Spotlight Blog


Celebrate Easter in Good Health

Posted by letsgo on April 16, 2014

Authored by Reegan Brown Let’s Go! Program Coordinator

Easter is just around the corner…what’s one of the first things that often comes to mind for our children this holiday? You may find it’s the Easter treats! Easter traditions like Easter baskets and egg hunts are a fun and favorite event among kids of all ages, and yet much of the time these and other traditions can leave our children with an overwhelming amount of sugary snacks. If your household has always included plenty of chocolate bunnys, peeps and other candy at your celebration, it can be really difficult to change things up for healthier options. But if you want to start making new family traditions that are healthier without sacrificing any of the fun, there are things you can do THIS YEAR to start changing things up. Try adopting some of these tips into your Easter celebration to not only limit the sugar crashes your kids experience but still keep your Easter holiday fun and delicious.

Tips for Easter Baskets:

• Items inside an Easter basket do not need to be edible; try a jump rope, ball, new book, bookmarks, playdough or sidewalk chalk

• Consider home-made goodies instead of store purchased

• If you choose to purchase candy, smaller and less is better. Try only including a small amount of a candy you know is your child’s absolute favorite.


easter-13646_640Tips for Easter Egg Hunts:

• Fill eggs with written ‘passes’ that include fun physical activities. For example: “Free Pass to the…Park, Pool, Beach, Playground” etc.

• Fill eggs with bunny graham crackers, dried fruit, nuts, or popcorn 

• Fill each egg with a clue about the next egg’s location and an “action” that needs to be done while looking for the next egg. For example, hop like a bunny, waddle like a baby chick, etc.

• Fill eggs with spare change for your kid’s piggy banks or ‘kindness coins’

Do an internet search of “healthy alternatives for Easter baskets and egg hunts” and you’ll have plenty of ideas to choose from! Remind your kids what this holiday is all about and try making your Easter a healthier one for the years to come.



Do You Know What Your Child’s Cafeteria is Serving?

Posted by letsgo on April 3, 2014

Authored by: Reegan Brown Let’s Go! Program Coordinator

With updated standards from the USDA, school meals across the nation are changing for the better. Cafeterias are being stocked with healthier options and teachers and school staff are playing an important role in the success of school lunch. Here’s one example of how Maine is making changes.

On March 18th, students at Alfred Elementary left their cafeteria with a belly full of nutritious food and a smile on their face. Like many other days throughout the school year, Superintendent Dr. John Davis had just finished serving students homemade turkey dogs or “pigs in a blanket” (complete with whole wheat dough) alongside RSU #57 School Nutrition Director, Lynnette Harriman. Dottie Janotta, Administrative Assistant for the school nutrition program, was wrapping up her time spent greeting students at the salad bar to assist them with serving fresh carrots, corn and kiwi slices.

“Being that I’m new to the district, serving lunch at the schools gives students the opportunity to meet me while also providing a chance for me to understand what challenges our nutrition staff are facing so I can help with strategies for improvement.” commented Dr. Davis.

While Dr. Davis interacted with each of the 150 students who participated in school lunch, Kitchen Manager, Cris Morison and Baker/Cook, Vanessa Richardson circulated the cafeteria with a new chickpea recipe for students to taste test.

“These are so yummy!” exclaimed two 1st graders, Ella and Chelsea while others combined their chickpeas with the corn on their plates for a tasty combination. Let’s Go! York County commends RSU #57 for embracing these changes and setting a good example for how school cafeterias can encourage children’s healthy choices.


You know lunch is important, so why aren’t you making yourself something nutritious?

Posted by letsgo on March 26, 2014

Authored by: Adrienne Gallant
Let’s Go! Knox Coordinator

Every weekday morning, I wake up and figure out what I’m going to make to put in my children’s lunch boxes for school and daycare. I always make sure that each lunch includes a healthy snack (or two, depending on the day), a healthy lunch with some form of protein, whole grains, plenty of fruits and/or vegetables and little to no added sugars. I pack these lunches with plenty of thought and care and then run out of the house and wait with my first grader for the bus, drop my other daughter off at her childcare and then head into work.

