Spotlight Blog


Give Your Kids Confidence in the Kitchen This Holiday

Posted by letsgo on December 19, 2014

Let’s Go! is lucky to have the support of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. They share our passion for healthy eating and today, they’re sharing tips for cooking with kids.

Authored by Karen Voci, President, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation

IMG_0557Every holiday season brings its own traditional menu of sweets and special treats. We have to remember, that until just recently, these foods really were once a year indulgences. For many families, the winter holidays were the only time they had enough ingredients to produce a feast. Now we can have them any day, so holidays should still be a time for balancing healthy foods and treats. You can still enjoy the season without having to sacrifice the idea that food brings families together. Why not create some new holiday traditions around healthy food preparation with your kids? They’ll be proud of contributing to the celebration and gain the confidence to try new recipes that are delicious and healthy.

Here are some ideas from ChopChop Magazine: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families:  

  • Give your kids an active role while preparing meals: Find places in your cooking process where you can incorporate a helping (little) hand. This can range from measuring to mixing to pulling ingredients and cooking utensils out of cabinets and drawers. Your process might take a little longer (and be a little messier), but it will be a valuable lesson in teaching your kids how to create homemade, healthy meals from kitchen ingredients instead of reaching for easy, pre-processed foods.


  • Make it a learning experience: How can you incorporate school curriculum into your kids’ cooking experiences? For older children, talking about fractions while measuring ingredients is a great way to prove that you do, indeed, use math in “real life.” For younger learners, cooking is an opportune time to explore the five senses through real, hands-on experiences with your ingredients.


  • Surrender creative control: Encourage IMG_0435your kids to exercise some of their imagination and creativity while cooking. Putting this kind of control in the hands of your young chefs will give them a sense of ownership over the finished product, as well as a feeling of independence and empowerment to create their own healthy snacks in the future.

As an added bonus, bringing your kids into the kitchen will add one more option to their list of non-screen time activities during a time of year when it can be hard to get outside and play.

Happy holidays and happy cooking!


Halloween Gets a Let’s Go! Makeover – “Health-O-Ween”

Posted by letsgo on October 30, 2014

We’re constantly inspired by our partners’ creativity and dedication to healthy eating and active living. While we’ve been busy analyzing data and planning for 2015, partners like Southern Maine Health Care are developing amazing resources for the community.

The attached Guide to a Healthy Halloween provides tips for an energized All Hallows’ Eve. The hospital provided this resource to pediatric practices and partnered with Let’s Go! York County to increase distribution. The York County Let’s Go! Coordinators, Reegan and Van, are sharing this great advice with their local childcare centers, schools and out-of-school programs.DSC_0993

Our favorite piece of advice… “Eat a well-balanced dinner before heading out, this will prevent eating candy while you’re trick-or-treating.” Remember 5-2-1-0 and make sure your family gets lots of veggies at dinner tonight, they’ll keep you feeling full while you’re running door to door.

Let’s Go! encourages you to make this day more about family fun and less about the sugar high.

Happy Health-O-Ween everyone.  


Whole Fruit is Moving Up in Children’s Diets!

Posted by letsgo on October 9, 2014

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

1862669According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids between 2 and 18 years old are consuming more servings of whole fruit (fresh, frozen, canned or dried) each day than they were in 2003, and they are consuming less fruit juice. From 2003 to 2010 whole fruit actually replaced fruit juice as the main contributor of fruit to children’s diets. This is really good news! Why? Well, while fruit juice does provide many of the vitamins and minerals found in whole fruits, it also serves quite a load of sugar! In some cases juice has as much sugar as soda. Whole fruits provide the same vitamins and minerals but they are packaged with fiber – a type of indigestible carbohydrate that helps us feel full and supports digestive health.

4456304Kids eating more whole fruit and drinking less juice is great progress on the nutrition front. As far as vegetables go though, the CDC found that kids are NOT eating more of those. Between 2007 and 2010, 9 out of 10 children were not eating enough vegetables; so there’s plenty of work to still be done around the “veggie ask” in Let’s Go!’s 5-2-1-0 message of 5 or more fruits and veggies a day.

