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Activities & Lessons

7 Nutrition Lesson Plans and Activities for High School Students

Brenda Iasevoli

Teens aren't exactly known for their healthy eating habits. Only about 7% of U.S. high school students meet the daily recommendations for fruit, and just 2% meet the recommendations for veggies, according to a 2017 CDC report . Another recent study found that two-thirds of teens’ calories come from “ultra-processed foods” like cookies, candy, chips, chicken nuggets, and pizza. The pandemic has only exacerbated bad eating habits. National Nutrition Month in March is a good time to hit reset.

This year’s theme—Personalize Your Plate—will appeal to teens’ individualist spirit. “There’s no universal way to eat healthy,” Su-Nui Escobar told Shaped . She’s a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which started National Nutrition Month . "'Personalize Your Plate' is about respecting who we are and where we come from. Start with the way you like to eat, and then figure out how to make it healthy."

The trick is to add nutrition without removing the joy our favorite foods give us. "Young people should be encouraged to play with their food," Escobar says. "Keep it fun. Eating nutritiously doesn't have to feel like a diet." The ideas for nutrition lesson plans and activities for high school that follow will help students accomplish this goal.

Fresh and Fun Nutrition Lesson Plans for High School

Kick-start a commitment to healthy eating this National Nutrition Month with these nutrition lesson plan and activity ideas for high school students.

1. Meal Makeover

Dietitian Su-Nui Escobar told Shaped that she often turns traditional Mexican favorites into plant-based recipes for her family. She prepares tacos al pastor, which are traditionally made with pork, using jackfruit (a relative of figs), pineapple, and spices. To give pizza a healthy twist, teens might try topping it with plenty of veggies or simply pair it with a side salad jazzed up with roasted vegetables. To satisfy a sweet tooth, cut-up fruit with a drizzle of honey can do the trick. If potato chips and other salty snacks are their go-to, they can swap in air-popped popcorn or kale chips. Here's a list of fun and easy-to-make snacks for teens (and adults!).

Have students try their hand at transforming a not-so-healthy meal into a more wholesome option. They might choose a traditional family meal or a favorite breakfast, lunch, or snack item and come up with ideas for making it meatless, vegan, higher in fiber, or lower in fat or salt. They should present the revamped recipe along with a paragraph describing the change in ingredients and nutrients.

2. A Look at Labels

Tell students that the updated nutrition label can help them make informed choices and establish healthy eating habits for a lifetime. Have students explore the label independently using this interactive from the FDA. Or, you can share the image below to review the label changes with the entire class. Ask: Why do you think "calories" are in large, bold font? Why is it important to take note of the "serving size?" Do you think "added sugars" is a needed addition to the label? Why or why not?

Have students bring in nutrition labels from their favorite foods and drinks to analyze. Give them these tips for evaluating how healthy the foods are:

  • 100 calories per serving is considered moderate, while 400 or more calories per serving is considered high in calories
  • 5% Daily Value or less per serving of a nutrient is low; while 20% DV or more per serving of a nutrient is high
  • Nutrients to get more of (strive for 100% DV every day): dietary fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, potassium
  • Nutrients to limit: saturated fat, sodium, added sugars, trans fat

National Nutrition Month label

3. Mindful Eating

Tell students that mindful eating means paying attention to the food we buy, prepare, and eat. Savoring each bite we take can put an end to mindless bingeing and lead to better health. Challenge students to give mindful eating a try using a small piece of chocolate, fruit, or vegetable. Have them follow these steps:

  • Hold the chocolate in your hand. What does it feel like?
  • Study the chocolate. How would you describe it?
  • Smell the chocolate. What comes to mind?
  • Let the chocolate sit on your tongue. What textures and flavors do you note?

Talk over the exercise with your students. Ask: Was the experience enjoyable? Why or why not? What did you discover about your eating habits? What do you think is the purpose behind eating mindfully? Will you continue to eat mindfully? Explain.

4. Got Fruits and Veggies?

Challenge students to design an ad for a vegetable or fruit of their choice. Tell them their goal is to convince teens to eat the avocado, arugula, asparagus, papaya, mango, pear, or other produce that they are promoting. The campaign should convey:

  • Benefits of eating the vegetable or fruit
  • Excitement for the product using a catchy tagline Example: Got Milk? (California Milk Processor Board), I’m Lovin' It (McDonald’s)

Tell students the trick is to create a campaign that appeals to teens and their values. They should also consider the best medium to reach their audience—maybe it’s a social media platform like Instagram or TikTok, or maybe it’s a billboard, print magazine, or TV ad. Allow time for students to present their campaigns to the class and get critical feedback.

National Nutrition Month 2

5. Ready, Set, Cook!

Invite a local chef to do a super-simple healthy cooking demo over Zoom or another platform for your students. Give the guest some guidelines. The recipe should

  • Use inexpensive and easy-to-find ingredients
  • Require only common kitchen tools
  • Include tips for making the recipe vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free
  • Be made available to students before the demo

If you can’t book a local chef, you can show students how to make a healthy snack yourself or invite a student to take on the demo. You might give students the option of recording themselves making the snack and sharing the video with the class instead of doing a live demo.

Yet another option is to simply share one of the many cooking videos on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website . You'll find video how-to's for making no-bake chocolate cherry oat bars , pizza hummus , or healthy Alfredo bagel bites . Encourage students to make one of the recipes and write a review of the food that includes a photo of the final product.

nutrition assignment for high school

6. The Dietitian Is In

Invite a local dietitian to answer students’ questions about nutrition over a Zoom call. Have students read up on the dietitian’s background and expertise beforehand. Brainstorm a list of questions that students would like to ask, keeping in mind the dietitian’s expertise. Encourage students to ask follow-up questions during the talk. For homework, have students write a paragraph explaining how they will incorporate one piece of nutrition advice that the dietitian shared into their daily routine.

7. Nutrition Know-How

Test students’ knowledge of nutrition with this quiz from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics . Read each statement aloud and have students determine if it’s “fact” or “fiction,” using an online polling tool like Kahoot.

Did students have trouble telling fact from fiction? Have them choose one statement they identified incorrectly. Then have them do research to determine why the statement is true or false. For an added challenge, have students choose a health trend they’re interested in, such as plant-based or low-carb diets, mindful eating, environmentally-friendly nutrition, the brain-gut connection, probiotics, organic foods, and the like. Then have them write a quiz (they can make it interactive using Kahoot or another online tool) using facts they find in their research. Remind them to include an answer key that explains why each statement is true or false.

More Nutrition Lesson Plans for High School Classrooms

There are many more nutrition lesson plan starters for high school available on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website . Among the resources that can serve as a jumping off point for a lesson on eating well: nutrition sudoku, video cooking demos, and healthy lifestyle tip sheets, including "Healthy Eating on the Run" and "Smart Snacking Tips for Adults and Teens."

Have more nutrition lesson plan and activity ideas for high school students? Email us at [email protected] or tweet us at @TheTeacherRoom .

Learn more about HMH Science Dimensions , enabling teachers to guide K–12 students in learning through exploration, analysis, application, and explanation.

Download our FREE 2022–2023 calendar of activities.

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Nutrition Lesson Plans For High School (With Downloadable PDF)

  • Doug Curtin
  • January 21, 2022

nutrition assignment for high school

We try to encourage healthy eating with our students, but what does that actually look like? Nutrition lesson plans for high school students help to empower long-term healthy lifestyles that go past being able to recite the food pyramid for a test. Nutrition education is about the long-term benefits we can instill with our students. 

Struggling to find nutrition worksheets for high school?

Physical education aims to address the total health and wellness of students. Part of living a complete healthy lifestyle is understanding nutrition! Therefore, teachers seek to help students understand nutrition information so that they can make healthy food choices. 

You might find a worksheet or two, but you want more than a few printable posters to hang in your gymnasium! That’s where finding nutrition activities for high school students that put together the complete picture of nutrition can be challenging! 

Creating a high school nutrition curriculum is challenging! 

Nutrition curriculum for high school students is about balancing science and real-world application. At the high school level, students can begin to explore:

  • Food chemistries like macronutrients and micronutrients
  • Impact of food on future physical and mental health
  • Impact of movement on physical and mental health health

We might be eager to jump right into food groups, dietary guidelines, and balanced diets, but we need to progress students through comprehensive nutrition lesson plans just like we do in any other topic or subject.

Intro To Nutrition EBook

This E-book comes fully loaded with written and video lessons covering calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. 

Cover of PLT4M Intro To Nutrition Ebook.

Four Nutrition Activities For high school students

Starting with chemistries can be an excellent place to begin for any high school student. We can take a three-part approach with nutrition activities for high school students.

1) Written & Visual Materials:  This is where students can get the more traditional nutrition education you might be familiar with. You can hand this portion out as a worksheet.

2) Video Resources:  There are many gray areas and questions that come up for high school students when we talk about nutrition. This portion allows students to hear a nutrition expert talk about it and answer frequently asked questions. 

3) Chapter Questions:  A great way to make nutrition education interactive! Paired discussion questions that support the written and video resources can be used in various ways. For example, you can assign these questions for small groups or class discussions or ask students to submit their answers. 

Here are four nutrition lesson plans for high school that introduce calories, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that you could use with your students in class!

Lesson 1: Calories

Written lesson.

Calories are not evil, and they do not need to be avoided. In fact, calories are essential because they are what our bodies convert to energy. In our previous lesson, we talked about what happens when bodies don’t get enough energy. But where IS the energy in food?

There are four chemistries (or types) of calories, and they may sound familiar – carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and alcohol. The first three chemistries are necessary for human health, but the last (alcohol) is not.

These chemistries are not exactly the same as the food groups we were taught when we were younger. Any given food (and food group) can be a combination of energy chemistries.

Looking at food in terms of chemistry instead of food groups is a little complicated at first. But it helps us understand foods that don’t fit cleanly in a food group (e.g., pizza).

And it allows us to get past “good” or “bad” food. Instead, we can look at a food’s chemistry and better predict how it will impact performance and health. 

What our body sees when we eat? 

Bodies don’t recognize food groups. When we eat a banana, our body doesn’t say, “Ah-ha! A fruit!” 

Instead, it sees carbohydrates in the form of sugar, starch, and a little fiber. It also sees a little protein and fat, as well as a slew of vitamins and water.

Here are a few examples of the the energy in our food:

-Fruits: Water + carbohydrate (sugar, starch, fiber) -Vegetables: Water + carbohydrate (little starch, mostly fiber) -Beans / Lentils : Carbohydrate (starch, fiber) + protein + little fat -Meat / Eggs / Fish: Protein + fat -Grains: Carbohydrate (starch + some fiber) + some protein + little fat -Milk/Yogurt: Water + Carbohydrate (sugar) + protein + fat

How many calories do we need?

