Some great innovative information from Angie Hasemann, a genius registered dietitian colleague from the University of Virgina:

“Want to know how to teach children and adults how to balance meals, focus on fruits and veggies, and eat appropriate portions in a simple, easy‐to‐remember way? Try out this simple “Make Your Hands Smile” trick to teach clients of any age in under five minutes. It may just be the most effective tool you’ve ever learned. Place your hands palms up, side‐by‐side. Your meal should be just enough food to cover your hands (accounting for children of different ages). One palm is a lean protein; the other is a whole grain. Fingers are filled with fruits and veggies. Your hands are filled, but what if you’re still hungry? Spread out our fingers to fit more fruits and veggies (our best choices for seconds). Recognize the shape of the smiley face, with the most important part (the mouth) being fruits and vegetables-the best part to eat first! Using numerous photos of actual meals demonstrating this concept to encourage balance, portion control, and to focus on fruits and veggies is the perfect teaching tool for clients, students, and other health professionals. Family tested and RD approved, this simple technique for teaching the very basics of nutrition in a fun and creative way has proven to be effective with children of all ages and is regularly used with overweight and obese children in the University of Virginia’s Children’s Fitness Clinic.

This innovation has already enhanced the practice and performance of practitioners. It turns all of the basics‐‐that we try to teach overweight children, adults wanting to lose weight, and other health professionals with little nutrition education‐‐into something simple, fun, and easy to remember. It’s an effective way of providing pictures for visual learners and utilizes a tool‐‐our hands‐‐that stays with us all day long. It solves the questions of “Why is my big brother getting more food than me?”, “How do I know how much to eat?”, and “How can I plan a healthy meal?”. With the overriding concept of half of the plate being fruits and vegetables, it’s an easy message for kids and parents to understand and health professionals to pass on to their clients. The pictures of smiley face meals are great ideas for meal planning as well.

Feedback from patients, their parents and other family members, students and interns, as well as other health professionals shows they have successfully learned basic nutrition and applied it to their daily life with the use of the innovation. Many RDs and DTRs struggle with translating the science of nutrition into user-friendly formats that motivate people to be interested in nutrition and empower them to make real changes. This technique is simple to understand, easy to apply, and impossible to forget. Kids come back requesting that every meal be in the shape of the smiley face and going for their fruits and veggies first at meals, because that’s what they learned! Physicians have responded that it’s one of the easiest ways to communicate nutrition to their patients and can be done without any visual aids or handouts, so its ease of use makes it more practical for their office setting. Using and teaching techniques likes this helps our clients and other health professionals to continue to look for us for guidance in nutrition.”

Thanks for sharing, Angie!

Angie Hasemann, MS, RDN, CSP
Weight Management Dietitian, Pediatric Endocrinology, University of Virginia Children’s Hospital
Program Director, UVA Health System Dietetic Internship
Address: P.O. Box 800673, Charlottesville, VA 22908-0673
Make Your Hands Smile with My Meal