Fun activities to teach nutrition to kids with worksheets, printables, activities, games and more!
Keeping kids engaged in a topic can be tricky. To help them get the most out of what you’re trying to teach, it can be helpful to use hands on activities or games focused on nutrition. Using the information that was just talked about in a different setting, such as a game, allows kids to develop a better understanding and to learn how it applies to them.
Here are 14 Ideas top educators are using to teach nutrition to their students.
1 ) Cooking Demo/Recipe
There are endless possibilities for cooking demos. Depending on your facility and available equipment, you can cook hot or cold foods.
One important part of cooking demos is keeping your audience’s attention, if not done right even cooking demos can become boring.
Preparation is key, cooking demos take mise en place to the next level. Think about basically any cooking show, they put the pan of muffins in the oven and within seconds magically pull out another one that is baked perfectly. When preparing for a cooking demo I like to make the recipe and make notes where I need to have things prepared beforehand. This may be something baked ready to go, but also could be having the vegetables washed and diced. I can’t stress this enough, pre measure what you’re using. If you need 2 cups of flour, have them measured out in a container ready to go. It will keep your work area organized and make it easier for the audience to follow along.
As you are practicing the recipe, write notes for what you’re going to say as you do each step, maybe it’s a question or a tip in addition to describing the step you’re performing. A balance of walking the audience through certain steps and quickly doing other steps helps individuals get the most out of the demo.
2) Color Dice
Exposing kids to different colored foods is a great method to help them try new foods and broaden their diet. This game can be done in smaller groups or as a large group. You can use a die with different color sides or make your own. I found some larger foam dice at the dollar store that work great and don’t get lost as easily when tossed. Have a different color for each side of the die.
The colors I included on mine were: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and brown. Because there are not as many blue and purple foods I made half of one side blue and the other half purple. You can make it more difficult by keeping track of which foods have already been said and a new food must be said if the same color is rolled.
(see where I used this dice in my elementary nutrition school lesson here)
3) Recipe Sharing
This takes a little bit of prep before. I like either having a theme such as dinner ideas or favorite snacks. Or if you want some recipes for everything, split up what people bring, assign some breakfast, some lunch/snack, some dinner and the other desserts.
You can either have each kid bring enough to share with everyone or do a swap where each kid gets a different recipe to take home. Depending on how many people you have, you can set it up as a show and tell.
Each person can tell about their recipe, what they like about it, when they normally have it. Maybe it’s the family’s weekend waffle recipe and they like eating waffles with whipped cream and fruit with their family. It is good to help kids associate fun experiences with normal meals that are healthy and not just going out to ice cream.
4) Food Magazine Collage
Combining art activities with nutrition is always fun. This can be done a few different ways.
Kids can work in teams or on their own and create a table spread with different foods they would want to include. You can set specifications such as all food groups need to be represented.
For older kids it can also be fun to create a food item or dish using other pictures of foods such as a pizza made from pictures of all different foods. This helps kids have exposure to different foods they may not have seen before and the food photography in food magazines makes the dishes look delicious.
This activity can be done on the computer, and kids can find the pictures online. Or done with poster boards and cut out pictures from magazines.
To collect enough magazines, have kids bring magazines they might have, and contact offices in your area that have waiting rooms, and ask if you can have magazines before they toss them out. You can use some non food magazines too as there are often food ads in them that can be used.
This activity works best with an introduction to a nutrition principle such as including more fruits and vegetables or having balanced meals.
5) Start Your Own Cookbook
Bring those scrapbooking skills back with a cookbook. Kids can bring family recipes they like, or look through magazines or online and print out recipes. Put them together in an organized binder. You can bring paper too, and have kids create dividers for different recipe types such as breakfast, dinner, soups, salads, snack, desserts etc.
Electronic versions of everything are being made. For older kids you could also have them create a version on google docs with links to the recipes online, or have them create pinterest boards for different types of recipes. This activity can help kids work through a recipe to see if they would be able to make it, if it seems to correspond with their cooking skills and if the ingredients are something they could easily buy.
6) Choice & Accountability with Food Choices
Helping kids measure their intake of different food groups can help them be more aware of what they are eating. Create a tracking chart for a week with the days and the food groups for each day. Have the kids mark off if they had that food group that day.
You can make it more detailed by having older kids mark how many servings of each food group they had during that day. For some kids, this activity should not have a reward at the end for those that ate the most food groups, since many kids do not have easy access to certain foods or control over the food available to them. However, the process of kids trying to eat healthier should be rewarded, maybe as a group reward.
7) Nutrition Label Quiz and Scavenger Hunt
Understanding food labels is a great skill to determine what really is in a product. The food label can be very complex for kids to understand, but there are some simple aspects that can be helpful for them.
The ingredient list is part of the nutrition label, helping kids learn common ingredient items is important, such as juice that is not 100% juice but rather has extra added sugar in it. Or whole wheat vs wheat, wheat is not a whole grain, where as whole wheat is a whole grain.
