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An important component of staying healthy is knowing which foods are good for you and which are not. Students tend to enjoy learning about this topic because it is familiar to them. Everyone has heard about healthy food and junk food but not everyone has the tools for telling which is which. Use this healthy eating lesson plan to educate your students about how to choose the best food for their bodies.
Please note that not all students have access to healthy food so it is important not to shame people who eat poorly. Deliver the lesson with this in mind.
This plan is designed for K-3 students and takes approximately 30 minutes.
Following this lesson, students will be able to:
- Differentiate between healthy and unhealthy food.
- Explain what makes food nutritious/healthy.
- Slides containing the following five junk foods: Cheeseburgers, ice cream, potato chips, pizza, soda.
Invite students to share their typical diet. Ask them what they think would happen if they did not eat for a whole day: How would they feel? What would their energy levels be like?
Explain that bodies are like machines-they need fuel to run! "Our energy comes from the food we eat and some food is much better for us than others."
- Tell students to raise their hands if they know what "nutrients" are. Explain that nutrients are the things (replace with "substances" for 2nd and 3rd grade) in food that are healthy for bodies and help them grow. Ask them to stand up if they've heard of: Vitamins, protein, or minerals. "These are all examples of nutrients!"
- "Healthy food is the best fuel for bodies because it is full of nutrients. Does anyone know any foods that probably have a lot of nutrients? Can anyone think of a type of food that might have almost no nutrients?" Provide examples if needed.
- Tell your students that there are a few easy ways to tell whether food is healthy and full of nutrients or bad for you.
- "Healthy foods with the most nutrients are natural, so they probably grew from a tree or out of the ground. We don't add much to healthy food or change it a lot because we want it to keep its nutrients." Explain the difference between unhealthy white bread and healthy whole grain bread.
- "Unhealthy food has things added to it like sugar, salt, fat, and even preservatives. Preservatives are chemicals put into food to make it last a long time-do you think preservatives are nutritious? Can you think of any food that probably has a lot of preservatives? Unhealthy food is usually not natural or used to be natural until a bunch of stuff was added to it that made it lose its nutrients."
- "Healthy foods give us the most energy and make us feel good. Unhealthy food usually makes us feel bad. It can make us tired, cranky, or sick because it doesn't give our body what it needs." Ask students what foods have ever made them feel bad.
- Check for understanding so far with a brief exercise. Ask students to stand up at their desks and explain that you will give a list of foods and they will have to decide if each food is healthy or not. If they think a food is healthy, they will run in place like it is giving them energy. If a food is unhealthy, they will pretend to fall asleep.
- Make sure that students have plenty of space around them before beginning.
- List of foods to write on the board: Apples, grilled chicken, french fries, turkey sandwiches, cookies, chocolate, salad (more difficult for older grades).
- Split students into pre-determined pairs and help them find a place to work around the room.
- Explain that you will show students five unhealthy foods. With their partner, they will have to tell what exactly makes that food unhealthy (greasy, salty, sugary, fatty, etc.) and what healthy food it could be replaced with. They should try to make the healthy food somewhat similar to the unhealthy food (e.g. a grilled chicken sandwich to replace the cheeseburger).
- Write the questions they are answering somewhere on the board or on chart paper.
- Display the photos one at a time and give students about 2 minutes to discuss for each. This should take no more than 10 minutes total.
- Call on students to share their thinking for each food with the class. Come back together as a group on the carpet.
- Talk about the activity. Ask what strategies they used to succeed: What are some clues that food is unhealthy? How did they decide what healthy food to replace it with?
- Give students more tips for eating healthy including drink plenty of water, eat fruits and vegetables every day, snack on foods that aren't too salty or sweet, and encourage friends and family to eat healthy too.
Pair students with learning disabilities with strong and kind partners. Provide them with these sentence stems for answering the questions.
- I can tell this food is unhealthy because…
- A healthy food to eat instead is…
Provide photographs of healthy food options for those that need it and a word bank of unhealthy food clues (greasy, sugary, etc.).
Following this lesson, have students independently draw a picture of a meal that includes three healthy foods. They should give these to you and you can check for comprehension. If a student drew a food that would be considered unhealthy, they probably do not fully understand. Conference with any students that seem confused.
To continue the conversation about healthy and unhealthy foods, ask your students to keep a log of the food they eat for a whole week (provide them with graphic organizers for this). They should either draw or write what they ate at every meal. At the end of the week, meet as a class to discuss findings.
Ask the students:
- What foods gave you the most energy/made you feel the best?
- What foods made you feel bad?
- Are there any foods that you are going to eat more or less of after this?
Explain that the goal is not to eliminate unhealthy food from their diets entirely. Rather, the point is to cut back on foods that aren't healthy for them and replace them with healthy foods whenever they have the option.