A student's diet is an important component of his or her self-care. Learning the importance of eating right, regularly exercising, and understanding nutrition terms can help students make decisions that can affect their health.
Nutrition is a topic that can be explored year-round, but there's a particular push for lessons during National Nutrition Month, which takes place every March. The campaign was established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate in your classroom. The 2020 theme is "Eat Right, Bite by Bite."
Nutrition Activities for Kids and Teenagers
Here are seven classroom activities that you can use to teach your students about nutrition, whether during National Nutrition Month or at other times during the school year.
1. Crossword Puzzle
Distribute this crossword puzzle to your students to test their knowledge of nutrition vocabulary. They should read the clues and determine the word that best fits in the space provided. Finally, distribute this answer key to your students so they can check their responses.
2. Place Mats
Colorful pictures of healthy food can stimulate even the pickiest appetite. Have each student cut out pictures of their 10 favorite healthy foods from magazines or newspapers or print them from the internet. Start a discussion: Why did they choose those specific foods? Are they really healthy? How do you know? What food groups do they belong to?
Then, have students paste their foods onto a single sheet of construction paper. Laminate or cover each sheet with clear plastic so that it can be used as a place mat. Have your students present their creation to the class.
3. Math: Nutrition Fractions (Middle School)
How many calories people should eat in one meal depends on their personal needs and health. However, there are guidelines that apply to athletes for refueling after a workout. In general, athletes should eat meals that are roughly 1/2 fruits and vegetables, 1/4 carbohydrates, and 1/4 proteins. After a workout, they should eat meals that are roughly 1/3 fruits and vegetables, 1/3 carbohydrates, and 1/3 proteins. And after an intense workout, they should eat meals that are roughly 1/2 carbohydrates, 1/4 fruits and vegetables, and 1/4 protein. Have students draw diagrams that represent these different meal breakdowns. Ask them to identify a vegetable, carbohydrate, and protein they enjoy eating and then encourage them to draw meals they would eat in general, after a workout, and after an intense workout. What are different ways they could draw their meals but keep the fractions the same?
4. Building a Food Plate
Create a large food plate for your class—displayed at the front of the classroom—using different-colored papers for each of the five main categories, which should be labeled as follows: Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Dairy, and Grains. Have students cut out pictures of at least one food for each category from magazines or newspapers or print them from the internet. (You can also have students draw their own pictures.) Then divide the class into two groups. Have one group use tape or tacks to place their pictures on the bulletin board in the wrong categories. Then, have the second group move the food pictures into the correct categories. Check the second group for accuracy.
You can use this opportunity to dive into a discussion with your students about each food group. Distribute this food plate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to your students. Have them take notes about each category. Another option is to have students use the USDA's MyPlate Tip Sheet to build their own healthy meal, coloring in their favorite 5–6 healthy food items on a blank food plate.