Teaching school-age children proper nutrition is such an important lesson that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) is willing to help you teach it! Educational games, print-outs and resources can be found on their kid-friendly online site at www.MyPyramid.gov/kids/ .
Food-Pyramid Posters and Worksheets
Print out the colorful U.S.D.A. food-pyramid poster, illustrating proper proportions of nutritious foods and exercises for kids at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/mpk_poster.pdf . Post a copy to your classroom and lunchroom walls for quick kid-friendly reference.
Food-pyramid coloring pages can be printed out and colored during quite-time instructional activities, or for homework; found at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/resources/mpk_coloring.pdf . Food-pyramid worksheets can be used to log your student’s food and exercising choices, as fill-in-the-blanks test-sheets, and are available to print out at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/resources/mpk_worksheet.pdf .
By offering healthier solutions these activities reinforce correct choices for school-age children. Help your students make personalized exercise and nutrition charts, using their favorite foods and activities, to create a healthy life-style plan.
Garden and Farm Field Trips
Field trips could include trips to local community farms, natural foods stores, farmer’s markets, or roadside produce stands. Bring healthy foods back to your classroom and try making fast-food class projects. Field trips will inspire your students to plant fruits and vegetables right in their classroom.
Highly nutritious vegetables like zucchini and tomatoes, as well as antioxidant-rich fruits like strawberries and blueberries, are easy to grow. These can be grown throughout the school year positioned in a sunny window, demonstrating the science of plant growth and sustainability.
Healthy Fast-Food Class Projects
Easy-to-prepare microwaveable, class-participation meals are the best way I’ve found to teach children how delicious healthy foods are, over traditional fast-foods, from a drive-thru. Delicious classroom meals can include kid-favorites such as pizza, quesadillas, or healthy nachos using blue corn, or whole-grain tortilla chips.
Veggie Nachos & Quesadillas
For nachos add grated cheese over a plate of tortilla chips, and then have students pile-on their favorite pre-chopped veggies, from a teacher-provided assortment. We like to add canned (drained) pinto and black beans, chopped tomatoes, and broccoli tops.
After heating for a minute in the microwave, add sprigs of fresh cilantro, and avocado slices with a dab of plain yogurt or sour cream. These same ingredients can also fill whole-wheat tortillas for healthy quesadillas, made table-top in a quesadilla maker, or heated in the microwave, and cut into wedges.
To make a classroom pizza, pile student-selected healthy ingredients onto a pre-made whole-wheat (pre-cooked) crust. Spread tomato sauce over the crust, adding vegetable toppings such as chopped broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini slices, and pineapple, covered with a low-fat grated mozzarella cheese. Individual pizzas could also be prepared on English-style wheat or bran muffins, as well as whole grain crackers, and heated in the microwave, just until the cheese is melted.
Why not cut a watermelon in half, and carve out a fruit-bowl? Ask your students to bring their favorite fruit from home, ensuring their favorites will be included. Cut into bite-sized pieces and add to your watermelon bowl, for a naturally sweet fruit salad your entire class will enjoy.
Your classroom lessons about health, through nutrition and exercise will come alive when your students learn that healthy food choices taste better, when they learn how to prepare it themselves. I guarantee every one of your kids will remember this lesson plan because they participated in the planting, growing, cooking, and meal sharing!