Teaching kids about healthy eating can promote long-term health benefits.

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States, and it starts in young children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 18 percent of children ages 6 to 11 were classified as obese in 2010, up from 7 percent in 1980. Teaching preschoolers about health and proper nutrition can help them to avoid becoming one of these statistics in just a few short years. Setting up your preschool classroom with a health and nutrition theme can make this issue a priority throughout the year.

Food Pyramid and My Plate Decorations

The food pyramid is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's guideline for how much of each food group should be eaten as part of a healthy diet. "My Plate" is a visual aid to help people understand how they should divide their plate to get all the needed nutrients. Preschool teachers can create a food pyramid chart and several My Plate charts as wall art. The charts can be laminated so that different laminated paper fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods can be moved around with Velcro.

Sand Table Activity Station

A sand table can provide both a decorative element for your classroom and an activity. Fill it with soil instead of sand, and place plastic or wooden foods inside. The foods should be those that would grow in soil, such as carrots, peas, potatoes and corn. The table can prompt discussion about where foods come from and why growing your own foods or buying locally grown foods is important. Playing in the table will also give preschoolers a chance to enjoy a sensory activity.

Plant a Greenhouse

A small terrarium can be the perfect "greenhouse" for your classroom. In it, you can grow herbs, small crops such as lettuce or radish, or small plants and flowers. Even plants that we don't typically eat, such as aloe and cactus, can be used for medicinal purposes. The greenhouse is a nice decoration, but it can also guide discussion about how things grow, what plants need to be healthy and how those plants can help keep us healthy.

Set Up a Play Kitchen

A play kitchen in your classroom can serve as a decorative area, as well as provide opportunities for many learning activities. Stock the kitchen with plastic foods or with empty food cartons. Choose healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole-wheat crackers, lean meats and so on. Students can "shop" for healthy foods or create balanced meals based on the My Plate diagram. They can also learn about other healthy food choices based on the inventory in the kitchen.