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Fighting Childhood Obesity in Your Classroom

Kim Haynes

Fighting Childhood Obesity in Your ClassroomThe childhood obesity epidemic pops up regularly on the evening news; First Lady Michelle Obama has made it a central focus of her time in the White House with her Let’s Move campaign. But did you know that there are simple things you can do in your classroom to encourage your students to be healthier? Even if you’re not a science or P.E. teacher, you can make a difference.

Use Healthy Treats or Non-food Rewards

It’s the easy, familiar choice – offer kids candy when they win a game. But what about replacing the treat with dried, sweetened fruit? Or offering non-edible rewards, like a “no homework” pass or extra credit points on the next quiz.

 

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Swap Your Classroom Plant for an Edible One

Many teachers like to grow plants in their room. Why not grow some tomatoes or fresh herbs? Kids are often more interested in eating “healthy” food when they’ve grown it themselves. Even better – grow an edible school garden, with enough food that kids can take some home to their parents.

 

Introduce International or Unusual Healthy Foods in a Lesson

Are your students reading a book set in a foreign land? Take this opportunity to expose them to some healthy native foods from that country. If kids have never eaten hummus, pita bread, or fresh fruits like mangoes, this can give them a new connection to the reading material and give them a new healthy snack to try.

 

Read a Book on Food Issues

Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle or Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser can both provoke interesting conversations in a high school English class.

 

For younger students, try What Food Is This? by Rosmarie Hausherr, The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food or Food Rules! The Stuff You Munch, Its Crunch, Its Punch, and Why You Sometimes Lose Your Lunch (for the 3rd grader looking for some silly jokes with their learning).

 

Research & Debate Food-related Topics

You could have students research the societal changes that have led to the increase in obesity rates, ask them to study the science involved in food production, or discuss the ethical implications of certain food choices (such as the limited availability of healthy food sources in low-income environments). Students can use the additional practice on research skills, so why not have them research something that can influence their future food decision making?

 

For younger students, simply talk about about what makes food healthy, how they can tell, use fruit and vegetables and word categories or to help with visual math problems.

 

You can also visit the American Dietetic Association website or Education World’s special Nutrition in the Classroom section to get more ideas for your classroom.

March is National Nutrition Month, so what better time to incorporate a nutritional message into your classroom?

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