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Teaching Nutrition to Elementary Students

Posted 4 weeks ago - by Angie Armendariz

Nutrition: When, what and how do we teach it? Is teaching nutrition time consuming, too much work, or just simply not worth it? The answer is No! You can make a nutrition lesson as short or long, or as easy or challenging as you see fit. It’s all up to you, your class time and the other subjects or lessons you are teaching that collaborate with this lesson.

A couple of years ago, I was teaching a health lesson to my elementary students in regards to food portions. I noticed that as I spoke to them, they were not really interested in what I had to say. Especially, when I was telling them to reduce the amount of pizza slices and other types of foods they enjoy eating. I think the students pushed the ‘mute’ button on me. So I quickly over-rode the mute button by showing them a visual menu. I asked the coaches to watch the class while I ran and got my lunch from the locker room.

I grabbed a frisbee, black marker, 4 star-shaped cut-outs I had on top of my desk and my lunch bag. This was a 5 minute lesson short and simple. First, I told students that the Frisbee was my plate as I flipped it upside down. Next, I used my black marker to make the letter T on the plate showing 4 equal compartments. I explained that we need foods from all the food groups in order to keep our bodies healthy. I then closed my hand into a tight fist and showed them a portion size. Finally, I placed my closed fist in each compartment of the Frisbee to show them that the portion did not get bigger. On each of the star-shaped cut-outs, I wrote out four of the key food groups: protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. I proceeded by taking out my grilled chicken in a Ziploc bag and placed in one compartment, which represented my protein. Next, I showed them my steamed broccoli in my snack bowl, which represented the vegetable group. Then, I showed them my dinner roll, which checked my whole grains off of the list! I also had a nectarine which I used to cover my fruit portion. They were amazed that all the food items fit in each compartment of the plate. During lunch, it was great to see the students making a fist and measuring the food portions the cafeteria staff had served them. As the students approached me they said, “Coach, you’re right! The food is portion size!” I said to myself Mission Accomplished!

The students really started enjoying the lessons and we used some of our grant money to buy food items. The grant money came from our CATCH grant some years back. We would talk about how to make better food choices and how to give the healthy foods a chance. It was so successful that we had aprons and chef hats made by a community member. The parent volunteers would help us pass out the snack of the day while the cafeteria staff allowed us to use some of their pots and pans. I brought all my pampered chef items from home, along with my colorful tablecloths, bowls and utensils. We designed our logo and our PTA association paid for screening on our aprons and chef hats. The students learned about Nutrition, presentation, culinary arts and portions. It’s so rewarding to hear students responses when you ask them: What they are making? Why is it healthy? How much should they eat? So give it a shot—it is lots of fun (for you and the students)!

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