On a warm, spring day last April, I linked up with two fabulous teachers and two wonderful classrooms of eager 5th graders at the innovative arts school in the Bronx. They invited me over for the second year in a row to enhance the kids’ nutritional knowledge as part of their busy curriculum. My goal is to expose these students to healthier eating as early as possible, so that they can make better choices when it comes to their food. As a reward for being ‘brave’ and trying a new healthy food, each child receives a sticker in the classroom on a proudly-posted colorful board. This is such a fun way to motivate kids to start eating wiser at a younger age, as these gentle encouragements of possibility and exposure will help them for the rest of their lives!
We learned about healthy fats as part of our lesson plan, including which fats and cholesterol we want more of in our diet and which ones to look out for and avoid as often as possible: monounsaturated and saturated fats vs trans fats. The goal was to debunk the fact that all fats are bad, since in fact, many fats are quite protective and are very good for us. In our small time frame, we managed to get a really fun nutritional game going, where the children got into teams (each team name was veggie-based!) and had one member from each group taste a food in front of the class (while blindfolded!) and try to guess what it was for a point. For an additional point, they could disclosed the type of fat that may be found in their food using the help of their teammates and the handout provided to them.
I hand selected foods from Trader Joe’s (LOVE them!) including carrots, strawberries, rice cakes, apple slices, prunes, crunchy almond butter, sugar snap peas, avocado, raw sunflower seeds and almonds (making sure to discuss food allergies before hand). This is a handful of the nutritious snack ideas that I wanted the kids to learn about as alternatives to Doritos and Oreos. Not all calories are created equally: a 100 calorie bag of carrots vs a 100 calorie bag of Oreos just can’t be considered equals! Some kids had never, ever tasted some of these foods before, so it was an interesting way to get them to tune into their different senses when eating something new.
Manhattan Milk was kind enough to deliver and donate bottles of organic fresh local milk (chocolate, skim and 1% pints, which were all rBST and hormone-free of course) to the school, as well as organic rBST-free cheese strings and organic pre-cut apple slices to the students so that they could enjoy an extra healthy nutritious morning! These donations were so well received by the school, it was truly amazing. The extras were divided up amongst the kids, who each got to sample a platter of all the foods we learned about that day – goal here being to expand their palate and taste buds, opening up the possibility to try a larger variety of foods than what they are used to.
So many thanks to the wonderful teachers and students at the Bronx Charter School for the Arts for Spilling the BEANS : you made my day extra special! After all, smiling faces and happy tummies is what it’s all about. See you next year!