This lesson helps young people understand how to choose a healthful meal when eating school lunch. Youth will draw their lunch choices on paper trays, then examine the drawings to see if their meal represents the five food groups.
School lunches play an important part in meeting a child’s daily nutritional needs. Since most elementary age children need about 1,500 to 2,000 calories each day, the school lunch helps them meet that goal. Often young people will limit their food choices from the school lunch menu due to a lack of food/nutrition knowledge as well as some “selective” eating patterns. It is important to introduce young people at an early age to the concept of balance in eating. By choosing a variety of colorful foods from the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, dairy, grains and protein) they will have a healthful meal.
Activity: Love Your Lunch
This activity explores the current choices young people make at lunch by learning about the five food groups.
- Pass out a lunch tray template to each young person. Ask the youth to fill in their lunch tray worksheet with their favorite school lunch menu food choices by coloring food items or cutting out pictures of food items from magazines.
- When the youth are finished drawing, review the lunch tray activity and ask young people the following questions:
- How many young people have less than five colors on their tray?
- How many have more than five colors?
- Explain that it is important to have many colors on their trays. Why do you think this might be true? It means that their lunch is more likely to include a variety of foods from the five different food groups which makes it a healthful meal.
- Introduce the youth to the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein. Show food models, the resources at ChooseMyPlate.gov or pictures of foods representing each of the five food groups.
- How many different food groups do you have on your lunch tray? If time permits, ask if young people want to share the food groups they have included on their lunch tray. Give positive feedback to the healthful five food group choices the youth have listed or drawn.
- Ask young people what food item they could add or change the next time they go through the lunch line to make it an even healthier meal that includes more of the five food groups.
- Open the Online Interactive Lesson and Activity to review the five food groups. Young people can practice choosing more healthful foods for their bag lunch or school lunch.
Conclude the lesson by handing out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue talking about healthful food choices at home.
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