Creating Health and Nutrition Leader Guide

The goal of the StrongWomen program is to improve the health and well-being of middle-aged women (and men) through good nutrition and physical activity.
Creating Health and Nutrition Leader Guide - Articles

Updated: August 14, 2017

Creating Health and Nutrition Leader Guide


Good nutrition and physical activity are vital for good health and overall well-being. Specific diseases and conditions linked to a poor diet and lack of physical activity include osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and some types of cancer. It is important to make wise food choices to obtain essential nutrients needed for good health.

Regular physical activity is key for overall good health. People with higher levels of fitness are at lower risk of developing chronic disease. Strengthening muscles and bones improves balance and flexibility, reducing the risk of unintentional falls and bone fractures in older adults.

These lesson fact sheets inform participants about the nutrients and exercise that research shows help to maintain good bone and overall health.

Program Goal

The goal of the StrongWomen program is to improve the health and well-being of middle-aged and older women (and men) throughout Pennsylvania by increasing access to structured, safe, and effective strength-training programs with a strong nutrition component. Programs improve participants' muscle strength and reduce the risk of an osteoporosis-related fracture.

This guide is written to assist the StrongWomen site leader with implementation of the nutrition and health component of the program. This series of more than 30 fact sheets provides information on topics regarding exercise, health, and reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Target Audience

The lessons focus on people who are concerned about improving their health and the health of family members. The target group is primarily women (men secondarily) over 40 years.

Educational Objectives

As a result of participating in the StrongWomen classes and reviewing the fact sheets, participants will improve their ability to make healthy food choices that include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber; increase their knowledge and skill in how to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other chronic diseases by applying healthy food practices when selecting, preparing, and serving foods; and recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle to maintain health by applying food-related and recommended health program principles.

Lesson Content

Use the Creating Health and Nutrition fact sheets in your StrongWomen classes as a basis for the nutrition/health component of your program. Some are highly recommended for use with this program. Including the suggested fact sheets will help keep the program uniform and make the evaluation process more consistent. Additional fact sheets can be selected based on the interests and needs of participants.

Before your class, review the recommended fact sheet for information and note points to stress. Be careful to present the lesson within the time frame of the program.

Note: You may want to provide USDA's ChooseMyPlate worksheets for 1,600 and 1,800 calories, which are available for download from

Most women ages 40 to 50 need 1,800 calories for weight maintenance and 1,600 calories for slow weight loss. Most women over age 50 need 1,600 calories for weight maintenance and 1,200 calories for weight loss. Direct them to, interactive tools, MyTracker, to assess their individual calorie intake and physical activity. Recommended fact sheets are shown in the table below.

Suggested Plan for Program Implementation

Lesson NumberTopic/Fact Sheet Title
1Fitness Assessment
2Learn Exercises:
Water, Water Everywhere
Strength Training versus Aerobic Training: Which is Better for My Health?
3Are You at Risk for Osteoporosis?
4Bone Density Measurement: What Do the Numbers Mean?
5Calcium Rich Eating
6Nondairy Foods with Calcium
7Vitamin D
8Calcium Supplements
9Motivators to Reach Your Health and Fitness Goals
10Choose MyPlate Educational Materials
11The Nutrition Facts Panel
12Fantastic Fruits
Vegetables: The Cornerstone of a Healthy Diet
13Fiber: Something to Chew On! and Whole Grains: Worth the Effort
14Other Nutrients That Contribute to Bone Health
15Nutrition Fact or Fiction?
16Physical Activity for Best Bone Health
17Maintaining Balance and Preventing Falls
24Fitness Assessment and Evaluation

Additional Fact Sheets

  • Benefits of Walking
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Omega Fatty Acids
  • Overcoming Obstacles to a Healthy Change
  • Size Up Your Portions
  • Soy Protein and Soy Isoflavones
  • Sweeteners
  • Sugar Substitutes
  • Tips for Making Healthy Behavior Changes Last
  • Weight Management
  • What Are Trans Fatty Acids?