If you have children in your life, you have an opportunity to help turn the tides on this issue. Adults help shape children’s lifelong food preferences and habits through what they serve, how they serve it, and what they choose to eat and drink personally. Help the children in your life learn to love fruits and veggies by implementing some of these tips:

  • Offer a fruit and/or a vegetable and other healthy foods at ALL meals and snacks. Make unhealthy food the exception rather than the rule. is a great place to start learning how to plan for and prepare healthy meals.
  • Offer foods over and over and over again…up to 15, 20 or even more times! Some children need A LOT of exposures to a food before they are willing to give it a try. Don’t give up!
  • Introduce new foods to children through informal taste tests. Let them explore a very small portion of a food using any or all the senses; never force children to taste a food. They can look, touch, smell and/or taste a food, whatever they are comfortable with.
  • Most importantly, choose more fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods yourself. While children may not always heed what we say, usually they are keeping a close eye on what we do, including when it comes to food and beverage choices.


Real Ideas From Real People at the School Symposium

Posted by letsgo on September 29, 2014

Authored By Rick Fortier, Let’s Go! School Program Manager 

It’s a cool, crisp fall morning on Friday, October 24th, 2014 and school staff from across the state of Maine will be waking up excited to start what will be a fun and engaging day of learning. However, instead of working with students, they will be teaching and mentoring each other at Let’s Go!’s fourth 5-2-1-0 Goes to School Symposium, right in the heart of downtown Portland, ME!  On this day, we invite healthy eating and active living champions to come together and share practical skills and ideas for creating healthier schools.

What’s that new saying…“an apple a day does much more than just keep the doctor away”. The word is out; healthier students are better learners, benefiting from improved attendance, behavior, focus and academic performance. Year after year, we see more and more schools wanting to tap into the benefits of student wellness and the School Symposium allows us to deliver tried and true guidance on a larger scale. We organize free events like this to encourage collaboration and celebrate success.

So, where will you be on October 24th, 2014?  

From “Smart Snacks in Schools” to “Fun and Easy Movement Games”, the School Symposium provides a full day of professional development that’s a win/win for school wellness champions, teachers and administration. Seats are filling up fast, so don’t make the mistake of waiting to register. Click here to register TODAY!



How We Can All Make Dining Out Healthier

Posted by letsgo on September 24, 2014

Authored by the Let’s Go! Home Office

Let’s Go! works with partners across the state, partners who are devoted to decreasing childhood obesity rates through behavior change. Let’s Go! York County, a program of Partners for Healthier Communities at Southern Maine Health Care, offers us a great example of community outreach. The team is partnering with restaurants around York County to create greater awareness of healthy eating in sit-down settings. Participating sites will receive fun, educational “5-2-1-0” themed coloring placemats for children.Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 7.21.37 AM

To help build awareness about how our everyday choices impact our health and to get the word out about this great grass roots initiative we’re sharing the following story from Reegan Brown and Van Beckman, Let’s Go! Coordinators in York County.

Today it is much more common for American families to dine out on a regular basis. In the late 1970’s children ate only one out of every ten meals away from home, while fast food and dining out with friends or family were considered a rare treat; by 1999, the ratio had risen to one in every three meals. With children dining out with friends and family so often, the nutrition they are receiving should be cause for concern. After all, for busy parents getting children to eat healthy can be a challenge even at home!

Successful, healthy dining out requires extra vigilance. Restaurants often package children’s menus with options that are higher in calories and fat, especially when combined with a sugary drink. It is important to review the children’s menu and ask questions about how to create a healthier meal for your child. Consider half portions from the “adult menu” or sharing a plate with your child.  Eating healthy does not mean you have to avoid eating out altogether—just remember that it is ultimately up to you, the consumer, to make the healthier choice.

Fast FoodMany restaurants are making efforts to create healthier options and changing their menus to highlight those options; however, they still may have options available not appearing on the menu.  Restaurants may gladly cater to special requests if asked, and if they hear certain requests often enough they may even change the menu accordingly.  In this way one can be a trendsetter and also set a good example for the whole family!

For more tips on making healthy choices away from home check out our Healthy Fast Foods guide.


