Nutrition education is a vital and important part of a child’s learning and curriculum. Whether teaching children in elementary school, high school or university, it’s essential to implement curricula that take into account learning needs, age-appropriateness, and geographic region. Teaching strategies can vary from one place to another depending on culture and demographics.
So what are some ways to teach children about nutrition education? Teaching kids about nutrition can be challenging, but there are many strategies that work well. Here are 3 tips for teaching children about nutrition:
1) Make sure the content is age appropriate and culturally sensitive.
Tie in concepts being learned in social studies or languages to teach students about nutrition. For example, teaching “personal health” may only mean healthy habits for some but it can be more complex depending on the culture and location of where a child lives. It’s important that all children have access to high-quality education. Teaching strategies should take into account the learning needs of all children.
Start a garden at school where students can learn about plants and help vegetables grow. Take a field trip to local grocery stores or farmers markets so kids can see what healthy foods look like, how they are grown/raised, and gain knowledge on food packaging. Mentally map out a healthy meal and have students deconstruct it by asking what ingredients are in each dish, where the food was sourced, how it is prepared, and so on.
2) Offer nutritional lessons in a systematic way such as monthly, weekly, or as an ongoing unit instead of one-time or occasional lessons to help kids internalize the information. It’s important to re-teach or reinforce information that may have been missed, forgotten, or misunderstood. Offer lessons over the course of a school year rather than one lesson all at once for kids to be able to internalize nutritional concepts and ideas throughout the course of their time in school.
Organize classes by theme each month with a different focus on nutrition (e.g., fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, grains). Create a “healthy eating” bulletin board in the classroom that students can update as they learn new things about healthy foods. Have student lead food tastings for classmates to introduce them to new and unfamiliar foods. Get students to keep a food log of everything they eat for a week so they can focus on making healthier choices.
Create a nutritional “word search” or crossword puzzle as an end-of-unit assessment to show what kids have learned and retained from nutrition lessons. Have the children create their own cookbook filled with recipes that are healthy, easy to make, and budget friendly. Give kids a chance to try their hand at cooking by bringing in experts or mentors who can teach them how to cook healthy meals while emphasizing the importance of nutrition.
3) Mix up the lesson plan. Consider having a variety of hands-on activities that teach about nutrition as well as conversations and discussions. Focus on learning about healthy food through discovery and play as well as lectures, demonstrations, and homework assignments.
Think about what will work best for the students, the location of the class, and any special considerations such as access to healthy food or lack of kitchen equipment. Focus on learning about where food comes from (such as grocery stores), how it is grown (e.g., farmers markets), what it looks like before it is cooked (e.g., produce at a grocery store), what it looks like when it is cooked (e.g., a meal at home or in school’s cafeteria). Discuss with students where their food comes from and how they can make healthier choices such as eating fresh versus processed foods, whole grains versus refined grains, etc.
As children get older, they will have more responsibilities when it comes to buying food for themselves so teaching them early on about where food comes from and how to make healthy choices is important. It’s never too late to start teaching children about nutrition and these are just a few examples of the many ways that it can be done.