Have you noticed who I forgot to make lunch for? In case you didn’t catch it, here’s a hint: it’s the person writing this blog! That’s right, ME!!! In all of the hustle and bustle of the morning routine, which usually involves some cajoling and refereeing, I usually forget to pack a nutritious lunch for myself. I justify this by thinking “Well, at least my children will be energized for the day, I can figure something out once I’m at work.” After talking to many parents in the same situation, I’ve decided that I’m not the only one who goes through this. You might be thinking, “This is exactly what I’m going through but how do I change it?” Luckily I have some thoughts on that.

The first step is to make a list on the weekend of what everybody’s lunches are going to look like for the upcoming week. From that menu, you can create a pretty accurate grocery list. Remember to include a form of protein, some whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Also keep in mind that leftovers make a wonderful lunch the next day so plan in a couple of leftover lunches for yourself (your kiddos might not have the ability to heat up their lunches but most workplaces probably do). You might be thinking, “This all sounds great, but what does a lunch with protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables actually look like?!?” Here’s one of my favorites:

• Burrito made with ½ cup black beans, ½ cup brown rice, salsa and 2 tablespoons low-fat plain Greek yogurt on a 6 inch whole wheat tortilla (feel free to add any other vegetables you like on burritos like lettuce, onion, and peppers, too)

• Orange

• Tea, coffee or water

Click here for more examples like this one (and a shopping list)!


The Nutrition Facts Label is Finally Getting a Facelift

Posted by letsgo on March 13, 2014

 Authored by Emily Cooke, Early Childhood Program Manager, Let’s Go!

Raise your hand if you are interested in eating well, or at least would like to have the information to, if you so felt the urge. Well, for those of us with our hand raised high, our lives are about to get just a little bit easier. The FDA has finally released their long-awaited proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.

The Nutrition Facts Label, which I will lovingly refer to as NFL from here on out, is that black and white label found on nearly all packaged food. It lists the amount of calories, Old NFLfat, protein, carbohydrate and other certain nutrients found in a serving of food, and the FDA’s proposed changes to it include some definite improvements. You can see a picture of the current NFL verses the proposed NFL to the right.

This will be the first revision of the label since its adoption in 1990, aside from the addition of trans fat in 2003. Nutrition experts have long been calling for an overhaul of the label to reflect the major advances in nutrition over the last 25 years. While the FDA has addressed many of the concerns and recommendations of experts in this proposed revision, some, like the actual percentage of whole grains in a food, are not yet being adopted. However, Let’s Go! believes there are some very good changes being proposed.

Some of the major changes include:

• More emphasis on calories and serving size

• More emphasis on the types of fat verses total fat content or calories from fat

• Addition of the grams of added sugar in a product

• Addition of the amount of vitamin D and potassium as well as the actual amount of each vitamin and mineral per serving (vs. just the % Daily Value)

You may find there are some pretty strong opinions on adjusting the serving sizes of certain foods to the amount people actually eat as one serving. However, regardless of whether or not this adjustment should be made, for now, it actually has to be. The original food labeling law of 1990 requires that the serving size listed on the NFL be based upon what people actually eat, not what they should eat. The FDA has said that some serving sizes will be increased, while a few will also be decreased.Proposed NFL

Now keep in mind that these are just proposed rules. This means that the final rule may or may not contain all these components and could take up to a year to be released. Let’s Go! urges you to take the time to submit a comment to the FDA saying you support these changes and want to see them follow through with everything they have proposed! We have less than 90 days to make our voices heard; the comment period ends June 2nd. You can count on Let’s Go! putting in our two-cents of support. 

To see the full details of the proposed changes click here.



Gorham School District Celebrates with Physical Activity!

Posted by letsgo on March 6, 2014

 Authored by Ashley Edmondson, Let’s Go! Cumberland County Coordinator
Public Health Program The Opportunity Alliance

Let’s Go! Cumberland County Applauds Gorham School District to Celebrate with Physical Activity!

Gorham classroom studentsAt Village, Narragansett, and Great Falls Elementary School in Gorham, Maine you will find kids smiling, laughing, and having fun at classroom celebrations – using activities that don’t involve food! During the spring of 2013, Let’s Go! Champion, Frank DeFrancesco, led the initiative with his wellness team to promote physical activity and provide child friendly, non-food items during classroom celebrations for all K-5 schools. This movement began when the Great Falls wellness team saw how important it was for school staff and students to increase opportunities for physical activity and promote healthy nutrition throughout the school day.

