March is National Nutrition Month! The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics created this yearly campaign to encourage people to focus their attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. With students spending the majority of their time in schools, what better place to teach and promote healthy eating and exercise? Educating children of the significance of a proper diet is very important, as a child’s nutrition and lifestyle habits have a direct effect on every function of their body.
Teaching kids the skills they need to make these proper food choices will help them develop lifelong healthy eating patterns. NCBI tells us “Healthy eating habits among adolescents and children are essential for healthy growth, cognitive development and other aspects of health and wellbeing.” These good habits have also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
The School Nutrition Association shares the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 “required the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update federal nutrition standards for school meals”. These updated rules went into effect in July 2012 and require K-12 schools to offer students larger portions of fruits and veggies with every lunch, grains offered with meals must be whole-grain rich, meals must meet age-appropriate calorie minimums and maximums, sodium levels must meet certain limits, and meals cannot contain added trans-fat. Full guidelines can be found here.
Although the guidelines may seem to be rather strict, this doesn’t mean schools aren’t feeding their students delicious meals. Popular menu items such as pizza and macaroni are still served, but have had slight makeovers. For example, school pizza is now required to be prepared with whole grain crust, low-fat cheese, and reduced sodium sauce.
5 Ways K-12 Schools Can Celebrate National Nutrition Month
There are fun ways to teach your students about nutrition in the classroom. Have a good time and celebrate National Nutrition Month with these 5 ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- Take a Field Trip
A field trip to a local farmers market or farm is a great way to get out of the classroom and celebrate National Nutrition Month. Introduce your students to healthy organic foods such as fruits and veggies grown locally! TeachHub also suggests a supermarket scavenger hunt as another field trip idea. “As you walk through the supermarket aisles, ask students to point out healthy foods that belong to each group on the food plate. Then, for a fun activity, divide students into groups and hand each group a list of healthy foods to search for.”
- Food Group Project
For National Nutrition Month consider a group project in which you assign teams of students to different food groups. Have your students research their food groups in depth and present the nutrition facts to the class. This way they’re learning about their own food group, and also learning from their peers about the several other food groups.
- Taste Test
What better way to get students to try new foods than a taste test! Cut up several different fruits and veggies into bite-size pieces and have your class try one of each. Be sure to check that there are no allergies in your class. After the taste test have the children participate in an open discussion amongst each other and then vote on their favorites with an explanation as to why!
- Food Product Boxes
Another idea for National Nutrition Month is to have your classroom save empty boxes of food and bring them into class. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the class should “Spend some time reading labels and comparing information in the Nutrition Facts panels. Expand into a menu-planning opportunity, individually or in teams.”
- Tip of the Day
Get parents involved! Consider sending home nutrition tips or trivia questions through your school notification platform and encourage parents to keep the nutrition discussion going outside of the classroom. You could even try sending home healthy recipes to try out. Getting parents and guardians involved will help solidify these healthy eating habits, which will only result in good outcomes as a child grows. For an extra incentive we suggest giving out prizes to the students and parents who participate!
At Alert Solutions we want all K-12 schools and districts to understand the importance of teaching children about nutrition and healthy eating habits, and why it is essential for healthy growth and cognitive development. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, is a great way to communicate with parents outside of the classroom to keep the nutrition conversation going.
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