If you need a nutrition lesson plan, this outline and fun ideas is perfect for kindergarten through 6th grade elementary kids.
I love being invited to speak to kids around our community about health and nutrition. I’m encouraged by how excited the kids get for healthy eating, and how eager they are to grow strong and feel healthy. There is always room for preventative education when it comes to childhood obesity. I believe a good mix of solid nutrition principles with real world application ideas can help kids understand how to eat for life.
I’ve written up my basic, go-to nutrition lesson plan for elementary schools, home school parents, or church groups with kids between 5-12 years old. This outline, although it looks like a lot of content, takes about 45-60 minutes, depending on how chatty the kids get!
The Nutrition Lesson Plan Warm Up
I start with a children’s book about nutrition to get their attention. Two that I love are:
- Gregory the Terrible Eater: I like this one because the kids go crazy about the goat parents begging Gregory to eat garbage instead of the healthy food Gregory prefers to eat!
- Two Bites Club– Although outdated from the Department of Agriculture, this cute book encourages kids to get in the club of taking two bites from every food group.
The Lesson Plan Presentation
Then, we identify each food group and have the following discussion together: (print the following worksheet to prompt you with a large list of food ideas from each group).
- Protein is essential to eat every day because it builds our muscles. We need 3-5 ounces of protein per day to have the best muscles.
- What types of foods are protein foods? Identify variety of
meats, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs soy, nuts, seeds, seafood
- What is your favorite protein food? Let the kids get more specific here such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, black beans, chicken, scrambled eggs, shrimp, etc.
- If possible- have a sample of a protein food (hummus, nuts, seeds, beef jerky).
- Note: Because of time, I will talk about dairy here if prompted by the kids. I don’t get too worried about focusing on dairy.
- Grains are essential to eat every day because it gives our body energy. Our brains and our bodies prefer carbohydrates like grains to give us the energy to think and run.
- What types of foods are grains? Identify variety such as oatmeal, wheat, rice, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa, rye, popcorn, millet.
- What is your favorite grains? Let the kids get more specific here such as toast, tortillas, pasta, pretzels, crackers.
- If possible, have a sample of grains. Cereal or bread is easy, or bring something they may not have tasted before, such as quinoa.
- Vegetables are essential to eat every day because they contain the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to fight sickness, move our blood around our bodies, clean out our cells, and even protect our cells from damage.
- What types of foods are vegetables? Mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini.
- What is your favorite vegetable? Carrots, tomatoes, celery, avocado, etc.
- If possible, bring them a veggie to taste. Sugar snap peas, string beans, or baby carrots are easy to transport.
- Fruit is essential to eat every day because it gives us energy, contains vitamins and minerals, and includes something important called fiber. Fiber helps us with digestion so we can use all of the food we eat.
- What types of foods are fruits? Apples, bananas, pears, strawberries, watermelon.
- What is your favorite fruit? Kiwi, mango, cherries, grapefruit, etc.
- If possible bring some fruit to sample.
The Nutrition Lesson Activities
Eat a Rainbow
Roll a large 6 sided dice made from a square box with colored paper glued to each side, or paint a block of wood to make a dice with 6 different colors. Let the kids take turns rolling the dice. When it lands on a color, ask them to share their favorite fruit or veggie of that color. You can also ask follow up questions about that food.
- White= onions, bananas, cauliflower, potatoes, inside of pears.
- Yellow = peppers, pineapple, lemons.
- Blue/purple= blueberries, eggplant, red grapes, plums, blackberries
- Orange = oranges, peppers, mangoes, apricots.
- Red = Strawberries, cherries, watermelon, tomatoes, apples, raspberries.
- Green= kiwi, spinach, honeydew, apples, pears.
As a separate activity or combine with the presentation, challenge the kids to truly tasting their food. This is the first step in being mindful of our food and truly tasting it, rather than swallowing it without tasting. I like to do this activity with a blueberry, a raisin, or other very small piece of fruit.
- Hand one blueberry to each student, but tell them they can NOT eat the blueberry yet.
- Let them look at the blueberry and ask them questions to describe what it looks like and how it feels.
- Let them put it in their mouth, but not bite it yet. Just place it on their tongue. Have them notice the shape and the texture of the blueberry.
- Then, let them slowly take a bite. Ask them to describe to you the flavors they tasted (many will say sour), the texture, (juicy!), and anything else they notice.
- Remind them when they are trying new foods to truly take their time and taste the foods.
Building a Smoothie
Bring the dice back that you used for the earlier activity, with the 6 colored sides. Choose a child to roll the dice. For each color it lands on, let the kids add the following ingredients to the blender:
- Roll the orange: Orange juice.
- If they roll the yellow: Canned pineapple.
- If they roll the blue: Blueberries
- If they roll the red: Frozen strawberries.
- If they roll the green: Baby spinach.
- If they roll the white: Banana.
After all the ingredients are added, blend into a smoothie. Have small, 4 ounce cups to let the kids taste it.
More than fresh
There are many ways we can eat fruits and veggies beyond fresh. If you don’t love fresh apples, maybe you like applesauce, or apple juice. Bring a sample of each of the ways to eat healthy foods, and if you can, a way for them to sample. The kids love sampling things they haven’t tried before, and letting them do it with their peers always gets kids to try foods they won’t try at home for their parents.
- Dried– Bring dried mangoes, raisins, dried cranberries, fruit leather.
- Fresh– Bring fresh fruit like blueberries, strawberries.
- Frozen– Bring frozen fruit like strawberries.
- Freeze-dried– Bring freeze dried apples or strawberries.
- Blended– Bring applesauce pouches
- Juiced– bring any juice like orange juice, apple juice.
Building a meal plan
At the end of our time together, after we’ve talked about the variety of foods that are on your “should eat” each day. Now, it’s time to put it into a plan. Hand out a meal plan printable, and discuss how important it is to plan to eat the food groups daily, and ways each meal can help us do that. For example:
- BREAKFAST: What are some foods we like to eat for breakfast that has protein? (eggs, sausage, etc.) What are some grains we like to eat for breakfast? What are some vegetables we like to eat for breakfast? What are fruits we like to eat for breakfast?
- LUNCH: What are some foods we like to eat for lunch that has protein? What are some grains we like to eat for lunch? What are some vegetables we like to eat for lunch? What are fruits we like to eat for lunch?
- SNACK: What are some foods we like to eat for a snack that has protein? What are some grains we like to eat for a snack? What are some vegetables we like to eat for a snack? What are fruits we like to eat for a snack?
- DINNER: What are some foods we like to eat for dinner that has protein? What are some grains we like to eat for dinner? What are some vegetables we like to eat for dinner? What are fruits we like to eat for dinner?
Encourage the kids to go home and talk with their parents about their meal plans and what they learned about nutrition!
Other nutrition lesson plan activities:
The above outline is all we have time for, but I do plan to replace some of the activities in future nutrition presentations with some of these ideas:
- Reading a food label.
- Red, yellow, and green light foods
- Gardening activity- where does food come from?
- Food character profile cards for printing
- Food group food cards for printing
What other nutrition activity and fun lesson ideas do you have? I’d love to share and collaborate!
- MyPlate Portion Control Plates. It’s fun to have a box of these for the kids to take home! This really drives home the message and helps them remember what they learned! (They are also available on Amazon and with bulk discounts)