Have you ever heard the saying, you are what you eat? In this health unit, students learn the importance of planning and eating a healthy diet. Students learn the food pyramid and how to categorize foods within each category. They also learn about healthy eating habits, and most importantly, they learn how choosing healthy habits will affect how they grow and learn. Students create their own slideshow presentations to show how they make healthy food choices and how those choices affect them. They also create posters to show a menu of a meal of their choice.
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Healthy Eating: Are We What We Eat? Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Start the unit with a picture of two cereal boxes. One of the boxes should be a sugar-filled cereal with a picture of a character on it. Another box of cereal should be a healthy cereal with a plain cover with no characters. Take a poll by having students place a sticky dot under the cereal box they would rather buy and eat. After everyone has voted, begin a class discussion posing questions about why they chose the cereal they did, if they have ever eaten one of the cereals before, and if they would try the one they did not choose. Pose the Essential Question, Are we really what we eat? Elicit student answers around this question. Ask for examples about foods they eat and how the foods make them healthy. Chart student responses and post the chart for students to refer to throughout the unit.
Show the unit introduction slideshow to involve students in identifying healthy food. This slideshow will help to assess students’ prior knowledge of healthy foods and gauge students’ needs.
Learning the Food Pyramid
To answer and explore the Content Questions, What are the food groups? and What is the food pyramid? go over the Food Pyramid chart with students. Point out each of the food groups. Have students give examples of each and add foods that they may not come up with. Be sure to point out that the meat group contains nuts and eggs as well. Once students get an idea of how the food pyramid is set up, read the book The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day, by Loreen Leedy. Use the MyPyramid.gov* Web site to explore activities and facts about the food pyramid.
Examining Student Lunches
Before beginning the next activity, send a letter home to parents asking them to pack a sack lunch for their children as part of a classroom activity. As a backup plan, have a few school sack lunches on hand for students who do not bring one.
To begin exploring the idea of healthy foods versus unhealthy foods, have students take out the lunch they brought to school. Make sure the food pyramid is out and viewable by all students. Have students attempt to group their foods according to what they have learned during the food pyramid activity. Students use the tally food pyramid sheet to keep track of their lunch items. After students tally their lunch items, have them look at how well-planned their lunch is. Post the following guiding questions for students to see:
Hold a whole-class discussion around these questions. Have students fill out the How Healthy Is Your Lunch? assessment to document their understanding of the food pyramid and healthy eating. Some students may need help dictating information to a volunteer or aide. Others may draw pictures and/or write words.
To help reach a broader audience and gain insight, create a survey with input from students about healthy eating. Tell each pair of students to survey at least five other students in the school or classroom. Have students then analyze and put the data into a graph. Have students interview other students about important topics related to healthy eating. Share the survey questions with students and walk through an example with them by showing students how to ask the survey questions and tally responses. Make sure students bring along a small food pyramid example so the students answering the questions have a visual aid to refer to. Show students the survey example. Ask for questions and check for understanding. Next, have students create graphs using the data collected and post them around the room. Students can create the graphs using a spreadsheet program or graph paper. Give students an opportunity to do a gallery walk so they can see what other graphs look like. Hold a whole-class discussion around the graph findings and record student observations on chart paper. Students refer to the results later when they create their advertisements. Before moving on, have students fill out the graph assessment.
Creating Slideshow Presentations
In a whole-class discussion, brainstorm a list of fats and sweets that could be placed in the top triangle of the food pyramid. Record students’ ideas on chart paper using a brainstorming cluster or other graphic organizer. Keep this chart up for future reference. After students have brainstormed these foods, ask students to explain why fats and sweets are not considered healthy foods. Facilitate a class discussion about what happens when unhealthy foods are eaten. Prompt students with related questions, such as:
Next, tell students that they will create slideshow presentations about healthy eating. Have each student think about one unhealthy food and one healthy food. After students have thought about their two foods, tell students to write the food names on strips of paper, so they can use them to create their slideshow presentations. Show students the Instead Of… slideshow example to ensure they understand the project expectations. Model self-direction by using the slideshow assessment with students as you show them the example. You may want to have a parent volunteer or aide available to assist students while they complete their computer work. Some students may need to dictate their words and point to the clip art they would like to use. Have students fill out the slideshow assessment independently or with an adult while viewing their finished product. Have students invite a peer to watch their finished slideshow and give positive feedback using the partner form.
Creating Healthy Menus
Students create a menu for the meal of their choice. Show students the healthy menu checklist and the menu example. Check for student understanding. Place students into pairs and have them choose a name for their restaurant and for which meal they would like to plan a healthy menu. Using the food pyramid, students must choose at least one food from each of the food groups and list which group the food belongs to. Give students a blank pyramid to draw pictures, write words, or cut out pictures from magazines that match the food groups. After students have chosen the foods necessary for their menu, have students work at the computers to create their menus. Provide a template so students can fill in their information. If possible have parent volunteers or aides help students as needed. Monitor progress by meeting with each pair and reviewing their menu scoring guide with them. Collect the menus and make a class book for the class and others to read.
Discuss the question, How do healthy eating habits help me grow bigger and live longer? Elicit a whole-class discussion by choosing different menus and asking questions regarding how choosing certain foods from each of the menus can make us healthy and live long lives. Prompt students to think about how unhealthy choices can affect us in a bad way and why choosing healthy foods affects us in a good way.
Understanding How Advertising Can Influence Food Choices
Cut out several advertising campaigns related to food, healthy and unhealthy. If possible, bring television advertisements to class as well. Have students brainstorm ideas about what would make them buy the food or not. List the reasons on chart paper. Pose the question, How do advertisements help us make our food choices? Conduct a whole-class discussion around the question and elicit student ideas. Have students take the survey results from the previous Collecting Data activity to help them decide what healthy food to target in the advertisement. For example, if their results showed that many people are not eating enough vegetables, they would choose a vegetable to target in their advertisement poster. After students choose the target food from one of the food groups, have them create individual advertisements using the techniques in the advertisement examples viewed in class. On a sheet of construction paper, have students create their advertisements. As a class, brainstorm key components that the advertisements should have and list them on a chart for students to refer to while creating their posters. Post the advertisement posters around the school to provide recognition of student learning and to help other students make healthy eating choices.
Wrapping Up the Unit
Revisit the Essential Question, Are we really what we eat? Have students write words, draw pictures, or dictate to you their answer to the question. Record anecdotal notes as you talk with students about this question to gain insight on their learning during their unit.
English Language Learner
A teacher participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.
This unit is aligned to Common Core State Standards for Math.