Now that we have an understanding of “what” calories are, how do we figure out how many to consume? The human body has a wide range of energy needs so it’s difficult to put an exact number on it.

There are formulas and general recommendations, but there can be huge variances based on sex, age, height, muscle mass, and physical activity intensity and duration. Even factors like what we eat, how often we eat, and our mental health can impact energy needs.

But in general, boys between the ages of 13-19 need at least an average of 2000-3000 calories per day, and girls ages 13-19 need at least an average of 1600-2400. But it’s not uncommon for active, growing bodies to need more, and there can be tremendous day-to-day swings in energy needs based on activity.

There’s also nothing magical about the number. Bodies are incredibly flexible, and can easily adapt to increased and decreased intake without changing the body itself.

How do we assess if we are eating too little or too much? How do we do this in an easy and straightforward way that we can apply to our daily lives? In our next lesson, we will explore ways to listen to the body to determine our energy needs.

Chapter Questions

1: What are the 2 major classifications of nutrients?

2: Name at least 5 things that influence a person’s energy needs?

3: On average, how many calories do people need?

4: Name at least 3 signs of not getting enough energy?

5: What’s the primary indicator of someone’s body size?

6: How much does a person’s body weight change on average between the beginning of the day and end of the day?

7: What are at least 3 of the behaviors that might drive someone to eat beyond what their body needs?

8: What are at 2 signs of mild to moderate hunger?

9: What are 2 signs of extreme hunger?

Lesson 2: Carbohydrates

Before we dive into the wide world of carbohydrates, let’s make sure we have a clear definition of what they are.

Popular culture refers to things like grains and sugars as carbs. However, carbohydrates refer to the chemistry that make up any plant-based food. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and sugars are all made of carbohydrates. 

When we talk about carbs, we are referring to the chemistry of the food (carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen).

All carbs are created from sugar molecules (glucose, fructose, galactose). What changes between the types of carbohydrates (sugar, starch, and fiber) are the number of molecules, and the complexity of the bond between the molecules, making them easier or harder to break apart.

As those molecules bind together in various ways, they form compounds we are more familiar with. These include things such as starch (found in potato, grains, corn, etc.), fiber (something we can’t digest), sugars (found in milk, yogurt, fruits and sweeteners like honey, syrup, cane sugar).

What They Do For Us?

There is a lot of confusion and concern about carbohydrates these days. So before we get any further, let’s be clear: Carbohydrates are not evil!

Carbohydrates are the perfect package of nutrients for the body and provide many benefits such as:

1) Energy  – Our body can quickly break down and use energy from carbohydrates to think and move. Fat and protein take more time and effort, making them a lower quality fuel source. Our brain alone uses around 400 calories of carbohydrates per day (or approximately 120 grams).

2) Fiber – Found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Fiber cannot be digested. It keeps us regular in the bathroom, prevents disease, and stabilizes energy. It also keeps us fuller longer. Beneficial for gastrointestinaI health, disease prevention, and feeling fuller longer. You cannot get fiber from animal-based foods. Fiber, by definition, is a type of carbohydrate.

3) Antioxidants – Prevent against free radicals that can cause disease. You won’t find antioxidants in animal-based foods.

4) Protein – Plant-based proteins can meet all of our protein needs without the need to eat meat, but have to be appropriately paired for good nutrition (more on this in the protein chapter)

5) Vitamins and minerals  – Carbohydrates provide a wide variety of nutrients, including b-vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin) used to convert food to energy and support our nervous system, calcium for our bones, iron to support oxygen transport in the blood, and folate to help us produce red blood cells.

Carbohydrates = Energy 

As you can see, at the top of the list is the energy we can get from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the body. Ideally, people should have at least 50-75 percent of their daily energy needs from carbohydrates – a mixture of fruits, vegetables, and grains.

When we eat something with carbohydrates, whether it’s a fruit, grain, vegetable, or sweetener like sugar, our body can quickly break down the molecules of carbohydrates and turn them into blood glucose (aka blood sugar).

The blood glucose is then transported to the muscles, brain, and vital organs to convert to energy (or ATP). Any unused glucose gets stored for later, and when those storage spots are full, it can convert it to body fat for later use. In other words, energy now, and energy for later.

MYTH BUSTING: Before anyone panics when they see body fat, let’s dispel another myth. The myth that carbs convert to body fat more than other nutrients is not true. Our body is constantly putting nutrients in and out of storage. It never “throws” them away. This is a natural and normal part of human physiology and not something unique to carbs and blood glucose. They are NOT more likely to become body fat than any other nutrient.

Different Types of Energy: 

One of the benefits of carbohydrate-rich foods is that they can give you energy quickly. So if you’re trying to fuel up to train, study, or go about your day, carbohydrates should be the food of choice.

The downside is that because carbohydrates are digested and absorbed quickly when we eat a meal that is purely carbohydrates, we tend to feel hungry sooner. Conversely, when we eat foods with more protein and fat, we feel fuller longer, as these take longer to break down.

For example, a plate of pasta with salad is filling, but it likely won’t keep you full as long as a plate of pasta with chicken and salad.

Sugars provide energy the fastest. However, because sugar is broken down and absorbed quickly, it leaves us looking to replace energy faster than when we consume starch. If we add fiber to the equation, we get even more sustainable energy. Add protein and fat, and we get the most sustainable energy.

However, you don’t need chemistry to explain that to you. You can feel the difference when you drink a can of soda vs. eating a turkey sandwich. Both have the same carbohydrate content, but where those carbohydrates comes from, and what it’s paired with, makes all the difference.

What Comes Next? 

As you can see, there is a lot of overlap when it comes to talking about carbohydrates. Hopefully, you can see that carbs are good for us, and provide us energy to fuel our lives. The next question that almost inevitably follows, is how to decipher between “good” and “bad” carbs? 

So, let us be clear. Carbohydrates are not “good” or “bad” – they’re just different chemistries with different purposes. Instead of looking at carbohydrates as good and bad, you will notice that we have talked a lot about sugar, starch, and fiber. 

In our next chapter, we will break down the three types of carbohydrates in more detail. We will talk about where to find them, and what they do for us! Understanding the chemistry allows you to better plan and balance your meals for health and performance.

1:What are the main types of carbohydrates?

2: Which food groups contain carbohydrates?

3: What functions do carbohydrates serve in the body?

Lesson 3: Proteins

Protein is the second nutrient we’ll explore on our nutrition journey. Recall that we started by understanding the importance of nutrition for growing bodies and unpacked some of the ways our body communicates its needs. 

From there, we explored the idea of energy – what it is and where it comes from. We took a deep dive into the body’s primary energy source – carbohydrates. And now it’s time to figure out what’s up with protein. 

Does it live up to the media hype? Like the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat), our body uses protein as energy. But it’s valuable for other functions as well.  Additionally, depending on where you get your protein, there are some considerations for your daily routine.

Where It’s Found?

Remember that when we talk about “protein,” we’re not just talking about food groups. We are talking about the chemical compounds found within foods.

Protein can be found in animal-based foods like beef, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, yogurt, milk, and cheese.

Protein can also be found in plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, tempeh, and tofu. Lastly, grains like oatmeal, quinoa, wheat, and rice have protein as well, albeit smaller amounts.

What It Does?

Protein is a crucial nutrient for humans that goes beyond energy. Proteins are made of chains of amino acids. Amino acids are often called the building blocks of life – and for a good reason. 

Our bodies break down those chains and use the amino acids to support growth and development, biochemical reactions, the immune system, and neurological functions. Amino acids also transport nutrients, send biochemical messages, create structures, and repair muscles.

If we don’t get enough protein over time, humans can develop a serious condition called “protein-calorie malnutrition.” In our modern world, it’s not common unless someone is severely restricting their food or avoiding all protein sources. But in developing countries where food is scarce, it’s more common.

While protein is important, protein has been glorified beyond what’s needed for health and performance. Most people in the United States get more protein than they need each day.  

How Much We Need?

Protein needs are personally driven, and are typically based on weight, age, as well as the type, intensity, and duration of the training you do. 

For those who are inactive, the recommendation from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) is around .8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram (.3 to .5 grams per pound). 

For those who are active, ISSN notes that needs often increase to 1.4 to 2 grams per kilogram (.6 to .9 grams per pound) to support repair.

Those who are more intensely active or doing intense power or strength training,  tend to be on the higher end of the scale. Needs also might fluctuate day to day, and season to season depending on training.

To put that in perspective, a 150-pound athlete would need between 90 and 150* grams of protein per day. It’s possible to get that from food depending on appetite needs and food availability. 

Let’s break that down further, meal by meal:

Breakfast – 1 cup greek yogurt (12 grams) Snack – 2 eggs (14 grams) Lunch – 1 cup beans (15 grams) with 4 oz chicken (28 grams) Snack – 1 cup greek yogurt (12 grams) Dinner – 4 oz chicken (28 grams)

= approximately 96 grams

Simply add three, 8 oz glasses of milk (7 grams of protein), and you’ve got another 21 grams of protein pretty easily.

Health Benefits Of Protein Rich Foods: 

There are 21 amino acids that are the building blocks of life. Nine of those amino acids are called “essential” because our bodies cannot make them and therefore they must come from our food. When we eat an animal source of protein, we get all of the essential amino acids within that food – no questions asked.

When we eat an animal source of protein, we get all of the essential amino acids within that food – no questions asked.

However, plants do not contain all of the essential amino acids in one package. Instead, different plants have different packages of amino acids. To get everything you need, you have to pair proteins for the full package. 

For example, when we eat beans along with a grain such as rice, we get two different subsets of amino acids. Similarly, peanut butter on bread would provide the right combination of different amino acids for your body.

However, amino acids are not the only benefit of protein-rich foods. There’s also a wealth of nutrients in protein-rich foods in varying amounts. These include: 

-Iron for oxygen transport -Vitamin B12 for our nervous system and red blood cell production -B-vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6) provide a variety of functions in metabolism as well as our nervous system -Magnesium helps build bones and supports muscle function -Zinc can support your immune systems

In addition to vitamins and minerals, most animal sources of protein also contain fat, in the form of saturated fat. Fat is an essential nutrient for human health as it supports hormone development, and provides flavor and satisfaction. 

Saturated fat however, in large amounts, over a long period of time, is not great for heart health. That doesn’t mean animal proteins need to be avoided. It’s a matter of balancing higher fat protein options (bacon, sausage, ribs, hot dogs) with leaner options (chicken, turkey, fish, eggs).  We’ll learn more about the types of fat and how they support the body in the next module.

1: Which food groups contain protein?

2: How does protein support the body?

3: How much protein do we need?