Frank’s local Let’s Go! Coordinator, Ashley Edmondson, connected him with Paula Harris, the former Let’s Go! Champion at Pond Cove, whose school has been successfully providing fun, non-food celebrations for over 10 years. Paula provided Frank’s team with resources to successfully implement the new practice and educate staff and parents on the benefits of these improved celebrations. Great Falls wellness team also reached out to Windham Raymond School District, whom recently revised their wellness policy to include fun, non-food celebrations. With the help of these schools, Frank created a researched-based presentation on the impact of unhealthy behaviors and the importance of supporting healthier behaviors through by introducing non-food celebrations. The presentation provided a number of reasons why a change in practice is critical for children’s health AND academic success.

Benefits of non-food celebrations include:

• Provides a fun way to celebrate special events and successes.

• Provides options that are beneficial to a child’s health, development and education.

• Provides a supportive environment for healthy eating that doesn’t challenge a parent’s decision to ensure their child eats healthy during the school day.

• Reduces the potential for children’s exposure to foodborne illness.

• Considers the needs of all students, helping to limit potential harm due to special dietary needs or food allergies.

• Supports health education curriculum.

Gorham’s three elementary school’s new practice to provide non-food celebrations was supported by the school administration last April and has taken effect during this school year. An informational letter was sent home to parents announcing the new practice, with a majority of parents responding positively:

“For my family the no foods for celebration program has helped us snack healthier at home too. I find myself buying much more veggies and fruits for them to snack on outside of school rather than quick snack packs of something… it’s actually helped me get in touch with my creative side as now I put together nonedible treats for my kids’ class and it’s so much more fun and healthy!” – Debra Chasse – parent of a Kindergarten and Grade 3 student

“I think it’s great that Great Falls has adopted the no food for celebration procedure. It’s better for them and it teaches kids that there is more to celebrations than the sugary treats. My daughter doesn’t miss it a bit.” – Stacy Smith – parent of a Grade 1 student

Great Falls wellness team also surveyed Gorham School District staff through email and found that over 70% of staff supported the implementation of more fun and active non-food celebrations. As the district website states: “Non-food tokens such as stickers or pencils can be used to celebrate birthdays while promoting a healthier school environment.”

Non-food classroom activityOn behalf of the Let’s Go! Cumberland County team and our statewide Let’s Go! community, we would like to congratulate the Great Falls wellness team for their hard work and success in supporting children’s health!



Eating Healthy on a Budget

Posted by letsgo on February 27, 2014

Authored by Adrienne Gallant,
Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator

The holidays are behind us and we are in the middle of winter here in Maine. Many of us just want to hibernate until the cold is gone and eat warm, comforting foods. Some folks make New Year resolutions to eat healthier. This can be particularly difficult to do, especially on a budget. Here are some helpful hints on how to maximize your budget and eat healthy too this winter!

  1. Plan ahead: Take some time on the weekend to plan 3-4 healthy dinners for the coming week. There’s no need to make a meal every day of the week, make some extra that can be eaten on those busy nights—leftovers!
  2. Use what you have: Before going shopping, take an inventory of what you already have in your fridge, pantry and freezer and incorporate that into your meal planning.
  3. Make a list and stick to it!
  4. Look for sales: When you’re planning your menu look at the flyers and plan your menu around the fruits and vegetables that are on sale that week!
  5. Try canned or frozen produce: They keep for a long time and can be less expensive per serving than fresh produce. Look for items that are made with no added sauces or sugar, or that are labeled “low sodium”, “no salt added” or “in 100% juice”.
  6. Shop in season: Buying fruits and vegetables in season usually means your food tastes better and costs less. Check out your local farmers’ markets or farm stands in your community. Check out Let’s Go!’s list of seasonal fruits and veggies in Maine.
  7. Go generic: Try store brands! Store brands on average are cheaper by about 26-28% and the quality is usually the same or better than name brand products!
  8. Buy in bulk: Buy in bulk when foods are on sale. Frozen and canned vegetables and some fresh items (like apples and carrots) will last a long time.
  9. Shop the perimeter: Although you’ve probably heard this one a lot, it’s true! Spend most of your budget on foods found around the outside of the store like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein foods. Limit your shopping in the middle aisles to staples like whole wheat pasta, rice, canned tuna and almond butter or peanut butter.
  10. Compare unit prices: Use the unit price to compare similar products. This will help make sure you are getting the best deal. The unit price is usually found on the sticker on the shelf beneath the item.
  11. Don’t shop hungry!!! People who shop when they’re hungry or stressed tend to buy more food as well as unhealthier food items

Print a copy of this list and post it at home.


