National Nutrition Month was introduced in 1973 as National Nutrition Week and was expanded to a full month in 1980, according to the American Dietetic Association. Throughout the month, students learn about the importance of making beneficial nutrition decisions and the effects of eating well on their physical and mental well-being. Participating in activities related to National Nutrition Month can help students get a good start in living a healthy lifestyle.
Teach Nutrition Using Colorful Food
Fruits and vegetables are available in red, blue, purple, yellow, green, orange and white. A balanced diet should include foods from each of these colors. Help younger students learn about the different colors of fruits and vegetables through a sorting activity. Divide students into groups and give each group a large sheet of paper with a color written on the top. Ask groups to work together to list all the foods they can think of that are the color they were given. Let each group share its list with the class, and add additional foods when possible. As each group presents, talk about the benefits of foods in each color.
Visit the Supermarket
Field trips to the supermarket provide an excellent hands-on opportunity for teaching nutrition to children. Before heading to the supermarket, provide students with a copy of the food pyramid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. As you walk through the aisles, talk to your students about the different food groups and how the different foods you encounter fit into the food pyramid. Divide students into groups and ask them to choose foods from each of the food groups. Let students see foods being delivered to the store and talk about the importance of fresh produce and where the different foods come from.
Read Nutrition Labels
Reading nutrition labels is an important part of developing healthy eating habits. Choose several food items that your students might be familiar with, like soup, potatoes, bread, cakes, pastries and soft drinks. Use the copy machine to blow up a copy of a nutrition label, then display the label for the class using the overhead projector or computer projection system. Point out important parts of the label, including calories, fat grams, saturated and unsaturated fat, dietary fiber and sugars. Point out vitamins and calcium in foods. Give students a copy of nutrition labels and ask them to find the nutrition facts for each food on their own. Stress the importance of reading nutrition labels to maintain a healthy weight.
Practice Making Healthy Choices
Once students understand how to read nutrition labels, give them sets of labels to compare. For example, provide a label from white bread and one from whole grain. Ask students to compare the dietary fiber and calories and decide which is the better choice. Other options might include regular bacon versus turkey bacon, or canned fruit in syrup versus fresh fruit. Choose food labels children are familiar with; for example, choose a label for regular potato chips and one for baked, and ask students which one they should choose. Talk to students about the importance of choosing fresh foods rather than processed foods whenever possible.
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