4: What are the missing / limited nutrients in a plant based diet?

Lesson 4: Fats

People often misunderstand fat in our food. Just like the other macronutrients (carbohydrates and protein), our body uses dietary fat for energy, but it also supports our health in surprising ways. And just like the other nutrients, depending on where you get your fat, there are some important things to know.

What Is Fat?

Dietary fat is found in varying amounts in most foods – plants and animals. Just like carbohydrates, there are subcategories or types of dietary fats – unsaturated fats, saturated fats, and trans fats. 

Unsaturated fats can be further divided into more subcategories (see chart). What’s important to know is that the chemical structure of each is different and as a result, have varying impacts on the body.

Why Do We Need It?

Your body uses fat for a variety of functions – regardless of what type we eat. Dietary fats are a dense source of energy for the body – a small volume contains a large amount of energy. But fats are tough for the body to digest and turn to energy, so they’re not an ideal fuel source if you need energy quickly.

Beyond energy, fats of all types serve important functions such as: -Transport, absorb, and store vitamins A, D, E, and K​ -Contribute to sex hormone production and corticosteroids -Form the outer layer of every cell on our body (aka, the phospholipid bilayer) -Reduces inflammation in the body which helps recover from sport (Omega 3 fatty acids – a type of unsaturated fat) -Form much of the brain -Taste amazing and help us feel satisfied -Takes long to digest so we feel fuller, longer

Fats are found in plant and animal foods. In general, the fat found in any given food is not just one type. For example, food is rarely pure unsaturated fat. Instead, it’s a combination of saturated and unsaturated sources. 

Plant fats and fish fat tend to contain more unsaturated fats. Examples include nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, avocado, salmon, tuna.

Animal fats and tropical plants tend to have more saturated fat. Examples include beef, pork, chicken, cheese, cream, coconut oil, palm oil.

Trans fats are unique. They are made of “partially hydrogenated” oils. They are not naturally found in foods.

Humans created them years ago to improve the texture and shelf life of processed foods like cookies, cakes, peanut butter, as well as some fried foods. Most trans fats have been removed from our food system, but here and there, you find a few companies still using partially hydrogenated oils.

What Do The Types Matter?

The human body needs dietary fat, but it prefers a balance of fat types for our overall health. When too much of our dietary fat comes from saturated and/or trans fat, it can impact our heart health in the future, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes for some people. 

In general, most of the fat we eat each day should come from plants and fish or “unsaturated” sources. It’s completely ok to have saturated fats, but it’s best to keep them a bit smaller part of what we eat. 

Trans fats have no benefit for the human body and have been shown to be harmful in large amounts. It’s best to avoid them when possible, but understand that a little now and again won’t harm you.

How Much Do I Need?

The amount of fat you need each day varies based on how much energy you need overall. As you recall from previous articles, daily energy needs change a lot depending on height, weight, age, physical activity, and so much more. Tracking and/or limiting what you eat based on precise numbers is not recommended, as it’s very difficult to predict changing needs. 

Our body (and health) care more about the average of what we eat over time – not daily perfection. It’s better to follow your personal cues (link to article about that).

But if you must have a number, in general, the guideline is that 25% of your daily energy comes from fat. For someone eating around 2000 calories per day, that’s approximately 55 grams of fat in total from unsaturated and saturated fats. Ideally, saturated fat is 5-6% of total energy or around 13 grams. 

Again, those are not hard and fast rules. That doesn’t mean if you’re above or below these numbers, something will happen to you. Instead, it’s a reference point.

But one way in which the numbers can be helpful is when you look at the food label. Often seemingly “healthy” foods can be very high in saturated fat depending on how it was made.

For example, you pick up a bag of chocolate-covered dried bananas – sounds amazing, right? You might assume it would give your body more nutrition than a cookie while still satisfying that sweet tooth. 

When you looked at the label though, you are shocked to see that a tiny serving had over 20 grams of saturated fat! That’s when you notice the bananas were fried with palm oil. So in that instance, you are better off enjoying a cookie than the deceptive health product. Tricky!

It’s much easier to think about fat in terms of food balance. In general, the goal is to try to choose plant or fish fats more often than animal fats while not relying too much on fried foods and processed foods for your energy each day.

Tips to add more unsaturated fats to your routine:

-Enjoy a handful of nuts/seeds between meals -Add nuts/seeds to meals (yogurt, salads) -Add avocado to sandwiches and salads -Add a side of guacamole to snack/meals -Use guacamole instead of mayo on sandwiches -Enjoy salmon occasionally -Enjoy tuna salad sandwiches

1: How does dietary fat support the body?

2: What are the different types of fat in the diet and where are they typically found?

3: Which type of fat may negatively impact heart health?

Download The Nutrition Lesson Plans High School PDF 

To use a nutrition joke, this was just a ‘taste’ of what can be in a robust nutrition curriculum. Download the first 6 full chapters of PLT4M’s Intro To Nutrition that have even high school nutrition lesson plans! This is full of excellent handouts that will help foster an interactive nutrition education experience! 

Final Points on Nutrition Lesson Plans For High School

Nutrition education matters! Because with students and all of us, it’s not about just what they achieve that day but it’s the relationship with food that they’re developing for the rest of their life. 

These lessons and modules provide a foundation of knowledge based on the chemistry of the food. Not good food, bad food, right food, wrong food, or any other fad in between.

But really helping people understand when you look at a food, what are you getting? And how do I shift that and apply it for who I am and what I need? So instead what we’re looking to be able to do is to empower the student with the knowledge, with the information, and the confidence to make the decision that is right for them.

What about nutrition lesson plans for middle school? 

Many of these activities could work intro nutrition lesson plans for middle school. Nutrition activities for middle school students begins to look closer to what we formally teach adults and high school students. This is the age where students begin the transition to formal operations. They begin to learn by logical use of symbols (eg, food groups) related to abstract concepts (eg, chemistry / biology). This age group is ready to expand on their nutrition foundation to….

  • Learn which foods go in which food group and why
  • Understand how to pair food / food groups to create satisfying meals
  • Learn nutrients that come from various foods
  • Avoid food / body comparisons

Do you have more than nutrition lesson plans for high school?

Yes, PLT4M is the leader in physical education content and provides a wide variety of  lesson plans for high school pe. 

The goal of all our lesson plans is to equip students with the skills to live a healthy lifestyle!  

What are the benefits of nutrition education in schools? 

There are both short and longterm benefits of nutrition education in schools . Nutrition education programs are not just about short term outcomes but instead about helping students establish a healthy relationship with food that supports them for the rest of their life. It starts with building a foundation.

What other health education topics does PLT4M have?

Check out more health education lesson plans from PLT4M here! Different topics include: 

  • Drug and Substance Education
  • Underage Drinking Prevention
  • Digital Citizenship 
  • Physical Literacy
  • Personal Hygiene 
  • Social Emotional Learning

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Fun & Engaging Nutrition Activities for Your Students

nutrition assignment for high school

Teaching High School Nutrition: 13 Ideas

To instill life-long healthy eating habits, take a hands-on approach.

nutrition assignment for high school

Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community

Nutrition education doesn’t have to be an endless stream of worksheets and handouts, full of facts and figures about macronutrients, calories and additives.

Yes, there are building blocks you’ll want to teach your child: knowing how to read a nutrition facts label is an essential part of adulting. But, to be meaningful, nutrition can’t just be about calories-per-gram and lists of vitamins and minerals. Kids will be so much more likely to absorb the information — and incorporate it into their lives — if it’s rooted in personal meaning.

Nutrition is multifaceted, highly individual and our understanding of it, ever-shifting. But that’s the good news. Unless your child is training to be a dietitian, there’s no pressure to master every scientific element. All you need is an on-ramp, and you’ll be able to help them learn about nutrition in a way that positively impacts their everyday food choices.

How to design nutrition lesson plans for high school students

Start from their interests.

Eating a balanced diet is considered one of the pinnacles of wellness, but why should we care about nutrition? Your child needs to have an answer that motivates them.

What gets your child excited? Chances are there’s a connection back to food. Do they love cooking? Are they open to starting a veggie patch or herb garden? Do they (or a loved one) have some kind of dietary restriction? Are they passionate about giving their best on the athletic field? Are they intrigued by experimentation and research? Curious about different cultural norms around food or how to use food medicinally?

Once you figure out the most meaningful point of entry, start there. Whether it’s getting your child in the kitchen to bake their own delicious and healthy birthday cake, learning to eat to improve their sports performance, or understanding how different cultures prize different ingredients, they’ll be more committed — and more likely to make healthy food choices — if they know why they’re studying nutrition to begin with.

Make it interactive

Shopping, cooking, eating: Nutrition is one of the most interactive parts of our life. Get your kids involved with as many of those elements as possible (and, for the green-thumbed out there, growing food as well).

Inviting kids to the grocery store is a great start — so you can have a real-time discussion about what you buy for the family and why. Take it a step further, and design a scavenger hunt where they need to locate foods that fit a certain nutritional profile (cookies with no saturated fat, chips with no trans fats, five different colored vegetables and fruits etc.). Added bonus: it might help you expand your family’s weekly menu.

Learning to understand food labels is important, but to make it meaningful, let them translate the data into something they can chew on. Since most kids will be eager to snack in the name of science, you could design a taste test: Pick comparable products, but with some key difference (more/less whole grains, different serving sizes). Have your kids rate the foods and then see how that corresponds to the nutritional values.

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Build it slowly

We always recommend creating scaffolding around any new challenges. If you’re introducing them to the world of cooking and meal planning, they’ll be incorporating multiple new skills at once, including grocery shopping, navigating the kitchen and food safety.

In our weekly Prisma High School Life Skills course, we teach nutrition through hands-on challenges of increasing complexity. In the introductory challenges, learners explore their kitchens and grocery stores, until, over the course of weeks / months, they’re able to  meal plan on their own. This step-by-step approach allows learners to gain mastery and avoid that drinking-from-the-firehouse feeling.

Avoid “good food” / “bad food”

To the extent possible, avoid demonizing any food group. With the popularity of certain diets, kids may very well absorb the message that either fats or carbohydrates or protein (especially animal-based) are “bad” without knowing why, when all three are essential for sustaining physical activity from our brawn to our brains.

One way to shift from the black-and-white labeling of foods is to be more qualitative. If you try the comparative taste-test activity mentioned above, add on an additional element to  add nuance to the way we judge foods. Ask them to eat a certain snack, and then thirty minutes later reflect on how they feel: Are they immediately hungry again? Do they still feel satisfied? How energetic do they feel?

Have them write down their answers in a journal. Then, repeat the activity on successive days with different kinds of snacks or different quantities (low calorie, low fat, processed, fruits and veggies, carbohydrates versus protein, etc.), and see how their feelings change. Activities like these teach kids to reflect on the relationship between what they eat and how they feel.

