Promotions and Ideas

Keep the excitement in school meals alive through promotions and new menu ideas.


Elf on the Shelf

 Healthy Elf is stuck on good nutrition. #healthyelf

Healthy Elf is stuck on good nutrition. #healthyelf

Have some holiday fun with the Elf on the Shelf. Perfect for elementary and even middle school students, the mischievous elf can help promote healthy eating and highlight new menu offers. Having kids find the elf or try the food the elf is promoting will entice them to try new items and be involved in your program. Here's a link to a program that did just that: Additional "Healthy Elf" ideas from the Dairy Council of California are below, 

A few more Elf Features...

Minion bananas - drawn by the elves and the elves keeping watch for good behavior are just two more ideas for some fun and promotion of fruit! Sources: and

HAuntingly Healthy Ideas for school meals

Tricks for Healthy Halloween Celebrations

Halloween festivities don’t have to mean scary sugar overload! A little creativity will make school meals fun and exciting for your kids, and may even entice them to try a few more fruits and vegetables, too. Trick out your meals and snack offerings with these treat… and enjoy a healthier Halloween celebration! 


Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns Steal the Scene


Jack-o-Lanterns can be all shapes and sizes… from a friendly veggie tray (see salad bar idea, below) to clementines to decorated fruit cups. Depending on staff time and creativity, you will bring a smile to your kid’s faces with these ideas! A quick and easy Jack is to decorate pre-packaged orange fruit cups or clementine oranges with a black marker to create scary or silly pumpkin faces. Another cute idea is to peel clementine oranges and add a celery stick stem for instant mini pumpkins to garnish a fruit bar or add to your catering/party/snack offerings.

 Cute Clementine Orange pumpkins and Boo-nana Banana Ghosts

Cute Clementine Orange pumpkins and Boo-nana Banana Ghosts


Boo-nanas! Banana Ghosts 

Cut a banana in half and press in two mini chocolate chips for the eyes. Add a raisin or chocolate chip for a mouth if you wish. These friendly ghosts can adorn a fruit cup or the salad bar, or add to a snack plate, as pictured above with clementine pumpkins. Or share this idea with elementary teachers for younger students to assemble their own ghosts as a edible party activity.

Candy Corn Cravings


In clear plastic cups, layer yogurt and drained, canned mandarin oranges and pineapple. Or an alternative is low fat cottage cheese, cantaloupe melon cubes and fresh pineapple. No time to make individual cups? Have a yogurt bar instead, with vanilla yogurt and/or cottage cheese, orange fruits and yellow fruits arranged on the salad bar like candy corn stripes. Don’t forget sweet corn! White and yellow sweet corn, sauted with a diced orange bell peppers and red onion can be a delicious candy corn inspired hot vegetable. Is corn salad/salsa popular with your students? It is also reminiscent of candy corn, and can be a surprisingly colorful addition to the salad bar.

Candy Corn Pizza

There’s no candy involved, but because of the natural shape of a pizza slice, it’s easy to use cheddar on the outside rim and then mozzarella cheese inside to make a candy corn pizza design. Starting with pre-made crusts, or a plain cheese pizza allow for program personalization and control over the ingredients.

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I’m Watching You… Spooky Eyeballs

There is something spooky about eyeballs! You can make eyeballs to garnish a fruit cup, such as blueberries held on top of green grapes with blueberries. Serve pretzel bites (you can skip the added salt) as a side item with soup or salad, or try with cheese dip as “eyeball dunkers”. Rename meatballs as “eyeballs” and feature “Spook-ghetti and Eyeballs” as an entree. The “Melted Eyeballs Sub Sandwich, aka the meatball sub with mozzarella cheese, is a hit with older students, too.

Monster Smoothies are Monster Good!

Offer themed healthy smoothies. Consider naming contests for fun flavors such as green apple ghoul or purple zombie passion to draw more excitement to the smoothie offerings. Green Monster and Spooky Pumpkin Spice are just two flavors. The yogurt, fruit and vegetables in smoothies now credits toward requirements for all reimbursable school meal programs, including breakfast and lunch, and as an after-school snack. You can find school meal recipes from several dairy organizations, including Milk Means More and the National Dairy Council and the Wisconsin Dairy Association/South East United Dairy Association (SUDIA).

