5 Tips to Talk about Food and Nutrition in the Classroom

Eat Smart B Active - 5 Tips to Talk about Food and Nutrition in the Classroom

Have you ever wondered if your Food and Nutrition lessons deliver accurate messages? Firstly, let’s just say, we respect that Teachers wear a million hats, and nobody can expect Teachers to be nutrition experts!

As a Teacher myself over two decades, I've heard some colourful and very inaccurate health lessons being delivered by Teachers in the classroom. You see, it's not as simple as teaching Maths... We all know that 2 + 2 = 4, but when it comes to nutrition, we only know what we know and some of what we know isn't always accurate.

With Food and Nutrition a mandatory component of the health curriculum, and almost half of a child's daily nourishment consumed at school, kindy or early learning centres, it’s crucial that kindergarten and school settings provide children with accurate healthy messages and an opportunity to establish healthy eating habits.

Here, Jess and Serena - our Team's Nutrition and Health Specialists, share 5 healthy tips to help you talk to children about Food and Nutrition...

Tip 1 - Talk about ‘everyday/sometimes’ foods rather than ‘good/bad’ foods

To help children develop a ‘healthy’ relationship with food it’s important to remove judgement of food by how we speak about food. So, instead of describing food as ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ or ‘healthy’ vs ‘unhealthy’ food, instead use the terms ‘everyday’ foods and ‘sometimes’ foods.

For instance, using the word 'bad' and 'good' can cause confusion and anxiety for kids and have a negative impact on the way children think about food as they grow up. While ‘everyday’ foods offer more nutrition, all foods, including ‘sometimes’ foods can still fit into a well-balanced diet. It’s important that food provides nutrition but also pleasure and enjoyment as part of a healthful eating experience.

The Nutrition Poster below is from the Eat Smart B Active® program, and is a great resource to display in your classroom to help children pack a nutritious lunch box. You can get your complimentary digital copy here.

Tip 2 - Use positive words to describe foods in kids’ lunchboxes

It can be a tricky issue to address the sometimes questionable items that appear in kids’ lunchboxes, and the last thing you want is to upset children and their parents. Try encouraging children to eat their ‘everyday’ foods first, as these foods help their brain and body grow, and give them energy to learn and play. Children can then choose to eat the 'sometimes' foods packed in their lunchbox as they desire, hence, developing a healthier relationship with food.

Try using these healthy words to talk about food:

Tip 3 - Integrated health lessons using ‘cooking’

‘Cooking’ is a great way to teach children about nutrition, and is also a meaningful way to integrate maths and literacy into your lessons. Making ‘ants on a log’ (celery topped with peanut butter and sultanas. Note: be mindful of any food allergies) is a great way to introduce the letter/sound ‘a’ and allows children to practice following mathematical positional language, while also introducing children to healthful foods. Children are more likely to try nutritious foods in a peer group setting and increase their knowledge as they explore new, healthier options. They are also even more likely to ask for them again at home (Keihner, A., et.al, 2020).

Tip 4 - Create healthy competition

Setting competitions in the classroom is a great way to increase students' knowledge about Food and Nutrition, which also increases their daily intake of fruits and vegetables, and is fun at the same time. Reading a health literacy resource, such as the "I am a Superhero Fruit & Veg" book, is a great way to get started or participate in the Eat Smart B Active® lunch box challenge. You could create an incentive, such as awarding a weekly "Superhero", for the student that can eat the greatest variety of fruit and vegetables, while logging it in a chart to integrate maths data representation. This way, your nutritional education increases children’s knowledge and is a fun way to demonstrate their knowledge in a fun way, while actively improving children’s nutrition (Belot, M., James, J., & Nolen, P., 2016).

Tip 5 - Integrate Food and Nutrition into other learning areas

Allow kids to interact with foods in other learning areas. One way to approach this is to incorporate literacy through creating a class ‘A-Z Everyday Food Groups’ book or ‘Fruit & Veg’ Book by introducing letters of the alphabet with different fruits and vegetables or ‘everyday’ foods. Bring in fruits and veggies as objects for painting and drawing so that kids are exposed to nutritious new foods they are unfamiliar with. This will not only allow us to tap into children's creativity but also enhance their learning ability when they have to actively think about the fruit or vegetable they are currently drawing and its nutritional values.

For more help register here for VIP access to our complimentary resources from the evidence-based Eat Smart B Active® program to support you in the delivery of the Health Curriculum - Includes Videos, Songs, Interactive Quiz questions, Worksheets and Printable resources.

Wishing you every success in the classroom.

Selina - BA (Psych) DipEd

Co-Founder | Educator

Jess (BHSc) and Serena (BHSc)