The idea for this unit came about from several different sources. First of all, I have recently developed a deep interest in nutrition and how what I eat affects the way I feel. In an effort to improve my health, I have tried to focus the majority of my eating on foods that are close to their natural state. This includes of course, fruits and vegetables, but also items that have minimal processing and limited artificial ingredients and chemicals. I almost immediately noticed a difference in how I felt and looked. Besides losing a few pounds, I felt better about myself because I knew I was giving my body what it needed. I noted fewer colds and illnesses over the year and had more energy. But most striking was the way I felt when I did eat foods that were highly processed or full of sugar. I would almost immediately feel a heavy "ickiness" in my stomach and overall just felt gross. This was enough to push me to continue my new eating habits and develop the opinion that what you eat most certainly affects your well-being.
With my newfound enthusiasm for nutrition, I then became interested in finding ways to help my students understand this connection at an early age. I was also motivated by what I saw all too often in the lunchroom - students eating high salt, high sugar foods and drinks, pushing vegetables and fruits aside, and/or bringing to school bags full of several "junk food" items and calling it lunch. Now, I certainly can't blame my students for eating what they do. For the most part, their diets are controlled by the adults around them. And certainly, if given a choice between a plate of steaming broccoli and a bag of Cheetos, I can predict what will be left behind. Our children, like most adults, have been conditioned to prefer the taste of processed foods with lots of salt and sugar to make them tasty. Now while I do realize that I will not be able to change completely the diets of my students, I do feel I have the opportunity to inform my students of the power and value of various foods, introduce them to some healthy foods they may not have tasted before, and perhaps change some of their habits either now, or in the future.