Include emotions

Nutrition is not just about fuel. It is also deeply connected to our emotional well-being. All age groups can benefit from developing a more mindful relationship to what we put in our bodies. It could be as simple as observing: What feelings do I associate with certain food items? If that kind of exploration leads them to recognize an eating pattern that they want to change (for example “boredom equals chips”), use that as a starting point to brainstorm other ways to address the feeling, that may lead to a better outcome (call a friend when bored).

Ideas for project based nutrition activities

As a project-based school, we find that when learners can choose their own adventure and connect their exploration to real-world issues, they’re naturally willing to dive deep into complicated subjects — and nutrition is no exception. Our “Food Lab” cycle used kids’ love of baking and experimentation to reach a range of subjects that extended from nutrition to chemistry, data analysis and ethics.

Here are some of the many ways you can approach a nutrition project with your kids.

  • A budding chef can plan and cook a healthy meal. (When we include cooking challenges in our curriculum, we recommend parents start by carefully supervising each step, until their child shows comfort in the kitchen.) A middle school or elementary school child could ease into this chef-mindset by assembling a healthy snack from a variety of foods.
  • A science-minded student can take a look at how dietary guidelines have evolved over the years — and what evidence supports those shifts. A student with a political eye could address the same topic, looking for outside factors that may have also contributed to the shifts — major world events, discoveries, and the influence of specific industries.
  • An aspiring anthropologist can compare typical diets of various cultures, looking at how the traditions, climate and geography shape the different foods that get put on the table — and how that might impact life-expectancy and certain diseases.
  • A vegetarian, vegan, or plant-curious kid can research plant-based meats, comparing their nutritional profiles and environmental impact.
  • A kid who is interested in media can look at how news outlets, social media and celebrity chefs create narratives that demonize things like added sugars or elevate certain veggies like kale. Or, they can turn their attention to food packaging to see how food products pitch themselves as “healthy” — and whether that depiction matches the ingredient list.
  • A history-curious kiddo can trace the rise and fall of certain food groups, and how that relates to shifting ideas of wellness during a certain period.
  • A student interested in social justice can explore the concept of food deserts and how access to healthy foods impacts community well-being.
  • A budget-minded learner could create several different meal plans (one full of nutritious foods and one heavy in processed foods), compare the nutrition information and the respective costs, and reflect on why a healthy diet is so expensive.

More Resources

  • Games from the FDA to make learning to read nutrition labels fun
  • Project-based lesson plans on nutrition from the USDA
  • A CDC-sponsored app to learn to make healthy food choices
  • Myplate.gov - an interactive resource to learn how to eat the food pyramid
  • Spoons Across America - a 9-lesson food exploration project (for kids 8-11)

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nutrition assignment for high school

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Lessons for Middle & HS

< Back to JSI Resource Center

The links in this category include lesson plans and other classroom resources on nutrition for middle and high school students.

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From the jsi resource center.


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Newest Nutrition Resources

a newsletter with nutrition tips

Our cross-curricular resources on wellness education and nutrition will engage your students in pre-K, elementary, middle school, and high school, with fun and informative lesson plans, worksheets, and projects on their well-being. Teach them about illness, physical education, and balanced diets so they have the knowledge to make healthy choices. Good eating habits and a healthy amount of exercise help keep the mind and body performing at their best. Students will be fascinated with science activities on the human body, many of them aligned to state and national standards, and you'll find plenty of tools on delicious foods to keep them interested in nutrition programs. And they are easy to use with any nutrition curriculum programs!

Nutrition Worksheets, Lesson Plans, and Fun Activities and More for Your PreK to High School Students

Worksheets for Grades K-5

Physical activity is at the core of a healthy lifestyle. Help your students learn that food security is one of our basic rights and the best ways to develop healthy habits and get fit with these different activities! Students can learn about how to become their best selves through different fitness and nutrition worksheets, activities, food plans, and resources. Students go in depth with the inner workings of the body, eating different foods that give their bodies energy, and different ways that they can help others become healthy just like them. Teach kids good nutrition with these worksheets and printables.

Health Reading Warm-Up: Healthy Food

Thought for Food: A Nutrition Lesson

  • Basic First Aid
  • Why Is Exercise Important?
  • First-Aid Treatments
  • Favorite Foods
  • Find Worksheets on the Human Digestive System and Healthy Eating
  • More Popular Health & Nutrition Printables

Printables for Grades 6-12

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

  • Food Groups
  • What Is a Balanced Diet?
  • We Beat the Street Discussion Guide
  • How Do Some Drugs Affect the Body?
  • Survival Kits

Health Lesson Plans

  • Smoking Lesson – Grade 4 and 5
  • Salt or Sugar: Which Dissolves Faster in Different Liquids?
  • Which Foods Do Molds Love Best?
  • An Honest Cigarette Ad?
  • What Foods Attract Ants?
  • Colonial New England Food & Cooking
  • Autumn Veggies and Fruits
  • More Popular Health & Nutrition Lesson Plans

Graphic Organizers

  • How Can You Stay Healthy?
  • KWL Chart – Being Healthy
  • What Parts of Plants Do You Eat?

Food Resources

  • Cranberry Facts

Food From Plants and Animals

  • Health & Nutrition Printables Slideshow
  • Chemistry of Cooking
  • Fred's Fruits and Vegetables
  • More Popular Food Resources

Activities for Science Class

  • Wellness Poster
  • Food Flight: Digestive Tracking
  • The Foods We Eat
  • Nutrition Lab
  • Extinguishing a Fire
  • More Popular Activities for Science Class

Math, Health, & Nutrition Connected

  • Math and Recipes Worksheet
  • Math and Recipes Vocabulary
  • HIV/AIDS Statistics
  • Activity: Comparing Infectious Diseases
  • How I've Grown
  • Math in Science: Favorite Fruits
  • Science Skill: Estimating and Measuring with Cereal and Raisins
  • More Math, Health, & Nutrition Resources

Art, Health, & Nutrition Connected

  • Fruit Patterns
  • Bob's Lunch Box
  • School Safety Connect-the-Dots
  • Science and Art: Hello Mr. Smart Heart
  • Science Fun: An Apple a Day
  • I Am Loveable
  • Planning a Picnic

Language Arts, Health, & Nutrition Connected

  • Lesson Planning Center

The Invention of Coca-Cola® Reading Warm-Up

  • Ryan White, My Own Story
  • Chew on This Teacher's Guide
  • Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion Guide
  • We Are All the Same: The Life and Death of Nkosi Johnson
  • More Popular Language Arts Activities for Health & Nutrition

Literature, Health, & Nutrition Connected

Health Reading Warm-Up: Germs

  • Reading Warm-Up 119 for Gr. 1 & 2: Contemporary Realistic Fiction
  • Fever 1793 Teacher's Guide
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma Teacher's Guide
  • Using The Omnivore's Dilemma in the Classroom
  • Crank Reading Guide
  • More Literature Resources for Health & Nutrition

Social Studies, Health, & Nutrition Connected

  • World Class Recipes
  • Famous Survivors
  • Hunger and Malnutrition
  • Death and the Grief Reaction Process
  • A Family Wordsearch
  • Olympic Games and Politics
  • More Popular Social Studies Activities for Health & Nutrition

History, Health, & Nutrition Connected

  • History of Marshmallows Reading Warm-Up
  • Thanksgiving Menu: Then & Now
  • Rev Up Your Veggies: A Physical Science Activity
  • Hasty Pudding
  • School Lunch Choices Reading Warm-Up
  • Columbus and Food
  • More Popular History Resources for Health & Nutrition

Physical Education Activities

  • The Human Body: Disease & Wellness Printable Book (Grades K-5)
  • Heart Rate and Exercise
  • My Favorite Exercise
  • Explore Activity: Ways to Exercise
  • Science and Physical Education: Brain Power
  • Planning a Fitness Schedule
  • More Physical Education Activities

Resources on Illness & Disease

  • Smoking-Related Mortality Facts
  • Disasters – Natural and Unnatural
  • World AIDS Month Slideshow
  • Stroke: Causes, Signs, Effects & Prevention
  • What Happens When the Body Overheats?
  • Life Science Test: Fighting Disease
  • More Popular Resources on Illness & Disease

Resources on the Human Body

  • The Five Senses – Kindergarten
  • My Wonderful Body
  • Hospital Word Search
  • Life Science Test: Respiration and Excretion
  • Asthma Word Fill-In
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • More Popular Resources on the Human Body

Alcohol & Drug Awareness Resources

  • Cigarette Smoking Fact Sheet
  • No Smoking!
  • "Say NO" to Drugs
  • Drugs and Your Body: Vocabulary
  • Intervention Strategies for Suicide
  • Drug Use by Americans, 12 Years and Older
  • More Drug Prevention Resources

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Editor's Collections

Games and Apps

Lesson plans, teaching resource, recommended nutrition resources.

Healthy Food Reading Warm-Up

Favorite Foods Activity

Health & Nutrition (Grades 4-9) Printables Slideshow

Healthy Vegetables and Fruits Word Scramble

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nutrition assignment for high school

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  • Basic Nutrition

Printable Materials and Handouts

Find printable handouts and fact sheets that can be used for health fairs, classes, and other food or nutrition-related events.

Cook up something new in your kitchen with these healthy, delicious recipes.

View four tips to help you save money when food shopping and help the environment.

View printable brochures and handouts with healthy eating tips based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 , including:

  • Build a Healthy Eating Routine
  • Cut Down on Added Sugars

Browse the MyPlate collection of printable tip sheets and resources. These materials are in the public domain.

Want your kids to learn how to build a healthy meal? Use these clever activity sheets to find ideas and tips!

View this fact sheet with nutrition tips for breastfeeding moms. 

View printable materials about food safety, including guides, activity books, and tip sheets.

View lessons, workshops, activities, and curricula for teachers. Topics include food, nutrition, physical activity, and food safety.

Use this checklist to track healthy eating and exercise habits throughout your day!

View tips for building healthy eating habits in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. This fact sheet is available in 13 languages.

Printable fact sheets for living with and managing diabetes.

FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition developed “Everyday Food Safety” resources to increase food safety awareness among young adults ages 18 – 29. Check out the materials available to use in your classroom, health expo, waiting room, or website.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and beverages with a new design, making it easier to make informed choices towards healthy eating habits. 

This one-page handout highlights the key changes being made to the new Nutrition Facts Label.

Share these tips to reduce food waste, save money, and protect the environment.

Browse handouts and recipes for the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet. Topics include getting more potassium, staying on track, and meal tracking for different calorie levels.