Let’s Go! Kennebec Celebrates Family Friendly Winter Activities With WinterFest Event

Posted by letsgo on February 11, 2014

Children Sledding at WinterFest EventAuthored by Laura Howell,
Let’s Go! Kennebec Site Coordinator

On January 5, over 100 people gathered at Green St. Park in the South End of Waterville for WinterFest, an event sponsored by Inland Hospital’s Let’s Go! Family Fun Series. The Let’s Go! Family Fun Series is a collaboration of Inland Hospital, the Alfond Youth Center, Waterville Parks & Recreation, and other local organizations. The series features free, monthly family-friendly events in the greater Waterville area. 


Family getting set up for cross country skiing

Families came from all over Northern-Kennebec County with sleds ready to go, and the large hill located at the park was the scene of a fun-filled active afternoon.  The Central Maine Ski Club donated sleds for the children to use, and they plowed a track in the shape of a figure-8 in the snow for skiing and snowshoeing. Cross-country skis as well as an abundance of family-friendly snowshoes provided by Healthy Hometowns were put to great use all afternoon. Many of the families and children who used them had never skied before and ending up loving it.  A StoryWalk featuring the book From Head to Toe by Eric Carle demonstrated that even story time could be an active time for families!  Soup and hot apple cider provided some warmth and sustenance for participants while taking a break from the action. The refreshments donated by Inland were served by friendly South End Neighborhood Association (SENA) volunteers.



Families cross county skiing at WinterFest EventThe event could not have been possible without the support of local partners and many enthusiastic volunteers. For more information about the Family Fun Series or to register your family, check out the Inland website, or contact Ellen Wells, Community Wellness Coordinator at Inland Hospital at ewells@emhs.orgor 861-3292.


Country Kids Preschool makes great strides in creating a healthy eating and active living environment.

Posted by letsgo on January 30, 2014

Authored by Bethany Fortier, MPH
Community Transformation Coordinator, York District

Children playing the Rainbow Food shopping gameThrough support from the Community Transformation Grant and Let’s Go! York County, Country Kids Preschool in Lyman has made great strides in creating an environment that promotes healthy eating and active living. Each month Casey Marcotte, Country Kids Preschools Director, makes a Preschool Newsletter and Calendar for families outlining their plans. Starting this past September Casey has been including handouts from the 5-2-1-0 Goes to Childcare binder or the Nutrition Nuggets News. Casey has also found creative ways to increase movement, on these cold winter days, in a safe and structured way. Thanks to recent funding from the Community Transformation Grant the preschool purchased new movement games for the children. One game is a bean bag toss game that has animal photos on each bean bag. This has been a favorite! It’s a fun mystery as to which animal movement the children choose and have to act out! Another fun game Casey picked was an alphabet game. It’s a fabulous game to reinforce alphabet learning while moving their bodies around on the mats. This game has many variations. The children enjoy “freeze dancing” around on them, hopping from mat to mat and when the music stops the children “freeze” and state the letter/sound they are standing on. Another simple yet favorite movement game the children have enjoyed is placing orange cones around the classroom (see video below). Teachers race to knock the cones over while students race to stand them up!

A constant goal of Casey’s is to offer a healthy variety of snacks and new foods. Recently the children enjoyed a “friendship snack”. Girls were asked to bring a fruit while boys were asked to bring their favorite cracker. It was a fun way to get the children involved in creating a healthy snack together by bringing what was a favorite for them and maybe something new to another child. Through funding from the Community Transformation Grant, the preschool also purchased grocery shopping baskets and use them for a variety of games. The “rainbow food” shopping activity is educational and fun. For this game Casey hides foods the colors of the rainbow encouraging “shopping for variety & colors”. Foods are placed all around the class and children go back and forth around the room, shopping for the rainbow, until they’ve found an item of each color!

“I love that 5-2-1-0 [Let's Go!] and the Community Transformation Grant has been an amazing resource for Country Kids Preschool and our community,” says Casey. “Nutrition and fitness have always been a passion of mine that started when I was a child. It’s very exciting to me to have a program working with me, sharing the same passion and excitement.”