As well, ingredients are listed in order of their quantity in the product in descending order. Understanding the serving size of the item is also very important. Often serving sizes are deceiving such as sports drinks that have 2+ servings in a bottle or crackers that are just a few crackers.
The nutrient and percent daily value is more complex but useful to focus on certain nutrients such as saturated fat, sodium, sugar, fiber and protein.
The calories section is important to help teach kids about nutrient dense foods, and compare calories of other items that are not nutrient dense and are high in calories. The FDA has a good page for more information on nutrition labels.
The last part is not actually part of the nutrition label but rather the other labels on the package and key words used. Some include juice vs drink or beverage (if less than 100% juice it changes to beverage/drink), “High” or “rich in” must have 20% of the daily value of that nutrient, “good source” must have 10-19%. “Natural” has no nutrition meaning on food products. There is a label that will say the percentage of whole grains in a product.
This can be an interactive activity using different food packages and having the kids investigate the products themselves. You can make it into a scavenger hunt with a list of items they need to find such as a product with a good source of calcium, a whole grain bread or a juice with no added sugar.
8) Nutrition Jeopardy
Who doesn’t love jeopardy style games?! This can be a fun activity to do after a nutrition topic was discussed. There are lots of resources to make your own. This website has free jeopardy templates that are easy to make.
9) Blind Taste Test
Experiencing new foods is a great way to help kids expand their common diet and learn of other foods they like. This can be done in a few ways.
The first is a “which one is different” game. You have kids try three samples that look similar, such as strawberry yogurt (with one having less sugar) or apple juice (with one being part water). Two are the same yogurt and one is different. The child has to decide which one of the samples is different. It is a fun way for kids to focus on the taste and texture of foods.
Another way is to have kids blindfolded and pass out a sample of different foods, some common and some not. The blindfolded individual will try a sample and try to determine the food. Once they have tried the item, they can mark on their sheet what they thought the food was and if they liked it. Once you have gone through this process for all the food items you can go over the correct answers, which can be very fun to see all the different answers.
10) Start a Sprouting Jar
Watching plants grow is fun for children, they get to see the outcomes of their hard work.
This activity is great for younger kids. It is a fun way to teach kids about how plants grow and the work behind all the food we eat. It does take a little preparation beforehand, which you can also involve the kids in.
You can sprout lots of food from beans, peanuts, chia seeds and grains. For the easy one not requiring many supplies, sprouting wheat is a great option. I’ve seen cute ones for spring using half an egg shell, small pots or shallow plastic totes being used.
There are instructions and tips on this website. After the wheat has sprouted, the kids can cut it and juice it (if you have access to a juicer) or just enjoy the fresh wheat grass.
11) Create a Personal Meal Plan with Worksheets
Helping older kids apply nutrition principles can be a great way to build their confidence in eating healthy. Maybe it’s just planning one meal of the day for a week or planning 3 days of meals, it will be about 6-7 meals they’ll plan.
But using a worksheet like this meal plan template, have individuals fill out what items they will make, make an ingredient list and check off the boxes of what food groups are in that meal. This can be a fun way to learn new recipes and practice making a shopping list for the meal plan.
12) Sugar Demo
This is a fun visual for how much added sugar is in different food items. It’s commonly done with drinks, but you could also do it with yogurt, snacks or candy.
You can have cups of sugar with teaspoons to measure out the amount of sugar in the food item into another container, or even an empty container of the item such as an empty soda bottle.
To figure out how much sugar to add, you use the sugar content on the nutrition label. For items such as dairy and some other foods, you’ll have to remove the amount of natural sugar.
Once you have the grams of sugar you figure out how many teaspoons of sugar that equals. 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon sugar. Once you have that number, the kids can measure out the sugar. You can compare at the end which items had the most sugar.
13) Find Recipes and Assess Why They are Healthy, Or How You Can Modify Them to Become Healthy.
Another activity to help apply nutrition principles. I would suggest picking out some recipes beforehand of ones you think are good to change, or use some of these.
Have the kids review the recipe and decide that ingredients could be decreased or removed and what they could add to the recipe to make it more balanced. This makes a great group activity and helps the kids learn from each other.
14) Matching Relay
Everyone loves a contest. For this activity
- have a picture or name of food printed on paper.
- Cut so each food is in a different piece. Have two sets of these and put each set into a bowl.
- Have two teams race to see who can divide them into the food groups first.
- You can have each person take a turn or have the group work together.
- Afterwards you can check for which team answered the most right. I like to deduct time for wrong answers to make it even out between speed and accuracy.
Activities are a fun way to help kids learn nutrition. Nutrition is hands on and so should the way we teach it. I’d love to hear your experiences using these activities in your lesson or other nutrition activities you like to do with kids.
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