Nutrition is also a very important part of a healthy lifestyle, and many of my students do not make healthy choices when eating. "We eat to obtain two things: materials and energy," (Eagles 9). My students know that when they are hungry they need to eat, however they do not understand the correlation between the food they put into their bodies and their body's ability to function properly. I have students who wake up at six o'clock in the morning and come to school without eating breakfast. Then they will skip lunch, even those who qualify for free or reduced lunch. They usually skip lunch because they are unhappy with the school's selection or some instead of skipping lunch will opt for unhealthy alternatives such as candy bars or Cheetos. I would like students to understand exactly what their body needs to be ingesting, what their body does with what they've ingested, and how the can start making choices for a healthy lifestyle. I would like to begin by having students record what they eat for an entire week. Then I would like them to hypothesize the amounts of each type of food their body needs to survive.
Before we begin talking about the nutrients the body needs to function I would like students to record their diet for an entire week. I would like them to write down everything they eat each day and approximately what time they consume it. I would like students to begin keeping this journal so that they become conscious of what types of food they are ingesting. Once students have completed this journal we will discuss the different food groups. The class will be broken up into small groups and each group will research a specific food group. Students will determine these things about the food group they are assigned:
1. Why does the body need it?
2. How does the body use it?
3. What is the recommended daily amount of it?
4. What foods are included in it?
5. What happens if you eat too much of it?
6. What happens if you eat too little of it/
The body needs each of the following foods to survive: carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Each food provides the body with a different building block that it requires to operate and function.
Carbohydrates come from starches and sugars. They are easy for the body to break down and absorb and are a quick source of energy. Breads and pastas are examples of starch, while fruits are examples of sugar. Cells use glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, as their main source of energy to operate, maintain and repair cells. If the body gets too many carbohydrates it stores the extras as fat.
The body needs protein for growing, repairing and building. Protein comes from foods such as fish, meat, eggs, beans and nuts. Proteins are very important in building muscle as well. This is an extremely important food group for children, teenagers and expectant mothers because they are all nurturing a still growing body.
Fats are another important part of your diet, although like everything they need to be ingested in appropriate amounts. Dairy and meat products are a good source of fat. Your body uses fat for warmth and protection, and also as a means of storing energy incase there comes a time when you cannot eat for a while. If your body stores too much fat it can become a problem because your heart has to work harder in order to run your entire body.
Vitamins help other nutrients do their jobs and can be found in a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Minerals are also important; they come from the soil and are passed onto us by plants. Doctors are still unsure of the recommended doses for many vitamins and minerals, however they do know the minimum amount of these that your body needs in order to avoid getting sick.
Your body needs also fiber. Fiber is extra bulk, which helps carry unused food out of the body. Lastly, and most importantly, your body needs lots of water Your body is more than half water which you are constantly using to help aid in digestion, help cool by sweating, etc. Your body can only survive for about 3 days without water.
All of these items are important for maintaining a health lifestyle. The food pyramid was just recently redesigned in order to better suit the needs of the American public. One thing to be careful of is the amount of processed food you are eating. Our food now has many preservatives and chemicals added to it, many crops have pesticides added to them and many animals are given hormones. We have very little knowledge about the long-term effects of how most of these chemicals affect our bodies. If possible you should try to eat as many fresh, unaltered fruits, vegetables and meat as possible.
The new food pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov will tailor a specific diet for you based on your height, weight, gender and level of daily activity. It will also give you more detailed lists of foods under each category and provide you with helpful tips about choosing foods from each category.
I will have students look back to their food journal that they created. We will talk about what types of foods are healthy - ones which your body can digest easily and receives lots of useful nourishment from. These will be green foods. We will talk about foods that your body receives no nourishment from; these will be red foods. Foods that fall in between will be yellow foods. Students will then color code their food journal to see how much good food they are actually ingesting in one week. Next, I would like students to look at both a school lunch and breakfast to see where they breakdown into these categories. How do they fall into red, yellow and green foods, and where are they on the food pyramid?
I would like students to look at print ads and television commercials targeted at children. Almost all of these ads include a cartoon spokesperson, catchy jingle, or a game to lure children into making unhealthy choices. Think about Lucky Charms, Trix and Rice Crispies. What do you actually remember about the cereal? I'd imagine your remember very little except the cartoon characters urging you to eat each of these cereals all of which are high in sugar. I would like students again in groups to focus on six of these different foods and determine what exactly the food is made out of, how much nutrition is contains, where it would fall on the food pyramid and where it would fall in our red, yellow, green coding system. Some foods to choose from are: Rice Krispies, Pop Tarts, Fruit Loops, etc. I would also like students to compare this type of marketing with how Joe Camel was used to sell cigarettes to youngsters. I would like students to discuss whether or not they feel this is ethical?
Just this June Kellogg is taking steps to stop marketing "unhealthy" foods to children ages twelve and under, although the changes did not come about without the threat of a lawsuit first. There are a variety of articles about this topic at http://www.frankwbaker.com/kelloggs_ads.htm. I would like my students to read these articles and begin brainstorming ads which might show visually why these foods should not be marketed to children. For instance, actually measuring out the amount of sugar in a bowl of Trix and having one child eating Trix and the other eating a breakdown of the chemicals and sugar Trix is made out of.