Family & Consumer Sciences Physical Education

Top 5 resources for teaching nutrition education

As an educator, you know that proper nutrition supports better behavior and increased focus at school. And providing students with a well-rounded nutrition education helps them develop healthy habits and lifestyles that will serve them now and into the future.  

Below we’ve gathered five resources, including lesson plans and teaching tools, that you can use to teach kids about nutrition, including how to eat healthy snacks and portions, how poor nutrition can lead to disease, and how balance is more important than dieting and restricting food intake.  

1. Help students understand dietary guidelines 

What type of fuel do our bodies need to survive and thrive? Well, that depends. Variables such as age, height, and activity level can affect how many nutrients and calories each of us needs. 

Use this free lesson plan to discuss the recommended dietary guidelines for each food group. Students will understand what their body needs for fuel every day, where they lack the nutrients they need for healthy growth, and where they might be able to improve their nutrient intake.  

2. Teach proper portion sizes

Did you know that a serving of cereal is about the size of a baseball? Or that a deck of playing cards equals three ounces of meat? Many of your students probably don’t know the proper portion sizes for the food we eat, especially when they are given so many options at fast food restaurants to “supersize” their meals. 

The Nasco Portion Sizes Kit gives students a visual representation for proper portion size in each of the five food groups. Use this kit to teach students about estimating portion sizes when eating out, building a balanced meal, and listening to their bodies instead of their plates.  

3. Build healthy plates without the food waste 

Teaching students how to build a well-balanced meal is much more engaging with real food, but the food storage and costs can be prohibitive. With these hyper-realistic food replicas, you can give students the experience of working with “real” food and standard portion sizes without the waste.  

The kit includes selections in the five MyPlate food groups — grains, protein, fruit, vegetables, and dairy — allowing students to choose items, build meals, and rearrange their plates in different nutritious combinations.  

Use the food replicas to challenge students to build balanced meals for themselves, a friend, or someone with dietary restrictions.  

4. Demonstrate sugar content  

Many of the calories adolescents consume daily come through their drink choices. Even some of the drinks we might think of as healthy, such as fruit drinks or smoothies, can have a surprising amount of sugar. You can use the Sugar-Visuals™ Drinks Kit to give students a real-life visual of the amount of sugar found in popular drinks such as energy drinks, frozen mochas, soda, fruit smoothies, and more.  

To help students understand how their beverage choices affect their overall health, lead a discussion on the negative health effects of too much sugar, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, tooth decay, or gout. Have students break into pairs to research one of these diseases and then join another pair to share out what they found.  

5. Teach students how to choose healthy meals

Knowing how to make smart food choices isn’t knowledge we’re born with. It takes practice and knowledge. Discuss with students that sometimes they won’t be able to choose their food and will have to eat what’s available (e.g., hot lunch at school). However, as they grow older and more independent, they will begin to choose their own foods more often. How can they make smart food choices in those instances? Use this lesson plan to help them practice.  

Prepare students for a world of choices  

Helping students understand how to make healthy food choices while they are exposed to messages about dieting and how to achieve the “perfect body” can be a delicate balance. To support overall wellness, combine lessons about the role different food groups play in our health with reminders that food is just fuel for our bodies and everyone’s bodies are different.  

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