their Kale Smoothie, that is something to be celebrated!” —Jessica Fioretti, MA, CCC-SLP
“Proper nutrition has always been a focus of our Head Start program. Dr. Yum offers our students the opportunity to explore and taste fresh produce. It is designed to engage all of the senses while allowing the child to participate at their comfort level. Our students have treasured the opportunity to take part in creating a recipe they can enjoy from start to finish even the cutting! I genuinely believe that if our students are exposed to fresh food early in life at Head Start through this program, it can have a ripple effect that can benefit them and their families well into their future.” —Laura Dove, Curriculum Manager, Fredericksburg Regional Head Start
“As Cafeteria Manager at Holy Cross Academy I have noticed a difference in the eating habits of our students, in particular the new Kindergarten students who have gone through the Dr. Yum program at our preschool. Their knowledge of food and willingness at such a young age to try new things has truly been an eye opener for all of us. Keep up the good work!” —Mary Beall, Cafeteria Manager, Holy Cross Academy
“Maggie was always more willing to try new foods because her friends were doing it as well and because she helped to prepare it. Our family realized the true magic of the Dr. Yum Project [when] Maggie was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. This was an overwhelming change for us and it was made infinitely easier because of our experience with the Dr. Yum Project. Maggie’s favorite recipes (such as Pineapple Power Salad and ABC Dip) were naturally gluten free. Thanks to the monthly lessons, she understood (at four years old!) that different foods contain different nutrients needed for a healthy body. When we explained that she was deficient in certain nutrients, she was more willing to try new foods. She knows that her new diet means that she needs to be more willing to try new things and the Dr. Yum Project has helped reinforce this.” —Emily Kaye, Preschooler mom

Purchase process

Ready to order Dr. Yum’s Preschool Food Adventure? Schools that are considered for participation must receive training and sign paperwork to begin the adventure. Here are the steps you will need to take in order for your school to receive the curriculum:

  1. Fill out this contact form. CONTACT FORM »
  2. Go to our store to purchase or email us if you would like to pay by check (info@doctoryum.org). We are only adding 50 classrooms to our existing program, so please hurry. There is a reasonable fee of $489 (plus applicable taxes and shipping) for materials and training. We are a non-profit, supported by grants and donations, so thank you for supporting us and our dream to take this curriculum nationwide in the near future! PURCHASE FROM STORE »
  3. The Dr. Yum Preschool Food Adventure undertakes a unique approach to introducing fruits and vegetables in a joyful and mindful way. Using a multi-sensory approach, we encourage children to participate at their own comfort level. Our video training modules teach the teachers, aides and administrators how to speak to children about healthy foods using new language and techniques. It is essential to the success of this program!
  4. When steps 1 and 2 are successfully completed, the Dr. Yum team will send a password to access the Teacher Training videos and quiz. At least one teacher will need to complete the video training and pass the test prior to the curriculum being shipped. All staff involved in presenting the curriculum will need to take the training, pass the quiz and sign a Participating School Agreement before they participate in instruction. Each will receive a three hour training certificate.
  5. Each person who is trained must fill out our Participating School Agreement form and fax to (540) 710-7500 or email to info@doctoryum.org Participating School Agreement »
  6. Once at least one person in the school passes the quiz and sends the Participating School Agreement, the curriculum kit will be shipped and the school will receive a second password to access our Teacher Yum Portal.
  7. You’re joining a community of educators. We want to stay in contact and keep sharing. We ask that as a member of this educational community, you update us each year with the current contact information for all educators using the curriculum at your facility. Periodically, let us know how your students are enjoying the adventure! Email us anytime at info@doctoryum.org