New third grade program to build lifelong health skills

Program designed to increase value for milk and milk products as nutritional staples throughout life

Dairy Council of California

By Peggy Biltz

California third graders will learn the value of milk and milk products when they head back to school this fall with a new nutrition education program designed to improve health and change eating habits for life.

Through Dairy Council of California’s new program, called Shaping Up My Choices, students will expand their nutritional knowledge while they learn a myriad of skills such as how to use the MyPyramid Food Group system, the importance of eating a healthy breakfast and how to choose healthy snacks and beverages that include milk and milk products.

The new program focuses on building skills to improve eating habits, and ultimately becoming a part of the solution to the overweight and obesity epidemic.  Program lessons also cover the importance of individual nutrients like calcium and protein, the need to eat foods from each food group, serving size identification, food label reading and ways to get more exercise – all skills that will help build a strong foundation for lifelong wellness.

Preliminary testing positive

With Shaping Up My Choices we have incorporated the most effective features of all of our other classroom programs into a bright, colorful and engaging package that students will enjoy and teachers will find easy to teach.

Charged with reaching up to 200,000 California third graders in the program’s debut year, early teacher responses have been positive.  Teachers tell us their students are talking about what they learned outside the classroom, like analyzing the foods they eat at lunch in the cafeteria.  Getting kids to talk about their food in the context of good health is a huge step in the right direction.

Our preliminary testing also shows teachers like the program because it helps improve the health of their students, and because it is also efficient and respects the limited time available in classrooms. Shaping Up My Choices, offered in both Spanish and English, meets educational requirements by aligning with California state math, language arts, science and health standards and the lessons even include a take-home family homework component to engage parents in the learning process.

Keep on track

Shaping Up My Choices joins our family of nutrition education programs targeting children and adults.  Each of our programs are extensively tested in the development stage and evaluated later on to validate effectiveness and behavior change.

Previously, third grade students were included with fourth and fifth grades in our upper elementary Nutrition Pathfinders, a computer–based program that relies on technology for much of the teaching.  However, Dairy Council’s research revealed that third graders have not gained as much knowledge from Nutrition Pathfinders as the older students. Developmentally, third graders are much closer to second graders than fourth and fifth graders, who can better grasp and use technology-based teaching. The new program will get third graders to eat healthier diets by using traditional methods to teach an innovative curriculum that actually helps third graders learn faster and retain more knowledge.  We will continue to formally evaluate the program this fall when it begins to hit California classrooms.

With the right educational approach and commitment to building a healthier generation, Shaping Up My Choices – and all of our programs supported by the dairy industry – will translate to increased value for milk and milk products as nutritional staples throughout life.


■ Peggy Biltz is chief executive officer of the Dairy Council of California.

■ For more information on the Dairy Council of California’s mission and nutrition education programs, go to: www.dairycouncilof, or e-mail: