Teaching Kids About Nutrients
When incorporating nutrition teachings into your daily time with the kids, it helps to have a learning plan in mind. If you’re stuck, a basic six week lesson plan could be constructed out of the basics of nutrient education.
For the terms of this article, nutrients will include:
– Macronutrients: Proteins, Carbs, Fats, and Water
– Micronutrients: Vitamins and Minerals
Keep in mind that kids and most adults, think in terms of whole foods, not necessarily these terms. So for kids, drawing the association between these terms and real food they see on their plate is of lifelong benefit.
Several weeks ago a mom came and told me that at dinner her six year old daughter said, “This chicken has protein in it.” When asked how she knew, the girl simply replied, “because Coach Amy said so.” The mom, thought it was funny and great at the same time. Now, the girl didn’t know about amino acids or any other science and at the end of the day, she didn’t need to. She simply needed to understand the chain of thought that chicken has protein and protein is good for me. As she continues to grow, we hope that lessons and associations such as this one stay with them, so when mom and dad aren’t around to make food choices for them, they can at least differentiate between healthy and unhealthy foods.
In teaching kids about nutrition, I usually find that 5-7 minutes is plenty of time to cover the topic. This is just long enough to get their brains thinking about the food they’re eating and drawing parallels without making it boring. A simple six weeks on the basics of nutrients would be covered below. The messages listed could be scaled up or down depending on your groups age or academic advancement.
Week 1: Protein
– What Does Protein do for your body? It builds your muscles and organs. It helps repair and replace them too, so that your body can keep playing longer and stronger. It also helps little cuts heal up.
– What kinds of foods have protein? meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, dairy products and beans
– What would be an example of a healthy meal with protein? Make sure they can identify the protein in the meal.
Week 2: Carbs
– What do Carbohydrates or “Carbs” do for your body? They give you energy and break down food into brain fuel.
– There are good carbs and bad carbs. Bad Carbs: sugar, soft drinks, sports drinks, candy, pastries, etc. Good Carbs: high fiber, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
– What would be some examples of good carbs? Give them the categories and let them give examples to fill in the boxes. For example: Whole Grains: oatmeal, cereal, wheat bread. Fruits: Bananas, Apples, etc. Vegetables: Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots.
– What would be an example of some healthy carbs you could have for breakfast?
Week 3: Good Fats
– What do good fats do for our bodies? Acts as the body’s reserve tank of energy , protects our organs – like a cushion , helps our bodies stay warm in cold weather , helps keep our bones and joints oiled
– What kinds of foods have good fats? Seafood, nuts and seeds, oils
– Whats an example of a snack with healthy fats? Avocado and almonds
– Putting it all together: a healthy meal should have a protein, carbs and fat. Can you give an example of a meal like this?
Week 4: Water
– What is the best thing we can drink? Water (and Milk) – The water in blood carries food (oxygen) to all parts of your body and keeps us hydrated
– How often should you drink water? With every meal, every time you are thirsty, whenever you are playing sports or exercise
– What is it called when we don’t drink enough water? Being Dehydrated
Week 5 & 6: Vitamins and Minerals
– What are Vitamins and Minerals? They are the workers found in foods we eat. Your body needs them to get its jobs done and so that you can grow the way you should. When it comes to vitamins and minerals, each one has its own special jobs in our bodies.
– Vitamin D: his job is to take care of our bones and teeth, it can be found in dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese
– Vitamin C: He helps keep our gums and muscles in good shape and helps us not get sick. You can find these little guys in citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, and kiwi.
– Vitamin A: her job is to help with our eyesight and keep our bodies strong and able to fight off infections. You can find her in orange colored fruits and vegetables (can you think of examples?) and dark green leefy vegetables
– Vitamin B: this team helps make energy and let it loose in your body. Whole grains, fish, meat, eggs, beans and peas all have the B Team.
– Minerals: The body uses its mineral team to for even harder jobs — from building strong bones to helping messages get from our brain to our fingers and toes. Some minerals are even used to help us keep a normal heartbeat.
– Calcium: their job is to help us build strong bones and teeth- they often work with the vitamin D team. You can find them in a lot of the same places too like dairy products but also canned tuna and salmon.
– Iron: Your body uses the iron guys to transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. You can find iron in foods like red meat, tuna and salmon
– Potassium: The potassium crew helps make sure the amount of water is just right between our cells, you can find them in foods like bananas, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.