Tip: Always be confidential when speaking with individuals about their personal concerns.

Suggestions for Integrating Information into Your Program

There are many ways to include nutrition and healthy lifestyle information in your StrongWomen sessions. The time available often depends on the group and their ability to learn to do the exercises safely and with good form. Your first priority is the safety and well-being of the participants. When the participants have learned the exercises, begin to introduce the nutrition and lifestyle information, reviewing key points from the fact sheets. Encourage the group to ask questions and exchange information. Below are examples of ways to work this into your program:

  • Introduce the topic a class ahead and encourage participants to bring samples, thoughts, and questions for discussion.
  • Hand out the fact sheet before the class starts, allowing time for participants to review and then contribute to the discussion.
  • Provide the lesson during the warm-up and cool-down parts of the program.
  • Weave topic information into the class during the one-minute rest period between sets of exercises.
  • Teach the lesson for 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning or the end of the class (this will extend the time of the class).
  • Collect samples representative of the topic for a more visual effect for each lesson. Examples include food labels, food models, pictures from food
  • clipped from grocery store advertisements or magazines, and empty food containers. Ask participants to bring in food labels of their own.
  • Ask participants to answer an introductory question about the topic; write it on the board before class so they have a chance to form an answer.
  • Relate a story that illustrates the topic of the day.
  • Collect news articles, cartoons, or stories about the topics. Begin by reading a piece of the article, or pass around the cartoon and ask for comments.
  • If the affiliated organization has a newsletter, include information from handouts in the news letter or send copies of the handout with the newsletter.
  • Ask a guest speaker to join the group for a day to discuss the topic.
  • Ask participants to think how this concept was dealt with years ago and how it is addressed now.
  • Team teach the class--have one person lead the exercises and the other do the nutrition/lifestyle presentation.
  • Just distribute the handout without additional discussion (least recommended).

Tip: Keep a notebook handy during the class to write questions or thoughts to refer to later.

Key Questions for Group Discussion

At the end of many fact sheets, there are sections titled "Examine Your Choices" and "My Goal." Ask participants to consider setting a goal for the next class.

At the next class, ask participants if anyone made a goal from the fact sheet. What worked well for them? What, if any, challenges did they face? Discuss and summarize any key points participants make. Emphasize that making healthy goals is a good place to start. Refer participants who may be struggling to make healthy goals and behavior changes to the fact sheets Overcoming Obstacles to a Healthy Change and Motivators to Reach Your Health and Fitness Goals.

Occasionally, a participant may ask a question that you cannot answer. Contact a reliable source to assist you and follow up at the next class with an answer. Reliable sources include extension family and consumer science educators and registered dietitians (see Nutrition Fact or Fiction fact sheet for more information). Keep in mind that you need to be offering accurate information. There will also be times when participants offer inaccurate information to the class. At these occasions, you need to speak up and say that you are not sure that is correct and that you will find out more information about that topic.

As you move forward through these nutrition lessons and strength-training sessions, remember that your goal is to provide safe, structured strength training that includes a strong nutritional component. By providing this training, you will help elevate not only your participants to better health and well-being but ultimately the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Your influence through this series can have a lasting effect on the quality of many lives now and in the future.

We at Penn State Extension value your commitment and dedication to this worthy program.

Creating Health and Nutrition Fact Sheets overall editors: J. Lynne Brown, professor emeritus of food science, and Lynn James, Penn State Extension senior educator

Leader Guide prepared by Nancy R. Wiker, senior extension educator

Reviewers/team members: Fran Alloway, Heather Baranoski, Andrea Bressler, Dori Camp ell, Katherine French, Nancy Grotevant, Cathy Guffey, Lois Killcoyne, Sharon McDonald, Christine Orrson, Robin Rex, Laurie Welch, Nancy Yergin


Nutrition research and education Diabetes education Child overweight prevention Food Safety education Food Preservation

More by Lynn James, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.