Give School Lunch a Second Chance

Posted by letsgo on September 10, 2014

Authored by: Heidi Kessler, Let’s Go! Senior Program Manager and School Nutrition Specialist

Many students will be donning new lunchboxes alongside their spiffy backpacks and pencil cases as they head off to school this September. We know, planning, prepping and making lunch to fill those boxes can be time consuming so we’re offering you an alternative – school lunch.  There is a quiet revolution going on in school cafeterias throughout Maine and encouraging kids to eat school lunch can end up saving you precious time and money. South_Portland


You don’t have to throw nutrition out the window when you support your child eating school lunch.  Schools have made significant improvements to their menus in the past few years.  For example, Forest Hills Consolidated School in Jackman is revamping the favorite homemade peanut butter and jelly muffin to be low fat and whole grain. The tomatoes and apples offered in MSAD 59 are almost always provided by local farmers.  Students at Biddeford Middle School are eating up the dinosaur kale and Southwestern Lentils are going over well in Kennebunk Elementary school.  Teriyaki chicken salad is a hit at Wells Ogunquit CSD and the green beans with slivered almonds are running out at Morse Elementary School in Freeport. 


School_Lunch_Photo1Over 250 schools across Maine, including the ones mentioned above, are leading the nation on improving school meals by joining forces with Let’s Go!, a nationally recognized childhood obesity prevention program based at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center. Let’s Go! is changing the landscape of school meals in Maine by developing regional infrastructure and capacity to improve school meals.  School nutrition programs are working together across district lines to identify best practices and to bring them into your child’s cafeteria.  So far, over 75 of the schools working with Let’s Go! have achieved national recognition from the USDA for offering school meals that exceed the federal nutrition requirements.  Only 3% of schools nationwide have received this recognition.


Give school lunch a second look.  You may be surprised by what you find; salad bars, fresh fruit, whole grains, lean proteins and sugary drinks replaced by coolers of water.


The 3rd Annual 5-2-1-0 National Childhood Obesity Conference

Posted by letsgo on September 3, 2014

Authored by: Dr. Victoria Rogers, Director of Let’s Go!

We are two weeks away from our 3rd Annual Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 National Childhood Obesity Conference and I couldn’t be more excited. Fall in Maine is a great time to host upwards of 150 healthcare professionals from across the globe. Yup, attendees are joining us from as far as Guam. And with September designated as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, it’s only fitting that we elevate the conversation and continue focusing on collaboration.


image 1This year’s conference boast a panel of acclaimed childhood obesity experts who will discuss metabolic syndrome, the impact of health care reform, overeating vs. obesity, increasing healthy food and beverage options at schools and hospitals, and more.  Local childhood obesity prevention experts will host workshops and discussions. Attendees have the opportunity to learn from and network with other change leaders, and walk away with tools and techniques they can implement in their own communities.


We’re also lucky to have Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, American Academy of Pediatrics, Maine chapter, MaineHealth and The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital as conference partners. These partners are helping us unite passionate medical and public health professionals to discuss next steps in the fight against childhood obesity. We’ll discuss what’s working, what’s not working, and where we go from here.


Thanks again to everyone involved, I look forward to seeing you here in Portland on September 18th and 19th.  To meet our presenters and learn more about the upcoming conference visit our website or click of the yellow conference banner.



Drink Up Without the Added Sugar

Posted by letsgo on August 28, 2014

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

When my daughter entered Kindergarten a couple of years ago I went to a meeting for new parents. At the end of the meeting I went up and introduced myself to the principal and told her that I would love to talk with her about having the school sign up to become a Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 school, and oh, by the way, I’m Norah’s mom. Her response was “I know Norah”. Concern flashed through my mind. You see, school had only been in session for THREE DAYS and the principal already knew who my daughter was! She went on to explain that during the first lunch of the school season, after all of Norah’s kindergarten class was seated in the cafeteria, Norah proceeded to tell her whole class, and anyone else within ear shot, about how bad chocolate milk is for you because of all the sugar. That water is the best choice a person can make when choosing something to drink!Little boy drinking water


Although she might have found a better way to say it, she’s right – water is the best drink of choice for our bodies. Many of us may think we’re making a healthy choice in our drinks (and even food) but sometimes we don’t even know we’re drinking or eating sugar. Added sugar goes by many names: high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, any kind of “syrup” (malt, brown, rice), anything that ends is “-ose” (dextrose, lactose, glucose, etc) and agave, to name a few.