Adding Spookiness to the Salad Bar

Adding a festive display really amps up the Halloween spirit. Steal these ideas to dress up your salad bar or serving line.

 Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Tray

Jack-o-Lantern Veggie Tray

Snake Dip

Great for slithering out of your hummus. Use black olives to weave a long snake design out of your dip. Carve beady eyes from string cheese and add a carrot tongue. (See

Ghostly Egg Pops

Put hard boiled eggs on a popsicle stick, and then have black pepper, spices and even garlic to sprinkle/dip the egg. The America Egg Board has recipes to make this easy!

Veggie Pumpkins, Skulls and Halloween jewel stripes

Arrange salad bar veggies in shapes on trays or make layers in a variety of pans. Carrots can form pumpkin faces, and cauliflower is great to shape skulls (with grape tomato eyes). For high volume programs, arrange salad bar fruits and vegetables in colorful orange, purple, white and black stripes for maximum festive impact.

Monster Melon Mouth

Carve a monster-shaped mouth out of a watermelon and use toothpicks to stick in zucchini rounds with black olive pupils for the eyes. Arrange mixed fruit such as strawberries, pineapple and grapes to spew out of your creepy creature’s mouth.

Happy Halloween!                   

Celebrating Valentines Day with Heart!!

heart veggies.png

Looking for ways to celebrate Valentines Day besides heart shaped chicken nuggets?

Why not make your own heart shaped items? If you have heart shaped cookie cutters, your imagination and creativity have no limit to the items you can garnish with a few heart shapes. Fruits, vegetables, breads and cheeses all can be quickly cut into shapes. This salad shows many heart shaped items - including tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese, but it can be just as festive with a few heart cut-out vegetables as a garnish.

Healthy Hearts Week

  Oatmeal Muffin Squares. Enjoy a breakfast favorite - no spoon needed.    -- Photo credit: USDA Team Nutrition

Oatmeal Muffin Squares. Enjoy a breakfast favorite - no spoon needed.

-- Photo credit: USDA Team Nutrition

Are your schools participating in jump rope for heart and hoops for heart? Why not plan a heart healthy menu to coincide with the activities? Oatmeal and other whole grains are perfect heart-healthy energy foods for active kids. USDA/Team Nutrition also has heart-smart recipes, like the Oatmeal Muffin Squares pictured above. Hungry for more? Check out more recipes especially for Child Nutrition Programs on Team Nutrition's website or What's Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl

Colorful Red and Pink Foods

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Red and pink foods can also lend a festive color to meals. Load up the salad bar with red and pink options. Or add red and pink foods as garnish to sides. Fresh Strawberries, cored and cut in half look like hearts. Watermelon heart shapes are fun in a fresh fruit cup. Just one watermelon heart per fruit cup can add that flair that makes the meal special.

Red and Pink food ideas:

  • Berry Cherry Power Bar (Recipe from Iowa Team Nutrition)

  • Cherries

  • Cherry Crisp/Cherry Cobbler (USDA recipes)

  • Chili (Try this Smokin' Powerhouse Chili from USDA.)

  • Cranberries (or Craisins)

  • Marinara Sauce on Pasta or as a Bread Stick Dip

  • Pink Fruit Dip (made with yogurt and a little red coloring)

  • Plums

  • Radishes

  • Raspberries

  • Red Apples

  • Red Grapes

  • Red Peppers

  • Red Skin Potatoes

  • Roasted Red Vegetables (Tomatoes, Red Pepper, Beets, Red Skin Potatoes) -- Try this Local Harvest Bake USDA Recipe.

  • Salsa and Pico de Gallo

  • Smoothies (Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry for red color)

  • Strawberries

  • Strawberry Cream Cheese

  • Strawberry Sorbet or Fruit Freeze

  • Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Grape Tomatoes

  • Yogurt - Cherry, Mixed Berry or Strawberry flavors

  • Watermelon

 Use a cookie cutter to easily cut heart shapes from watermelon slices.  --photo credit: Highlights.Com,

Use a cookie cutter to easily cut heart shapes from watermelon slices.

--photo credit: Highlights.Com,

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