Looking for materials about healthy aging for older adults? Download or order these free handouts and booklets on exercise, nutrition, and other health topics.

View science-based fact sheets and handouts for health fairs and community events. 

The Sisters Together program encourages Black women ages 18 and older to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Learn how to bring the program to your community.

Download, print,or order a free copy of this brochure on eating disorders. Also available in Spanish.

Access vitamin and mineral supplement fact sheets for the consumer or health professional. Available in PDF format, and in Spanish.

Find handouts that teach how to build a healthy eating routine, cut down on added sugars, cut down on sodium, and cut down on saturated fat.

Print and share these fact sheets and posters to help people learn key recommendations from the Physical Activity Guidelines. Find materials for adults, older adults, parents and kids, and during and after pregnancy.

Browse by health topic or resource type to find 1-page printable fact sheets written at the 6th- to 8th-grade reading level in English or Spanish.

Challenge yourself to eating fruits and vegetables in new ways by following along to this 30-day calendar.

What are healthy cooking methods, and what equipment do you need for each method? Read this handout to find out.

Use this 31-day calendar to challenge yourself to one choice for a healthy weight each day.

View a table of spices to learn about their flavors and uses.

Use this handout to measure your hunger level on a scale of 1 to 10.

Find handouts to help you manage your weight with healthy eating and physical activity. 

Use this handout to plan weekly meals and create a grocery list.

Library Home

An Introduction to Nutrition

(13 reviews)

nutrition assignment for high school

Copyright Year: 2012

Publisher: Independent

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Sheila Cook, Family and Consumer Sciences Instructor, Pittsburg State University on 1/16/23

For the intended audience, the text covers the necessary components of an introductory nutrition course. This text is a contender for an adopted online text for my nutrition and health course. It is easy to read and follow. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

For the intended audience, the text covers the necessary components of an introductory nutrition course. This text is a contender for an adopted online text for my nutrition and health course. It is easy to read and follow.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The text is accurate concerning the basics of nutritional science and health. The author(s) present accurate relationships between nutrients, eating habits, good living, and overall health spanning the life cycle.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Content is relatively accurate, but needs updating to stay current with trends, issues, and updated guidelines. The majority of the science content stays basic. Instructors can easily add supplemental materials if needed, especially in the areas of fad diets and trends, and new discoveries pertaining to research.

Clarity rating: 5

The text includes appropriate language and terminology necessary for an introductory nutrition and health course. The text contains appropriate content for students who are satisfying general education requirements.

Consistency rating: 5

The text is set up with an appropriate index. Content chapters flow easily from one topic to another, building on previous knowledge, making connects to new content. It would be easy for instructors to "jump around" the index per their liking.

Modularity rating: 5

The text is broken into appropriate sections, allowing for charts, figures, and links for further understanding. I feel there are no disruptions to the reader.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

The topics are organized in a logical and clear manner.

Interface rating: 2

The text has many significant interface issues. Although images and charts are displayed nicely, there were several navigational problems throughout including several articles and/or videos that have broken links. Overall, the text is visually appealing.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

I did not observe any spelling or grammatical errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way and provides diets from various cultures. It could be used by any student.

Reviewed by Beverly Moellering, Assistant Professor/Director Coordinate Program in Dietetics, University of Saint Francis on 5/20/22

The text covers the appropriate topics for an introduction course in nutrition. read more

The text covers the appropriate topics for an introduction course in nutrition.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

Nutrition is continually advancing. There are some topics that are outdated such as the dietary guidelines and reference to Healthy People 2020 to name a couple.

The logical nature of each chapter in the book as well as the progression of topics allow students to have a good understanding of nutrition. Updates just need to occur.

Clarity rating: 4

The book does a good job of explaining key terms and avoids any extreme terminology. Web links are provided to clarify information, but several of the links do not work.

Big ideas, key take aways, and discussion starters throughout each chapter are great tools to help students become engaged with the content.

Modularity rating: 4

The text is organized well and flows easily. At the end of each chapter there are end of chapter exercises which allows the reader to go through items to expand comprehension of topics discussed. Links just do not always work.

It is organized in presenting the key concepts and the six classes of nutrients.

Interface rating: 3

Links to videos, articles, etc. often did not work.

There were no grammar issues with this textbook

No cultural biases found.

While this text book has a good outline of topics covered and ways to engage the reader, the issues with current updates and accurate web links need to be improved. This would be a good supplement text for a course.

nutrition assignment for high school

Reviewed by Shyanne Sansom, Instructor, Eastern New Mexico University on 1/13/22

The textbook covers all the important topics that a human nutrition text should cover. read more

The textbook covers all the important topics that a human nutrition text should cover.

The book was accurate in 2012, but knowledge of nutrition science changes so quickly that the book is quite outdated in 2022. This was the most challenging aspect of using this for a higher education class. I spent a great deal of time finding accurate, current information for my students.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

This textbook is so old that much of the content is obsolete. This makes using it as the primary source of information for a nutrition course extremely challenging.

The textbook is easy to read and accessible for most first year college students.

Chapters are easy to follow, and each chapter is organized so information can be found quickly.

One of the best things about this textbook is how well the sections are organized. Headings a clear, and each section has "key takeaways" and "discussion starters".

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

I did not like the approach the authors used to organize the chapters in the book. Carbohydrates, Lipids and Proteins each had their own chapter, but the authors divided vitamins and minerals into function, rather than vitamin/mineral identity. It does not work as well as other nutrition textbooks, which dedicate individual chapters to vitamins and minerals separately.

None of the links to videos, articles, etc. work in this textbook. Students become very frustrated when they cannot access additional information to support the chapter. I tried to provide alternate sources for the links, but it was incredibly time-consuming.

There were not grammatical problems with this textbook.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

The book does a good job in chapter 14 of providing multiple perspectives on nutrition. I wish all nutrition textbooks included this. However, the textbook would have been even better if they had included more cultural perspectives throughout every chapter, instead of putting it in just one near the end.

I would not recommend this book to professors hoping to find one good textbook for their human nutrition class. It does provide good basic nutrition information, but a lot of the science is so outdated that you will have to spend a good deal of time updating the information for you students. Additionally, none of the in-text links to videos and articles work. I also did not like the way the authors split the micronutrient chapters into function, rather than type. It is much better to have chapters dedicated to minerals and vitamins instead. Lastly, there are no instructor materials (test banks, PowerPoints, etc.) which also takes more of the instructor's time to create. This is a good supplemental book for a nutrition course, but I would not use this again as the only textbook in a college course.

Reviewed by Amanda Margolin, Adjunct faculty, Portland Community College on 5/26/21

I found that the text covered the subject matter in an appropriate way. I appreciated how there were videos included when more challenging concepts were being discussed such as digestion and absorption. I also found the images used to be effective... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

I found that the text covered the subject matter in an appropriate way. I appreciated how there were videos included when more challenging concepts were being discussed such as digestion and absorption. I also found the images used to be effective in enhancing the text. I found the organization of material to help with the comprehension of the material such as in the section devoted to carbohydrates, information about diabetes was included. If I were to implement this text I would expand on the "antioxidant" section in the chapter about vitamins as I found this section to be quite brief. Some of the sections on minerals do not provide food sources such as the section on the copper, I would include this information so the material is consistent and thorough. In chapter 10 I would include more information related to fuel sources during different types of exercise such as which fuel source our body turns to for jogging vs. sprinting. In 11.3 "Infancy Nutrition" I would include more up to date in formation related to food allergies such as the new science behind when to introduce peanut butter. Some of the chapters such as, chapters 11 and 12 were well written chapters in the text in terms of providing enough content to fully understand the subject where other chapters I feel I would need to expand on the content to provide a more thorough understanding of the material such as Chapters 10 (section 10.3) sports nutrition was quite brief.

The content presented in this text is accurate and references are provided throughout the text. The content did not present any bias issues.

Overall this information from this text is up to date. The current dietary guidelines focus on 2020-2025 which is our most up to date guidelines released from the government. This text uses information from the 2015 guidelines. This is something I would need to update for my course in order to have the most up to date information related to our guidelines. Similarly, we have information for Healthy People 2030, this text uses information from Healthy People 2020. The text also uses a picture of the old nutrition facts panel when discussing how to read a label. I would include the up to date nutrition facts panel if I implement this text for my course. I thought the section about sugar substitutes and added sugars was very relevant to today's culture. The progression of material will make it easy as an instructor for me to implement for my course.

The information is presented in a clear and logical way making it easy for the reader to follow along and move section to section through the material. At the end of each section there is a "Key Takeaway" section which provides nice summary points for the reader. At the end of each section there is also a "Discussion starter" section which provides the reader with thought-provoking questions to increase understanding of the material. I appreciated how within the text you will find references to material from previous chapters such as in 9.1 "Metabolism overview" there is a reference to material covered from chapter 6.

The text is consistent from chapter to chapter as well as section to section within each chapter. The same organizational structure is used for each section providing consistency throughout the text.

The text is organized and flows nicely for the reader from chapter to chapter. Each chapter is broken down into sections. Each section begins with learning objectives and ends with "key takeaways and discussion starters" to enhance the material presented in the text. At the end of each chapter there is a section "It's your turn" which allows the reader to go through example quiz questions and discussion questions to expand knowledge.

The book begins with more introductory topics such as "Nutrition and you" and "A healthy diet" which provides students terminology and some nutrition basics. From there the chapters are presented in a logical way, building on material as the text goes on. For example, chapter 3 delves into metabolism/digestion/absorption where the following chapters focus on macronutrients specifically as they relate to these processes.

Interface rating: 5

I did not notice any significant interface issues. The text was easy to navigate and all of the images and videos appeared appropriately free of distortion within the text.

I did not notice any grammatical errors when reviewing the text.

The text mentions cultural as it relates to food choices. There is also a section in chapter 2 about "diets around the world" focusing on food culture from other regions.

Reviewed by Chimene Castor, Associate Professor, Howard University on 4/29/21

It comprehensive for an introductory book in nutrition. The clinical nutrition information should be more comprehensive, but the instructor can additional reading materials read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

It comprehensive for an introductory book in nutrition. The clinical nutrition information should be more comprehensive, but the instructor can additional reading materials

Nutrition is a progressive field and needs continuous revision - this textbook is updated

Yes, it is updated with necessary content

The book is well organized in the necessary material to review with students.

Missing food analysis component

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

Yes, the materials are well presented but need to have a diverse groups

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

The book is clear for students to understand.

A more diverse group can be used to represent the global community.

Food analysis for nutrients and food frequency; missing global BMI for children to compare with CDC

Reviewed by Anne Goodwin, Professor, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on 6/30/20

This book provides a good overview of nutrition for the non-major; topics such as nutrition for athletes and global food security are largely omitted, and information about the current dietary guidelines for Americans will need to be provided as... read more

This book provides a good overview of nutrition for the non-major; topics such as nutrition for athletes and global food security are largely omitted, and information about the current dietary guidelines for Americans will need to be provided as supplemental information.

