30 Aug

Adventures in Eating: A Passport to Flavor (Hmong Traditions)

This month, we continue our “Passport to Flavor” series that explores different cultures and their food traditions. We hope you find this information useful in your work with children and families from various cultures, as well as a source of ideas on how to teach children about other cultures.

Our second guest blogger is Shirley Vang, a SNAP-Ed educator with University of Minnesota Extension who will be sharing her perspective on the Hmong culture.

Hello, my name is Shirley Vang. I have worked for Extension for two years. I was born and raised in the United States, but my parents are from Laos and Thailand. Growing up, I ate foods from their homeland as well as American food. I grew up eating the best of both worlds!

One of my favorite foods from the Hmong culture is Boiled Chicken with Tofu. It is made from chicken, tofu, lemon grass, salt, pepper, and chicken broth powder for flavoring. Lemon grass is a common herb used in Hmong cooking. It can be purchased at Asian grocery stores. 

Lemon Grass

Interesting Facts from the Hmong Culture

  • Rice and hot peppers are staple foods in the Hmong culture. Typically we have rice in one bowl and Thai chili peppers in another. We eat rice at every meal — breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 
  • Hmong women follow a chicken diet for the first 30 days after a baby is born. The diet consists of herbs in soups. The herb bundle used in the soup is called Tshuaj. The exact herbs vary depending upon family customs and what is available. Usually herbs used in Hmong diets are not available in conventional American grocery stores. They are mostly grown in backyards and on patios of most Hmong homes. You can also find them at Hmong farmers markets.  
a plucked chicken on a platter surrounded by green herbs
Ingredients for the chicken diet.
Photo credit: Cooking from the Heart

Ingredients for the chicken diet typically include one whole fresh chicken (purchased from a Hmong market or farm) boiled in water with lemon grass, salt and black pepper, and a variety of Hmong herbs such as Hmab ntsha nstuab (slippery vegetables), Koj liab (angelica, sometimes called duck feet-herb), Ntiv (sweet fern), and Tseej ntug (common day flower).

  • The Hmong people don’t have a country of their own. A lot of the elders in Minnesota are from Laos or Thailand, but they are not considered of Lao or Thai heritage. 
  • Not every Hmong person can read or write in Hmong and not every Hmong person can speak in Hmong. Adults that speak Hmong may be willing to teach you a few Hmong words that you can teach to children in your care or classroom. 
  • Hmong people in the United States celebrate the American Thanksgiving. How a Hmong family celebrates Christmas depends on their faith traditions. The Hmong New Year is not a specific day of the year. Typically it is held in November or December, depending on the community. St. Paul has a large Hmong New Year event each year at the RiverCentre. 

Helpful Ideas and Resources

  • Put pictures up of different types of Hmong foods in a classroom to create awareness of food differences and to create an inclusive environment. 
  • Show an interest in Hmong students’ cultural foods. Ask parents about traditional Hmong foods. 
  • Teach students about a variety of cultural foods. Consider doing a photo show and tell, and have children bring in a picture of a traditional food they eat at home. 

Eating and Playing with Children

It’s never too early to introduce children to new cultures. Sampling foods and playing games are fun ways to teach children about other cultures.

Eating: Lychee

Lychee is a traditional Hmong fruit. You can occasionally find fresh lychee at an Asian grocery store. To eat a fresh lychee, you must peel the tough outer peel. You can find canned, ready-to-eat lychee in most grocery stores. Lychee is a fun fruit for children to sample. Be sure and show them a picture of the whole fruit, too. The photo below shows the whole fruit and what the fruit looks inside the tough outer skin.

Lychee

Playing: Pick-up Stones

Pick-up stones is a traditional Hmong game played by children as young as 4 years old. Here’s a video of Hmong children playing Pick-up Stones: Hmong Children’s Game.

How to Play

All you need to play Pick-up Stones is five stones and two players. There are 10 rounds to the game. In each round, a player picks up the five stones in a different combination. A player loses a turn if he or she drops a stone or makes a mistake. The first person to complete all 10 rounds wins.

Here are examples of the first three rounds.

