As the new school year gets underway, this is the time to teach children about making nutritious food choices wherever they are – at home or at school. Eating the nutrient-rich way can be delicious and fun.

Working with the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, the Beef Checkoff has developed several games to get kids engaged with beef. The “Grocery Grab” online nutrition game, launched May 15, had generated 922 game plays by July 1. The game and supporting resource materials include: the Beef Up Your Nutrition lesson plan; the Built from Beef activity sheet; The Big Race eComic; and Kid Friendly Beef Recipes.

Meanwhile, “The Steaks Are High” game, launched in February, generated 1,587 game plays by July 1 and yielded an increase of more than 13 percent of users indicating they will “probably” or “definitely” eat beef this week after playing the game. Supporting materials include: “The Stage is Set for Beef” lesson plan; “Pasture Cowculations” activity sheet; Beef Heritage eComic; and an After School Resource Kit.

Kids can learn about beef’s nutrition benefits while they’re away from their computers as well. Try some of these simple tips to help children eat well and learn to enjoy nutrient-rich foods:
• Encourage children to choose several wholesome, nutrient-rich foods in the cafeteria line every day, such as: vegetables, fruits, whole and enriched grains, lean beef, poultry, eggs, fish, beans and low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
• Pack sandwiches made with whole grain bread, small containers of cut fruit or sliced vegetables, a thermos of soup or other nutrient-rich favorites.
• While at the supermarket, help children choose one or two nutrient-rich snacks, such as beef jerkey, to pack in their lunches or as after school snacks.
• Children are more likely to get excited about healthful eating when they’re part of the process. Teach children to help prepare soups, salads, pizza, pasta sauces and enlist their help when you make them. Find recipes that include lean beef your family enjoys and prepare them often and they will become family favorites.
• Make family mealtimes a priority. Eating together as a family can be at any meal. If schedules don’t allow family dinners, eat together at breakfast, weekend brunch or picnics.

So be creative with beef. For parties at school, bring nutrient-rich snacks– colorful veggies and dip, whole grain cereal bars, cheese cubes with fruit or whole grain crackers, strawberries with yogurt to dip, healthful snack mixes. Or have a cooking play date. When several kids come over, cook with them. It will be fun for the whole family!

And be sure to visit BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com for more healthy, nutrient-rich meal ideas.

Anne Anderson, vice-chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, is a producer from Austin, Texas.