Educating children and parents on the relationship between obesity and nutrition is often considered the missing link in solving the obesity epidemic that plagues the United States. Laws can be passed to control the amount of fat and empty calories served in school foods, but giving individuals a true understanding of how nutrition works and what leads to obesity is like teaching a man how to fish instead of giving him a couple to cook. Hands-on lesson plans provide the opportunity to learn by doing, resulting in a deeper understanding so students can apply the lessons in their everyday lives.
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Nutrients vs. Calories
The concept of nutrient density is an essential concept for students to learn. It is possible to feel fuller with fewer calories if the calories are dense in nutrients, promoting healthy weight loss. Use fruits and vegetables to illustrate this concept. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water along with high amounts of nutrients. Because water has no calories, eating fruits and vegetables will help you feel fuller with fewer calories. For example, show the students how grapes shrink down to tiny raisins when they are dried, or put various fruits and vegetables in a dehydrator. The foods will shrink but the nutrients will remain. This gives students a clear visual example of this concept.
This activity will help students recognise the best choices in the grocery store. Set up similar products in pairs around the classroom, and ask students to select the one from each pair that they think is the more nutritious buy. Ask them to write down why they made a particular choice. Students are allowed to look at the ingredient list and nutrition label to help them make their decision. One pair you can use is a 100 per cent juice product and a juice cocktail drink. Juice cocktails have added sugars that contribute to obesity, so the 100 per cent juice is the best choice.
Counting Exercise Calories
One pound of fat contains 3,500 calories. Regular exercise is an essential component of avoiding or reducing obesity. Have students write down their weekly exercise routines and calculate how many calories they should eat on a daily basis in order to maintain their weight or lose one pound per week.
Tell students to track what they eat by writing it down in a food log for one month. Next to each food, have them write down the estimated calories and what type of nutrition each food provided. This will help them see where they need to improve their eating habits and which foods to cut back on in order to practice healthy eating habits that will help them maintain a healthy weight.
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