I (Jennifer) have enjoyed my association with the Hidden Valley Ranch Love Your Veggies program, and am excited to continue that relationship. I love their mission of encouraging parents and kids to eat more vegetables, and admire their work in schools. They’ve given over $950,000 to schools over the last 4 years.
I’m excited to offer this guest post — a first-hand report of a very fun activity that Michelle Reed, University of Delaware dietetics student, designed to help the kids at Forest Oak Elementary School explore making healthy food choices:
As part of my project, I taught a lesson to 1st graders revolving around the children’s book http://www.hiddenvalley.com/veggies/. We started off by reading the book together, which is all about a young goat who is a terrible eater because he wants to eat things like fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and milk instead of true goat food like tires and paper. With the advice of Dr. Ram, his parents slowly ease goat foods into his diet, until he finally likes them. But then he likes them too much and ends up eating all sorts of things from around the house. To teach him a lesson, his parents go to the junkyard and collect a large pile of trash that they leave outside his sandbox. When Gregory comes home that day, he’s elated to see that the pile of delectable trash is all for him. But after eating his way through most of the pile, he spends his night in bed tossing and turning with tummy aches. The story ends with Gregory sitting down to a balanced breakfast of eggs, orange juice and wax paper, providing an “all in moderation” lesson.
After reading the book, I engaged the children in some discussion to get their minds thinking more about food and less about the silliness of a goat eating tires. First, we talked about what kind of foods Gregory really wanted to eat in the beginning of the book. From their answers, we opened up the discussion to naming fruits and vegetables. The kids did a great job with this and really impressed me at times. I definitely expected to hear apples, bananas, carrots, and broccoli, but radishes, kiwi, Brussels sprouts and pineapple?! These kids were smart and right on track with me!
Next, we had to draw some sort of connection between Gregory’s junkyard tummy ache and unhealthy eating. I told the kids “Now, Gregory got a tummy ache from eating too much junk, like tires and trash, right? Well, humans don’t eat trash. But can you think of any junk foods that maybe if you ate too much it would make your tummy hurt?” The kids had an endless stream of answers from cookies, cakes, and ice cream to cheeseburgers, potato chips, and hot dogs. Next step – how do you explain to a 1st grader what makes these foods unhealthy? If the kids could stick with me on this one, then we’d be on the fast track to a successful lesson.
So I asked “Alright, cake, cookies, candy, ice cream – can anyone tell me what they have in common?” The answer might not have been the first one called out, but after one or two tries someone always answered “sugar”. I was momentarily relieved, but I knew the next was a bit tougher. “French fries, potato chips, burgers, fried chicken, what do they all have in common?” I was quickly reassured of how bright these kids are when it took no time at all until the answers “fatty” or “greasy” were called out. Success!! These kids were doing everything right. And next came the most fun part of all… feeding the goat!
In each class, students were broken up into pairs and each pair was given a brown lunch bag with two paper food models inside. One was an obvious healthy choice and one was an obvious unhealthy choice (e.g., grapes versus chocolate chip cookies). I told the kids that we were looking to build healthy meals for Gregory that wouldn’t give him any more tummy aches. Each pair chose what they thought was the healthy pick and then I collected all their choices. We went through them one by one, talking as a class about what foods were paired up against each other and which was the right pick. The kids knocked this activity out of the park, picking all the healthy options. Then one student from each pair got to feed their healthy pick to a large recreation of Gregory the Goat that I built out of foam board. The kids got a kick out of the huge goat and the whole lesson was a great big success.
I had an absolute blast teaching these kids about nutrition, and I really respect Nancy Nadel and the rest of the Forest Oak Elementary School for the initiatives they are taking to promote healthy behaviors in their students. I think other schools could learn a lot from what’s going on there, and I was happy to be a small part of their bigger mission, even if it was only for a few months.
Does this inspire you? Is this something you think you could do in your home or classroom? Have you used other books as a springboard to discussing healthy eating?