Let’s Go! Cumberland County Celebrates Sites Recognized for Promoting Healthy Eating and Active Living

Posted by letsgo on January 28, 2014

Authored by Ashley Edmondson, Let’s Go! Coordinator
Communities Promoting Health Coalition, A program of The Opportunity Alliance

Collage of Cumberland County Celebration PhotosThe Let’s Go! Cumberland County team hosted their first recognition event to honor hard-working childcare, school, after-school and physician champions within their community.  This celebration brought together multiple sites from each setting to acknowledge and commend their commitment and dedication to children’s health.  Sites were able to network and meet other champions in different settings from around Cumberland County.   

The celebration took place in the beautiful Timbers Rooms located at The Opportunity Alliance in South Portland.  After mingling and indulging in the delicious food catered by Local Sprouts, the participants played a Let’s Go! Bingo game, designed to spark conversation between sectors, staff, and site leaders. The game was followed by welcoming and honoring two special guests- President and CEO of the United Way of Greater Portland, Suzanne McCormick and the Director of the Let’s Go! Program, Dr. Tory Rogers.  Suzanne McCormick acknowledged Cumberland County’s efforts to collaborate and integrate Let’s Go! into other initiatives designed to promote health in Cumberland County, such as the local Healthy Maine Partnerships and Community Transformation Grant work. She shared that Let’s Go! is continuing to grow in Cumberland County, with 116 sites enrolled in the program that  are working towards increasing access to healthy foods and creating opportunities for physical activity!

During a fantastic story-telling session, Dr. Tory Rogers encouraged sites to share what they were most proud of and how the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 program has made an impact on their program or in their school.  Deborah, Program Director from A Child’s World, a center based childcare in Windham stated, “Listening to other sites share their story was inspiring and provided us with more ideas!”

Let’s Go! Cumberland County plans to hold this event annually and is excited to see more sites creating healthy environments for children to learn and play!

         Recognized LG Cumberland County Schools  Recognized LG Cumberland County After School Programs Recognized LG Cumberland County Childcares


Making healthy choices a priority in 2014!

Posted by letsgo on January 21, 2014

Authored by Adrienne Gallant
Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator

Happy New Year ImageHave you ever felt that you just don’t have time to squeeze in one more thing to your day? Your day is full of work, kids, after school programs, sports, supper, bedtime….and the list goes on and on and on…. Just the thought of trying to find time to get in any type of exercise might just make your brain explode. Even though studies have shown that regular physical activity can help control your weight, reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, strengthen bones and muscles, improve moods and much more (, exercising is usually one of the first things we drop from our “to-do” list.

To help you squeeze in a few minutes of physical activity each day here are some examples of exercises you can do just about anywhere: at work, on a walk, at lunch, during commercials when you’re watching TV…you get the picture!*

  1. Kneeling push-ups: start with your knees on the ground, feet lifted and your hands directly under your shoulders. Put your body in a kneeling plank position. Slowly lower your chest down and push your body back up to the starting position. You can also do these on the wall to start or on your toes as you get stronger!
  2. Planks: start by lying face down. Place your elbows directly below your shoulders and your forearms under your chest and prop yourself onto your toes and forearms. Make sure your back is flat and don’t let your hips to sag toward the ground. If this is too hard try it from a kneeling position first. Start by holding this position for 10 seconds and work your way up!
  3. Squats: sit back like you’re sitting on a chair, bend at the knees, hinge at the waist and put your weight in your heels. Be careful not to extend your knees over your toes! Stand up! Taking care of knees or just starting out? Don’t go down as far into the squat or use a chair behind you. Slowly sit back on the edge of the chair and then return to a standing position.
  4. Jumping jacks: Start out with this move by stepping one foot out, then the other. As you feel comfortable, work up to jumping both feet out at one time and bring your arms out into a v-position at the same time. Great for warming up your muscles.
  5. Running in place: Just starting out? March in place and build up to a jog. Keep it up for 10-30 seconds. This simple exercise gets the heart pumping and works important muscles!

You want to print out these exercises and put them up at work or on your fridge. 

If you are around children and they see you being physically active, you’re teaching them that it’s important to stay healthy and active and they are more likely to join in the fun!

*You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting any new type of physical activities to determine if it is right for your needs