No errors were noted in the reviewed material.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

Since nutrition is a constantly evolving science, current information will always need to be added, but this book is formatted in a way that will allow this to be added.

I believe this text has clarity appropriate to the non-major student.

The organization is consistent and well-suited to the topic and audience.

The sections are easily accessed through the index and can be presented in an alternate order as desired by the instructor.

The topics are ordered in a fashion similar to that found in other nutrition textbooks.

In the book sections used so far, no interface issues were noted.

In the book sections used so far, no issues with grammar.

The section on international diets is a welcome addition; other cultural aspects may need to be addressed by the instructor in greater detail.

I am adopting this text for use, with supplemental materials, for my non-majors nutrition course.

Reviewed by Sharron Guillett, Full Professor, Shenandoah University on 6/18/20

The book is comprehensive and covers all aspects of nutrition across the life span as well as issues related to policy and sustainability. The chapters related to chronic diseases and eating habits around the world are particularly well done. read more

The book is comprehensive and covers all aspects of nutrition across the life span as well as issues related to policy and sustainability. The chapters related to chronic diseases and eating habits around the world are particularly well done.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

The book is accurate in content areas that address the basics of nutritional science. For example, the information about nutrients, how they are used to support health and the foods in which they can be found is accurate. Conclusions/opinions presented by the authors about relationships between nutrients and or eating behaviors and health are sometimes inaccurate, overly simplified or overly generalized. For example, the statement that diabetes is caused by diet is not true. Diet is only one of many contributing factors. Similarly, the statement that "to do all of the things that you like to do are dependent upon one factor—your health" is an over simplification that serves as bias toward nutrition as "the one" factor necessary for good health and good living

The factual components of the text are current and easily updated thanks to the modular format of the text. The real issue is that rather than having resources and references at the end of chapter sections, they are embedded in the text making it not only challenging to read but also challenging and cumbersome to update the links that are no longer working. Some material related to dietary trends and fads needs to be updated and some notions about age groups have changed over time. For example people aged 51 are no longer considered "older adults".

The prose is clear , free of jargon and based on the "SMOG method", written at an 11th to 12th grade level. Definitions are also provided where needed. No glossary.

The book is consistent in format, framework and terminology.

The book is designed as a modular text. There are assignments/activities at the end of each section within the chapters that make it easy to use the text in a variety of course delivery methods/timelines.

The book is organized in a logical fashion moving from simple to complex. Chapter divisions make it easy for the reader to assess their knowledge in manageable chunks.

The text integrates the narrative with both internal and external links . Most of the external links are broken and take the reader to pages that either don't exist or are "deep links" that require a great deal of searching to locate. Even the Appendix which is a link to dietary requirements is broken. Many of the internal links seem unnecessary or inappropriate. For example there is a discussion of the nutritional triad (social, physical, mental) and an internal link takes the reader to a picture of three women in yoga poses pointing at the words social, physical,mental.

The text is free of spelling and grammatical errors.

The book uses images of persons from a variety of races, genders and ages. No offensive language or cultural references were noted.

This book is like a classic car that no longer runs but still has value in its parts. There are segments, tables and charts that could be "harvested" and used to support learning about nutrients , their sources and and how healthy eating is life sustaining.

Reviewed by Nicole Stob, Instructor, University of Colorado Boulder on 6/11/20

All areas of the subject were covered appropriately. Terms were defined throughout the text, but a comprehensive glossary or index was not found. read more

All areas of the subject were covered appropriately. Terms were defined throughout the text, but a comprehensive glossary or index was not found.

The vast majority of the content was accurate, but some of the content needs to be updated and therefore not accurate.

The vast majority of the content was up-to-date, but some of the content needs to be updated. For example, content relating to the nutrition facts label is not updated.

The writing is clear and easy to understand. Adequate context is provided.

The text is internally consistent, using the same terminology and framework throughout.

The text is broken up appropriately, allowing for breaks in the reading with links to outside resources, figures, etc.

The topic are organized in a logical manner.

Several broken links to outside resources were found in chapters 1-3 (none of the other chapters' links were checked).

No grammatical errors were noted in the text.

The text is culturally sensitive and does a nice job of using examples from different cultures and exploring the diets of different cultures as well.

Reviewed by Mahdi Garelnabi, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell on 6/7/20

The authors comprehensively covered the topics from all aspects. read more

The authors comprehensively covered the topics from all aspects.

Quite accurate information

The book is timely and relevant to the area of human nutrition

Authors used very easy and clear language to follow

pretty good consistency.

The text is very rich with background, at some point lay language is used for better understanding.

The book is well organized. It is divided into broader chapters and small topics with each chapters

The text is certainly free from from and interface issues. Figures and images are clear. The book is nicely displayed.

No grammatical mistakes was seen

No cultural sensitive item was observed.

This is a great book to adopt for human nutrition.

Reviewed by Clare McEnroe, Adjunct Professor, Raritan Valley Community College on 3/25/20

The textbook does cover the surface of many topics important for students to know and understand and can use. read more

The textbook does cover the surface of many topics important for students to know and understand and can use.

The information is unbiased. There needs to be some updating to some of the content. As in any science field, nutrition keeps changing and there would need to be some supplements added to this text to bring it up to date. This would definitely be possible to do by the instructor.

There are some links that no longer work and would need to be updated. Also there has been some new information that can be added in terms of fad diets and diet trends that are new since the text has been written.

The language/terminology used is appropriate for an introduction course and mainly taken by students who are not science majors and just want some background information about nutrition.

The set up of each chapter has a good flow and easy to understand.

The chapters are set up as if you can use them in that order but wouldn't matter if they were used out of order either. They are pretty much separate topics but can also be related.

Each topic is very clear and covers the majority of the information for an introduction course. Understandable and usable information is presented.

Interface rating: 4

Some links do not work and may need to replaced or updated with newer information.

I did not notice grammatical errors.

The textbook can be used by anyone, There is no cultural insensitivity at all.

This is a textbook to consider for an Introduction course. The updates and additional topics could be supplemented without a problem.

Reviewed by Caleb Bazyler, Assistant Professor, East Tennessee State University on 3/4/20

The textbook does an excellent job fulfilling its purpose of communicating nutrition content to a novice audience with a non-science background. The table of contents appropriately links content provided in each chapter including subtitles and end... read more

The textbook does an excellent job fulfilling its purpose of communicating nutrition content to a novice audience with a non-science background. The table of contents appropriately links content provided in each chapter including subtitles and end of chapter exercises.

The content was accurate and unbiased. Controversial topics were handled fairly with all opinions presented. I appreciated the functional approach discussing nutrition in the context of different bodily systems. This is very intuitive for an introductory level course.

Much of the basic science content will not need to be updated, and sections that will need to be updated (e.g. reference intakes, results from pending clinical trials, updates on controversial topics) should not be difficult to edit.

All key terms are in bold throughout the textbook and carefully defined. I also appreciated the external links to video explanations where relevant.

The text is internally consistent in regard to terminology and structure. The section and subsection layout was easy to follow throughout.

The chapter sections and subsections are easy to follow, and the authors do a great job building on content discussed in earlier chapters. The key takeaways and discussion segments at the end of each chapter are a great way to connect readers with the content, and provide topics of conversation in the classroom.

The topics are presented in a logical manner consistent with other nutrition textbooks.

While the text was mostly easy to navigate, I would have also appreciated a small table of contents at the beginning of each chapter with links to different parts of the chapter. This would make each chapter much easier to navigate. Also, some of the external links were broken, and some tables were not fully viewable (e.g. Tables 2.12 and 4.7).

I did not notice any grammatical errors.

The content at the end of the textbook on food industry, politics, cost and security was an excellent addition. I also appreciated the comparisons of diets across cultures, and pros/cons of popular dietary regiments.

Reviewed by Meagan Helmick, Assistant Professor of Public Health, Radford University on 1/6/20

This text does a good job at providing students with information about macro- and micro-nutrients and how they work in your body. It also covers nutrition at different life stages. The target audience is well thought about in this book, and is... read more

This text does a good job at providing students with information about macro- and micro-nutrients and how they work in your body. It also covers nutrition at different life stages. The target audience is well thought about in this book, and is needed for students that are not nutrition majors.

I did not notice any inaccuracies.

This text is up-to-date, but will need to be updated when the new Dietary Guidelines are published. However, this is something that I, as an instructor, can supplement to my students. The logical nature of each chapter in the book as well as the overall progression allows for students to have a well rounded understanding of nutrition.

The textbook does a good job of explaining key terms as the person is reading (on the left side of the page), and avoids any extreme use of terminology that students might not be able to grasp.

The chapters are set up the same way, which helps the reader to know what to expect as they progress through the textbook. The key takeaways and discussion starters are great tools to help students understand what they are reading and can serve as prompts in class for discussion. The end of the chapter exercises also provide this opportunity to engage with the reading and make sure students comprehended the information.

The sections are broken down into appropriate sizes by topics. I like that the table of contents include the sections as well. This helps students quickly find the information they are looking for.

Overall the organization is well thought out. Each chapter has components that build on previous chapters, but not in such a way that doesn't allow you to skip chapters or reorder the readings.

The charts and for some of the chapters were cut off, I think this is likely because this was designed with a book-binding format, but I was still able to read the information and understand what it intended to state. Appendix A's link did not work when I clicked on it to see the DRI tables.

No issues that I noted.

Chapter 14 does a good job of highlighting "Diets Around the World" which provides different cultural takes on diets. I did not note anything insensitive.

Reviewed by Tina Moody, Biology Faculty, Northland Community and Technical College on 7/1/19

For the target audience, the book is right on track. It doesn't assume one has a chemistry or biology background - perfect for my nutrition course. read more

For the target audience, the book is right on track. It doesn't assume one has a chemistry or biology background - perfect for my nutrition course.

I didn't see any incorrect information.

The book is fairly up to date (available since the end of 2012) but with this level of textbook and its information it isn't likely to change much. Any new information is something that I try to incorporate into my class materials regardless of the textbook source. When the FNB publishes new guidelines in 2020, I will be able to update these for my students easily.

I like how important terms are defined on the left side of the page.

Each of the chapters is set up the same way making it very intuitive once a student becomes familiar with the textbook. I believe the 'Key Takeaways' and 'Discussion Starters' at the end of each section and the 'End-of-Chapter Exercises' will help students insure they truly understood what they just read.

The way each chapter is broken down into sections will work well for my class. Each section is listed in the Table of Contents as well, making it even easier for students to find what they need. The 'End-of-Chapter Exercises' are even in the TOC.