First round: Throw stones on the ground. Toss one stone in the air. While it is in the air, pick up another stone. Continue until all four stones have been picked up.
Second round: Throw stones on the ground. Toss one stone in the air. While it is in the air, pick up two stones. Repeat.
Third round: Throw stones on the ground. Toss one stone in the air. Pick up three stones. Toss the stone up again and pick up the remaining stone.

For more steps, check out the Five Stones web page. Although this page outlines only eight steps compared with 10 steps played in the Hmong version, it gives you a good idea of how the game is played. The video on this site is also very helpful as it explains each step. This is a good game to play with children over the age of four as it teaches counting, eye hand coordination, and following directions.

Enjoy sharing the Hmong culture with children this month. For more ideas on the Hmong culture, visit the following websites:

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Mary-SchroederMary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources.  Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals.  You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/

Mary Schroeder, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Educator

Health and Nutrition
University of Minnesota Extension
Email: hedin007@umn.edu
Website: www.extension.umn.edu
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UMNExtFD Live Healthy, Live Well 

14 Feb

Adventures in Eating: A Passport to Flavor – February

This month, we’re kicking off the new “Passport to Flavor” series that will explore different cultures and their food traditions. We hope you find this information useful in your work with children and families from various cultures, as well as a source of ideas on how to teach children about other cultures. Our first guest blogger is Maria Paez-Sievert a SNAP-Ed educator with the University of Minnesota Extension who will be sharing her perspective on the Mexican culture.

Mary SchroederMary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources.  Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals.  You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/

Mary Schroeder, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Educator
Health and Nutrition
University of Minnesota Extension
Email: hedin007@umn.edu
Website: www.extension.umn.edu
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UMNExtFD Live Healthy, Live Well 

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Maria Paez-SievertHola (hello), my name is Maria Paez-Sievert. I was born and raised and Mazatlán, Mexico, and came to live in the USA 21 years ago. Prior to working for Extension, I worked at Head Start for 14 years.

My favorite food from Mexico is called “Mole Poblano.” It contains about 20 ingredients, including chili peppers and chocolate, which helps give the sauce its dark color. Another food I enjoy is Read More


15 Jan

Adventures In Eating: Culture Recipe #1

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Homemade chicken noodle soup is part of my culture. I remember eating it as a child and now prepare it for my children. It’s a great meal on a cold day!

Culture Recipe #1

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Mary SchroederMary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources.  Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals.  You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/

Mary Schroeder, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Educator
Health and Nutrition
University of Minnesota Extension
Email:  hedin007@umn.edu
Website:  www.extension.umn.edu
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/UMNExtSimplyGoodEating

14 Jan

Adventures in Eating: Cultural Food Tour

cultural food tourGet your passport for flavor ready as you are about to embark on a cultural food tour! Over the next few months, “Adventures in Eating” will be exploring different cultures with a focus on food. By learning more about common foods and food traditions in different cultures, you will be better prepared to meet the needs of students in your classroom or in your care. You can also use the information to introduce children to other parts of the world and traditions outside of their own.

Our “tour guides” will be University of Minnesota Extension SNAP-Ed Educators from the Latino, Hmong, Somali, and Native American cultures. SNAP-Ed Educators help Minnesotans with limited financial resources make the healthy choice the easy. They often work with Head Start teachers or parents with young children.  Each month a different educator will share the following:

  • Foods common to their culture
  • The top 3 things an early childhood educators should know about their culture
  • An easy food or recipe that can be made and eaten by children in the classroom
  • A fun activity or game from their culture
  • A favorite cultural recipes you can prepare at home or share with students’ families.

You can begin the adventure today by thinking about culture. Culture is a way of life of a group of people – their foods, beliefs, values and symbols usually passed on from one generation to the next. What foods and activities are traditional in your culture? How are you introducing different cultures to young children?

Everyone likes to have their culture recognized. One way you can do that is by making parent handouts available in their language. Did you know that the MyPlate Tips for Healthy Eating is available in 19 languages? This is a great resource to share with families when teaching children about healthy eating.

Let the adventure begin!!!

