Teaching Elementary School Health Education/Nutrition and Diet
What to Teach
How to Teach
- Nutrition Tips
- Games, WebQuests
- 5 A Day (Sample Lesson) - Information for this lesson was gathered from www.dole5aday.com
- Instructional Lessons & Materials
-  Nutrition Explorations
In our lifetime, we will eat about 70,000 meals and 60 tons of food. Food provides both the energy and the materials needed to build and maintain all body cells. Nutrients are the nourishing substances we must obtain from food. These substances are vital for growth and maintenance of a healthy body throughout life. Nutrition is one key to developing and maintaining a state of health that is optimal for you. A poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are known to be risk factors for life threatening diseases.
To begin the study of nutrition, let's start with an overview of the six classes of nutrients. Most of us are probably familiar with the terms carbohydrates, lipids, (fats and oils) proteins, vitamins, and minerals. These six categories, plus water, make up the six classes of nutrients found in food.
Nutrients can then be assigned to three functional categories: (1) those that primarily provide us with calories to met energy needs, (2) those that are important for growth, development, and maintenance, and (3) those that act to keep body functions running smoothly. The energy yielding nutrients make up a major portion of most foods.
Let's look more closely at these six classes of nutrients. Carbohydrates are a compound containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. Most carbohydrates are known as sugars, starches, and fibers. Lipids are compounds containing carbon and hydrogen, a little oxygen, and sometimes other atoms. Lipids dissolve in benzene, but not in water and include fats, oils and cholesterol. Proteins are food and body components made of amino acids. Proteins contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and other atoms in a specific configuration. Proteins contain the form of nitrogen most easily used by the human body. Vitamins are compounds needed in very small amounts in the diet to help regulate and support chemical reactions in the body. Minerals are elements used in the body to promote chemical reactions and to form body structures. Water is the universal solvent, and chemically known as H2O. The body is composed of about 60% water. Water needs are about 9 cups per day for women and 13 cups per day for men. The need for water is greater if one exercises heavily.
The body transforms the energy contained in carbohydrates, proteins and fat into other forms of energy that in turn allow the body to function. Vitamins, minerals, and water do not supply calories to the body but are essential for proper body function. The quantities of the various nutrients that people consume vary widely, and the nutrient amounts present in different foods also vary a great deal.
A basic plan for health promotion and disease prevention includes eating a varied diet. Variety in your diet means choosing a number of different foods within any given food group rather than eating the same old thing day after day. Variety makes meals more interesting and helps ensure that a diet contains sufficient nutrients. One way to balance your diet as you consume a variety of foods is to select foods from the six major food groups every day. The six major food groups are grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat & beans, and oils. Focus on nutrient rich foods as you strive to meet your nutrient needs. Variety, balance, and moderation are three important words in diet planning.
One of the areas that people struggle with is going out to eat. While you may be eating healthy at home, you must remember to follow the same guidelines when you go out to eat. For example, fast foods are bad for you but are ok sometimes if in moderation. Some examples of tips to bring with you when ordering out are: 1) order the small or junior-size burger, 2) choose a whole-wheat bun, 3) order low-fat cheese, 4) skip the fried chicken - choose grilled chicken, 5) get salad instead of fries, 6) get milk or juice instead of pop.
A person's nutritional state can be categorized as desirable in which the body has adequate stores for times of increased needs. The best results are obtained by using low-fat or fat-free dairy products, incorporating vegetable proteins in the diet, in addition to animal protein foods, including citrus fruits, along with dark green vegetables and emphasizing whole grain breads and cereals.
Dietary guidelines of Americans have been issued to help reduce chronic diseases. The guidelines emphasize eating a variety of foods, performing regular physical activity, maintaining or improving weight, moderating consumption of fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sugar, salt, and alcohol. Included in the guidelines also are eating plenty of whole grain products, fruits, and vegetables and safely preparing and storing foods, especially perishable foods. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) are set for many nutrients. These amounts yield enough of each nutrient to meet the needs of healthy individuals within specific gender and age categories. All of the many dietary standards fall under the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI). Daily values are used as a basis for expressing the nutrient content of foods on the Nutrition Facts panel and are based for the most part on the RDAs. Food labels are a useful tool to track your nutrient intake and to learn more about the nutritional characteristics of the foods you eat.
As you gain understanding about your nutritional habits and increase your knowledge about nutrition, you will have the opportunity to dramatically reduce your risk for many common health problems. Many North Americans would benefit from a healthier balance of food in their diets. Moderation is the key for some foods, such as sugared soft drinks and fried foods. For other foods, such as fruits and vegetables, increased variety is warranted. Few adults currently meet the "5-a-day" minimum recommendation promoted for the total servings of fruits and vegetables. Health promotion and disease prevention have been public health strategies in North America since the late 1970s. One part of this strategy is Healthy People 2010, a report issued in 2000 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This report outlines health promotion and disease prevention objectives for the nation for the year 2010. The main objectives of Healthy People 2010 are to promote healthful lifestyles and to reduce preventable death and disability. The following internet site provides more details on the Healthy People program: www.health.gov/healthy people.
Today North Americans live longer than ever before and enjoy better general health. Many also have more money and more diverse food and lifestyle choices to consider. Because of greater choices, we can have a much better diet today than ever before if we know what choices to make. As you reexamine your nutritional habits, remember your health is largely your responsibility. Your body has a natural ability to heal itself, offer your body what it needs and it will serve you well. Eating a healthy diet is one way to affirm that you care about your health. Healthy food habits developed and strengthened throughout life can provide many benefits.