Occasionally there are topics I have tackled in a slightly different order in the past (vegetarianism after a discussion of protein structure and function for example) but that's just personal taste.

The only issue I had with some of the charts is that some of the acronyms in the chart were not explained in the description. Some of the writing was small as well, though I'm not sure how the authors could have dealt with that and still had a good flow of information rather than flipping back and forth between pages to see a larger chart.

I did not see any grammatical errors.

I feel the textbook did well in this area. Chapter 14 Politics and Perspectives covered the globe well in the 'Diets around the World' section.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Nutrition and You
  • Chapter 2: Achieving a Healthy Diet
  • Chapter 3: Nutrition and the Human Body
  • Chapter 4: Carbohydrates
  • Chapter 5: Lipids
  • Chapter 6: Proteins
  • Chapter 7: Nutrients Important to Fluid and Electrolyte Balance
  • Chapter 8: Nutrients Important As Antioxidants
  • Chapter 9: Nutrients Important for Bone Health
  • Chapter 10: Nutrients Important for Metabolism and Blood Function
  • Chapter 11: Energy Balance and Body Weight
  • Chapter 12: Nutrition through the Life Cycle: From Pregnancy to the Toddler Years
  • Chapter 13: Nutrition through the Life Cycle: From Childhood to the Elderly Years
  • Chapter 14: Nutrition and Society: Food Politics and Perspectives
  • Chapter 15: Achieving Optimal Health: Wellness and Nutrition
  • Chapter 16: Appendix A

Ancillary Material

About the book.

Welcome to Essentials of Nutrition: A Functional Approach! This book is written for students who are not majoring in nutrition, but want to learn about the fundamental aspects of nutrition and how it applies to their own lives. We have written this book with the assumption that you have little or no prior knowledge of college level chemistry, biology, or physiology. But that does not mean it’s not scientific! Nutrition is a science-based discipline, so all the material included is backed up by rigorous scientific research, but it is presented in a clear, easy-to-understand fashion without requiring a background in science.

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Healthy Eating Learning Opportunities and Nutrition Education

taste test girls hummus veggies

Healthy eating learning opportunities includes nutrition education  and other activities integrated into the school day that can give children knowledge and skills to help choose and consume healthy foods and beverages. 1 Nutrition education is a vital part of a comprehensive health education program and empowers children with knowledge and skills to make healthy food and beverage choices. 2-8 

US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year, 9  far below the 40 to 50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change. 10,11  Additionally, the percentage of schools providing required instruction on nutrition and dietary behaviors decreased from 84.6% to 74.1% between 2000 and 2014. 9

Given the important role that diet plays in preventing chronic diseases and supporting good health, schools would ideally provide students with more hours of nutrition education instruction and engage teachers and parents in nutrition education activities. 5, 12  Research shows that nutrition education can teach students to recognize how healthy diet influences emotional well-being  and how emotions may influence eating habits. However, because schools face many demands, school staff can consider ways to add nutrition education into the existing schedule. 11

Nutrition education can be incorporated throughout the school day and in various locations within a school. This provides flexibility allowing schools to use strategies that work with their settings, daily schedule, and resources.

Nutrition book icon

In the Classroom

Nutrition education can take place in the classroom, either through a stand-alone health education class or combined into other subjects including 2,5 :

  • Counting with pictures of fruits and vegetables.
  • Learning fractions by measuring ingredients for a recipe.
  • Examining how plants grow.
  • Learning about cultural food traditions.

Nutrition education should align with the National Health Education Standards and incorporate the characteristics of an effective health education curriculum .

Gardening hands icon

Farm to School

Farm-to-school programs vary in each school or district, but often include one or more of the following strategies:

  • Purchasing and serving local or regionally produced foods in the school meal programs.
  • Educating students about agriculture, food, health, and nutrition.
  • Engaging students in hands-on learning opportunities through gardening, cooking lessons, or farm field trips.

Students who participate in farm-to-school activities have increased knowledge about nutrition and agriculture, are more willing to try new foods, and consume more fruits and vegetables. 14-17

Watering can icon

School Gardens

School garden programs can increase students’ nutrition knowledge, willingness to try fruit and vegetables, and positive attitudes about fruits and vegetables. 18-22 School gardens vary in size and purpose. Schools may have window sill gardens, raised beds, greenhouses, or planted fields.

Students can prepare the soil for the garden, plant seeds, harvest the fruits and vegetables, and taste the food from the garden. Produce from school gardens can be incorporated into school meals or taste tests. Classroom teachers can teach lessons in math, science, history, and language arts using the school garden.

salad icon

In the Cafeteria

Cafeterias are learning labs where students are exposed to new foods through the school meal program, see what balanced meals look like, and may be encouraged to try new foods through verbal prompts from school nutrition staff, 23 or taste tests. 24-25 Cafeterias may also be decorated with nutrition promotion posters or student artwork promoting healthy eating. 24

Veggies sign icon

Other Opportunities

Schools can add messages about nutrition and healthy eating into the following:

  • Morning announcements.
  • School assemblies.
  • Materials sent home to parents and guardians. 24
  • Staff meetings.
  • Parent-teacher group meetings.

These strategies can help reinforce messages about good nutrition and help ensure that students see and hear consistent information about healthy eating across the school campus and at home. 2 

Shared use agreements can extend healthy eating learning opportunities. As an example, an after-school STEM club  could gain access to school gardens as learning labs.

CDC Parents for Healthy Schools: Ideas for Parents

Nutrition: Gardening Interventions | The Community Guide

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025

Introduction to School Gardens

Learning Through the Garden

National Farm-to-School Network

National Farm to School Network Resource Database

National Health Education Standards

Team Nutrition Curricula

USDA Farm to School

USDA Team Nutrition

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School health guidelines to promote healthy eating and physical activity. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep . 2011;60(RR-5):1–76.
  • Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards. National Health Education Standards: Achieving Excellence. 2nd ed. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society; 2007.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool, 2012, Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services; 2012. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/hecat/index.htm. Accessed April 9, 2019.
  • Price C, Cohen D, Pribis P, Cerami J. Nutrition education and body mass index in grades K–12: a systematic review. J Sch Health. 2017;87:715–720.
  • Meiklejohn S, Ryan L, Palermo C. A systematic review of the impact of multi-strategy nutrition education programs on health and nutrition of adolescents. J Nutr Educ Behav . 2016;48:631–646.
  • Silveira JA, Taddei JA, Guerra PH, Nobre MR. The effect of participation in school-based nutrition education interventions on body mass index: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled community trials. Prev Med . 2013;56:237–243.
  • County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. School-based Nutrition Education Programs website. http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/take-action-to-improve-health/what-works-for-health/policies/school-based-nutrition-education-programs . Accessed on April 9, 2019.
  • Results from the School Health Policies and Practices Study 2014 . Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2014.
  • Connell DB, Turner RR, Mason EF. Results of the school health education evaluation: health promotion effectiveness, implementation, and costs . J Sch Health . 1985;55(8):316–321.
  • Institute of Medicine. Nutrition Education in the K–12 Curriculum: The Role of National Standards: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2014.
  • Murimi MW, Moyeda-Carabaza AF, Nguyen B, Saha S, Amin R, Njike V. Factors that contribute to effective nutrition education interventions in children: a systematic review. Nutr Rev . 2018;76(8):553–580.
  • Hayes D, Contento IR, Weekly C. Position of the American Dietetic Association, School Nutrition Association, and Society for Nutrition Education: comprehensive school nutrition services. J Acad Nutr Diet . 2018; 118:913–919.
  • Joshi A, Misako Azuma A, Feenstra G. Do farm-to-school programs make a difference? Findings and future research needs . J Hunger Environ Nutr . 2008;3:229–246.
  • Moss A, Smith S, Null D, Long Roth S, Tragoudas U. Farm to school and nutrition education: Positively affecting elementary school-aged children’s nutrition knowledge and consumption behavior. Child Obes . 2013;9(1):51–6.
  • Bontrager Yoder AB, Liebhart JL, McCarty DJ, Meinen A, Schoeller D, Vargas C, LaRowe T. Farm to elementary school programming increases access to fruits and vegetables and increases their consumption among those with low intake . J Nutr Educ Behav . 2014;46(5):341–9.
  • The National Farm to School Network. The Benefits of Farm to School website. http://www.farmtoschool.org/Resources/BenefitsFactSheet.pdf . Accessed on June 14, 2019.
  • Berezowitz CK, Bontrager Yoder AB, Schoeller DA. School gardens enhance academic performance and dietary outcomes in children. J Sch Health . 2015;85:508–518.
  • Davis JN, Spaniol MR, Somerset S. Sustenance and sustainability: maximizing the impact of school gardens on health outcomes. Public Health Nutr . 2014;18(13):2358–2367.
  • Langellotto GA, Gupta A. Gardening increases vegetable consumption in school-aged children: A meta-analytical synthesis. Horttechnology . 2012;22(4):430–445.
  • Community Preventative Services Task Force. Nutrition: Gardening Interventions to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Children. Finding and Rationale Statement .. https://www.thecommunityguide.org/sites/default/files/assets/Nutrition-Gardening-Fruit-Vegetable-Consumption-Children-508.pdf . Accessed on May 16, 2019.
  • Savoie-Roskos MR, Wengreen H, Durward C. Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake among Children and Youth through Gardening-Based Interventions: A Systematic Review. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2017;11(2):240–50.
  • Schwartz M. The influence of a verbal prompt on school lunch fruit consumption: a pilot study. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2007;4:6.
  • Fulkerson JA, French SA, Story M, Nelson H, Hannan PJ. Promotions to increase lower-fat food choices among students in secondary schools: description and outcomes of TACOS (Trying Alternative Cafeteria Options in Schools). Public Health Nutr. 2003 ;7(5):665–674.
  • Action for Healthy Kids. Tips for Hosting a Successful Taste Test website. http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/tools-for-schools/find-challenges/classroom-challenges/701-tips-for-hosting-a-successful-taste-test . Accessed on May 19, 2019.

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current events conversation

What Students Are Saying About Making School Lunch Healthier

New nutrition guidelines will mean less salt and sugar in school meals. Teenagers share whether they think students will embrace the changes.

A student forks up some food from a red tray divided into compartments. There is also a small open carton of milk.

By The Learning Network

School meals will soon contain less salt and sugar under new nutrition guidelines released by the Biden administration. School cafeterias will have to cut sodium levels 15 percent by the 2027-28 academic year. And for the first time, schools will need to limit the amount of added sugars in cereals and yogurts, starting in the 2025-26 academic year.

While many parents and nutritionists applauded the stricter federal regulations, some school lunch administrators fretted that the results will be less tasty to students, reducing consumption and increasing waste.