So the next time you pick up a bottle of something that isn’t just water think of my daughter and take a quick peak at the nutrition label on the back. If you see sugar or one of its “alter-egos” listed think about putting it down and picking up some water instead. Kids are watching and listening (as my daughter continues to remind me through her actions and words) so let’s show them how to stay healthy by making healthy choices.


For more information on the amount of sugar that might be in your favorite drink check out this great NEW Let’s Go! resource. 


Why You Should Move More at Work

Posted by letsgo on August 7, 2014

AYP1347424Authored by: Dr. Michael Dedekian, MD and Let’s Go! Advisor

“If exercise was a pill, I’d give it to everyone!” 

I have fond memories of an enthusiastic professor in medical school who taught us about the power of prevention. He would talk about patients he saw in the emergency room or clinic with heart trouble or diabetes. So much of the day, he said, was spent trying to cure a disease that could have been prevented in the first place, often by being more physically active.

Everyone knows exercise is good for you. “Good” is probably not a strong enough word. Exercise is a magic potion known to improve, and sometimes cure, some of the most common diseases on the planet.

However, here’s something most of us probably don’t know: moving around at work, even if you don’t exercise, is also a powerful medicine. Evidence from health studies has been building in recent years showing that sitting for more than an hour or two at a time is not good for us, increasing our risk for heart disease and other health problems.  Amazingly, this seems to be true even for those of us who exercise regularly. This is called an “independent risk factor” for disease, meaning that even if you eat right and exercise, sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day is still a strike against you. 

Living in a healthy way is an enormous challenge.  Time is tight, we’re all busy and unhealthy food is cheap and easily available.  However, there’s a ray of hope that even the little things we do in our day can tip the scales and set us on a healthier path.  Let’s Go!, a program of The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center, has recognized this and encourages employees to move more throughout the day.  The 1 in their popular 5-2-1-0 message reminds children to get 1 hour or more of physical activity every day something that’s not always attainable for working parents.

Sit for 60 Move for 3Meetings lasting more than an hour should include 3 minute breaks to stretch.  It is becoming more and more acceptable to stand and move during a meeting.  Even better, sometimes our schedules include “walking meetings” which have a knack for keeping us focused and efficient. 

Moving at work doesn’t take much: stand up, stretch your arms up and out to the sides as far as you can and take a few deep breaths. Encourage coworkers to join in and see how the room’s energy changes. Take the stairs, go for a short walk at lunch or get up and go talk to your coworkers instead of sending an email.  You’ll feel better, be healthier and probably get more work done as a result.

My medical school professor was right, moving is medicine.  I prescribe that pill for everyone! To purchase posters for your office visit our online store here.


How to Handle Convenience Stores

Posted by letsgo on July 24, 2014

Authored by: Adrienne Gallantsnacks Let’s Go! Knox County Coordinator

It’s mid-July and you know what that means: summer is well underway! Summer vacations are planned and road trips can begin! As a kid I remember taking many road trips during my two months of freedom. One of the highlights for my brother and I were the stops at the different stores to get “treats”. My mother was very health conscious and sometimes the only time we were allowed to get anything that wasn’t what she would call “healthy” was at a convenience store.

As a mom of two small children I know what it’s like to have them yell from the back seat “I’m hungry!” or “I’m thirsty!” or “If I don’t eat something soon I’m going to pass out!” (which is never true since I know they had something to eat twenty minutes before).

Thankfully convenience stores look much different than they used to! Depending on the store you visit you can find anything from dry roasted nuts, dried fruit (with no added sugar), hummus and fresh fruit to yogurt and string cheese! Beware the serving size!!! Even though a bag of dry roasted pistachios sound healthy (and a serving of them can pack quite a protein punch), a whole bag from a store might be 3 servings…that means you have to triple the calorie count, sodium count and fat count on the bag….YIKES!!!!

Healthy SnackIf you’re traveling and the kids get hungry, it’s okay to stop at a convenience store. You can use Let’s Go!’s helpful guide to avoid the candy isle and grab a good for you snack. Go ahead and take a second look; these stores have certainly changed since I was a kid (and my kids will tell you that was a LONG time ago).