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Mary SchroederMary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources.  Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals.  You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/

Mary Schroeder, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Educator
Health and Nutrition
University of Minnesota Extension
Email:  hedin007@umn.edu
Website:  www.extension.umn.edu
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/UMNExtSimplyGoodEating

15 Dec

Adventures in Healthy Eating: Happy Mealtimes

holly-leaves2During the holidays, you may find that your schedules does not allow for consistent mealtimes. As a result, you may have children coming to the table overly hungry (and probably crabby due to hunger) or coming to the table already full as they have snacked on less healthy foods prior to the meal.

As an adult, there are some simple things you can do to keep holiday mealtimes happy for young children.

  1. Aim for consistent mealtimes. If your child typically eats at 11:30 a.m. every day, don’t expect them to wait until 1:00 p.m. to eat if you are out shopping or attending holiday events. Try to plan your schedule so they can eat within an hour of their regular mealtime.
  1. Use healthy snacks. If you know mealtime will be an hour or more past their regular mealtime, plan a small healthy snack at their regular mealtime. Apple slices, carrot sticks, or even half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich are great options. Keep some dried fruit or crackers in your car so you have a healthy snack if your shopping takes longer than planned. Keep the amount small enough so their hunger is satisfied, but they are still hungry for the family meal.
  1. DSC_2756_221Avoid “grazing” on less healthy foods. Holidays are a great time to enjoy traditional family cookies, fudge, and other sweet foods. It’s important for young children (and adults too) to avoid eating (grazing) on these sweet treats all day. Plan to serve these sweet treats as dessert or a snack. Avoid having a cookie or goodie tray set out all day.

Holidays are a nice time to be with family and friends. Keeping mealtime consistent and providing a variety of fruits and vegetables for snacks will help keep children happy.

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Mary SchroederMary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources.  Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals.  You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/

Mary Schroeder, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Educator
Health and Nutrition
University of Minnesota Extension
Email:  hedin007@umn.edu
Website:  www.extension.umn.edu
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/UMNExtSimplyGoodEating

25 Nov

Adventures in Eating: Fun with Fruits and Vegetables

Good news! Children are eating more whole fruit and drinking less juice. The not so good news is 60% of
children are eating enough fruits and only 7% are eating the recommended amount of vegetables!
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

One reason children’s intake of vegetables is so low may be that children’s taste buds are different from adults’ taste buds. Children taste “bitter” flavors more than adults. Since a lot of vegetables are bitter, many children do not like the taste of vegetables. That doesn’t mean we should give-up. It’s important to continue to encourage children to try vegetables. The more they try different vegetables, the more their taste buds will become familiar to the bitter taste.lana1I like the process the curriculum LANA (Learning About Nutrition through Activities) uses to introduce children to new vegetables (and fruits).  Children are first introduced to a specific vegetable during a tasting activity where children have the opportunity to see, feel, and touch the vegetable. Children are also encouraged to taste the vegetable.

Children have small tastes of the vegetable over the course of a few weeks. The vegetable is then introduced as part of cooklana2ing activity. It has been shown that children are more willing to try new foods if they help to prepare it.  The vegetable is later served as a snack and finally at mealtime.

The advantage of slowly introducing new vegetables in a variety of ways is children will gradually become accustomed to the taste and texture of the new vegetable.  It also reduces waste (and frustration) of teachers, child care providers, and parents as they will not prepare a new vegetable for a meal only to have most of it go uneaten.

Visit the LANA website to view the tasting activities, cooking activities, menu ideas and more.

The LANA Preschool Program is available to download. It was developed through a grant from the National Cancer Institute to the Minnesota Department of Health. With the goal of promoting preschoolers’ consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables, LANA was originally designed and tested as a 24-week program focusing on eight specific, highly nutritious fruits and vegetables.

In summary, remember to introduce vegetables to children in small amounts over a long period of time. Stay positive and encourage children to try the new vegetables.

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Mary SchroederMary Schroeder works for the University of Minnesota Extension which helps to connect community needs with University of Minnesota resources.  Specifically the Health and Nutrition programs and resources focus on disease & obesity prevention, healthy school environments, and continuing education for community professionals.  You can link to the Extension Health and Nutrition website at: http://www.extension.umn.edu/health/

Mary Schroeder, MPH, RD, LD
Extension Educator
Health and Nutrition
University of Minnesota Extension
Email:  hedin007@umn.edu
Website:  www.extension.umn.edu
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/UMNExtSimplyGoodEating