We asked teenagers for their opinions: Should schools serve healthier meals if it changes students’ favorite foods?

They weighed in on the federal guidelines and whether “healthy” really means “less tasty.” They also shared about their experiences of eating in the school cafeteria, including what works well and what could be improved.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the conversation on our writing prompts this week, including students from schools in Dallas , St. Louis and Seoul .

Please note: Student comments have been lightly edited for length, but otherwise appear as they were originally submitted.

Many students supported the push for more healthful school lunches.

I feel as though we are being served foods that aren’t good for us because we don’t have all the food groups within the meal. Some students have health problems and need to be served healthier meals but the regular school lunches are all fats and carbs just blended in and quite frankly aren’t appetizing. Yes, some schools can’t afford a better lunch system but we still shouldn’t be served that unhealthy stuff. It’s not good for athletes or people with health problems. Schools can magically afford all this technology and all these fancier things in the school but we can’t afford a more healthy food option or better yet, something that actually tastes good. Me, personally, if we had a healthier school lunch I would eat it every day.

I think the lunches at our school are pretty satisfying. There is healthy and delicious Korean food. There is always a dessert for the students. However, I think the school should change the school lunch to a healthier meal because students need to eat a lot of vegetables, which are essential nutrients. Also, the school should provide more delicious dishes and different kinds of side dishes. The best solution is to have multiple options and dishes for vegan and vegetarians. I think junk food should not be part of a school lunch menu. School lunch is important since it hugely influences the students’ day.

— K K, south korea

Compared to other countries’ meals, America’s school lunches are not the most nourishing. Take a standard Japanese school lunch as an example. A balanced meal should have a source of carbohydrates, protein, dairy, and a source of vitamins and minerals that can be found in an average vegetable. A usual school lunch in Japan contains white rice, meat or fish, soup, a salad, and a bottle of milk. A quality, balanced meal such as this should be the standard for school lunches. Of course, this doesn’t mean that less healthy options should be out of the picture, as, who doesn’t want a treat now and then? But judging from my school’s lunches, which can be found as cheese pizza and spaghetti with meatballs, the concern for nutrition is understandable.

— Malaya, Philadelphia, PA

I think there should be a reduction of the amount of salt and sugar schools put into foods. Personally, I don’t even think many kids are considering it when they eat the food, as some people just eat school lunch every day. That being said, reducing the salts and sugars might make the foods taste better, as I find many foods to be over-sweetened and over-salted. Not only would making a change be healthier, but it might even be an improvement to the current menu.

— Livia, Greenbelt MS, Maryland

Others argued that making school food healthier will mean fewer students will eat it.

I believe that the more objectively correct option for student wellbeing is to make the foods healthier, but personally, I wouldn’t want that. Firstly, I don’t even eat school lunch, so my opinion on it is probably different from other people’s opinions … I think that more people might pack lunches if healthier meals that may not taste as good replace the current school lunches. Also, from what I can see, a lot of food gets thrown out, left behind, or just scattered all over the place. Replacing good (sometimes) tasting meals with foods that tend to not taste as good might increase the amount of food not eaten. In conclusion, healthier meals are objectively better for students, however, students may not prefer the healthier options.

— Max, J.R. Masterman School

Students will not embrace the change. Sadly if you take away the foods that taste good and swap them for foods that are healthy but don’t taste as good, there will be some dissatisfaction. I do think it’s important for students to have healthier diets but they might not think the same.

— Tanae, Greenbelt Middle School

I think that enforcing healthy eating habits at school is incredibly important, but flavorless green beans or corn might not be the best solution. For me, I don’t think that the fact that we are served healthy foods is an issue — I dislike many of the foods because they are simply not appetizing. I often enjoy salads at restaurants or at home, but the school cafeteria just seems to make everything taste worse. Judging by the amount of food left in trash cans around the steaming hot cafeteria, it is clear that my peers may feel similarly. Many people I know simply wait until they arrive home to eat, rather than indulge in the school’s delicacies. Snacks from home or vending machines are common ways to avoid cafeteria food. Healthy food is a good idea, but more needs to be done to make it both appetizing and energizing for the student body.

— Calla, Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia, PA

Some suggested a middle ground, one in which nutritious options exist beside student favorites.

I have seen some school lunches some days in which I wonder how the school is able to serve considering how unhealthy it is. I put a big emphasis on healthy nutrition, so these types of lunches are unfortunate for me. However, we are kids and I do think we could be treated to things that are unhealthy at times. Making school lunches healthier could also build healthier habits for students when they are by themselves at home. This is because they could possibly get used to the health foods they are consuming everyday at lunch and make them want to crave healthier foods at home. Overall, I think it’s a good idea to give students healthier foods, but I don’t think it should be 100% healthy.

— Brendan, Baker High School

It really depends on the student body. Different people have different preferences. The best solution would be to have multiple options, including vegan, halal, healthy, and junk food for students. However, this can often lead to food waste. Junk food is unhealthy, but most students like it and food isn’t wasted a lot. On the other hand, not a lot of teenagers choose to eat vegetables and fruits. Food waste would be a huge problem if schools decide to serve healthier menus, and even worse, fresh fruit and vegetables are way more expensive than junk food and fast food, which not many educational districts can provide for.

— Jimin, Seoul

Students either look forward to school lunch or despise it, both breakfast and lunch: the school offers various options for one to choose from. However, within the options, they are not the best in a healthy manner. Therefore schools should consider serving healthier food to an extent. The reason is that students may complain about the lack of flavor, low salt, etc but in the long run it would be more beneficial to one’s health. A well-balanced mixture of a lunch tray that serves both nutrients and salt would be amazing and satisfy students.

— Valeria, John H. Francis Polytechnic High School

Schools should serve healthier food choices but not remove any of students’ favorite food options. Healthier food choices should increase since approximately 19.7% of children are obese. With the food provided, schools should set the demonstration of a healthy diet however not remove students’ favorite food choices. With healthier food choices for their bodies, the students will have the nutrients and the energy they need to learn since with unhealthy food, the children can have stomach aches and a lack of energy, which would affect them in their education, so I believe they should serve healthy options for students.

— Jose, Sun Valley

Several said teaching students about nutrition and letting them have a say in the menu would help them make healthier choices.

I have a mixed opinion about this topic. While I do believe promoting better health and nutrition among students is important, respecting students’ preferences is also important. Schools can introduce healthier foods slowly and involve students in the process. By finding ways to make healthy foods appealing and enjoyable, schools can help students develop a taste for nutritious foods they will carry into adulthood.

— Anngelin, Dallas, Texas

If I were responsible for keeping food waste to a minimum, step one would be to listen to students and serve what they like. There’s no reason to throw the food away if it is good. It’s impossible to cater to every student, so why not make sides available? If people, for example, like the breadstick that comes with the macaroni and cheese, why not give students the option to order a side and nothing else? This also works if someone hates the breadstick but loves the macaroni. Giving students options is a great way to prevent unnecessary food waste.

— Tate, Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia, PA

I feel that throughout my school many food ends up getting wasted because of the lack of attention brought to people with regards to healthy eating. Because so many fruits and vegetables get thrown out on the daily at my school, many people are getting fueled on the unhealthy salt and sugar-filled items that are getting processed in places that aren’t good for you. If there were to be teachings about why it is so important to keep fruits and veggies in your day to day diet, it can really benefit you a lot. Also, lots of people around the world can afford healthy food items, so if schools were to start to make meals more healthy, it could really help not only American obesity but also help people get new healthy eating habits.

— Maddie, Connecticut

Educating students about the benefits of a low-salt, low-sugar diet and introducing flavorful alternatives could help promote acceptance of the new guidelines. Ultimately, it will be important for schools to engage with students, gather feedback, and involve them in the process of creating nutritious and appealing menu options to encourage healthier eating habits.

— Nebeyu, Greenbelt Middle

Students also told us what’s working in their own school cafeterias.

As a student attending public school, I was made aware of how the federal government regulated schools to follow specific nutritional guidelines, such as the healthy eating plate, which depicts a perfectly balanced meal consisting of ½ vegetables and fruits, ¼ carbohydrates, and ¼ protein. Most of the schools I attended followed this guideline. However, after switching to private schools, I noticed that their meal plans were more lenient, as they had more freedom to do what they wanted … At my school, our salad bar is very successful. Students can customize their salad with fresh fruits and vegetables that create a great food source that brings the body energy. Therefore, schools should have a balanced meal that includes healthy options, without eliminating all of students’ favorites. I personally think the healthy eating plate is a good guide to see if your main lunch source is pulling from all food types and energy sources.

— Sophia, St. Louis

I believe eating healthy, even if it is forced, is important. My previous school food, for example, had many options, including Asian, western, a salad bar, and different bread options. This helped students choose what kind of food they wanted. For breakfast and dinner, they balanced the sodium levels by giving under-seasoned food for breakfast if the dinner was going to have salty or sugary food. To help parents and students know how much sodium they are taking that day, they posted pictures with the sodium levels for every meal.

— Melinda, Korea

And what needs improvement.

I believe schools can improve on healthier food options. There are students who buy lunch everyday, some who don’t have a choice in this, so having higher quality food for them would be beneficial. I’ve seen plenty of questionable food in my cafeteria and they’re usually the healthier options. No student actively wants to eat a rotting salad or a fruit cup that has been sitting out for a few hours; it’s gross. So these usually get thrown away. Burgers, pizza, fries, etc. are always going to be served in school cafeterias. Those foods could also be improved with their high sodium levels. But, if schools offer good quality, healthier options, students may actually choose them. Overall, school lunches are tolerable in their current state, but I’m sure there can be steps taken to improve them.

— Ren, New York

To be honest, I am not completely satisfied with the food at my school. In our dining room, so-called “healthy food” is presented but, in my opinion, it cannot be called healthy. For example, let’s take the same chicken Caesar salad, which has the same fried patty that is served in burgers. The fruits that are presented are often of very questionable freshness. Also, compared to unhealthy food, the amount of healthy food is simply scant, so most students choose standard items: such as pizza, burgers, French fries and nuggets. I have nothing against it, but I don’t think it’s a good diet for every day, especially if you have lunch in the third period like me. I haven’t had lunch at school for a long time and I just take snacks from home, however, considering that we spend eight hours at school, I am always very hungry in the last periods. I wish my school had more healthy food options, even if it tasted worse than regular food.

— Sabrina, Hinsdale, IL

I believe that schools should continue to have healthy food options but improve on what they have. Some of the healthier options my school provides are fruits or small salads that are close to rotting. I think that the food that they give most times just ends up in the trash because the food is about to go bad and people don’t want to eat fruits that have gone brown or lettuce that is soggy. I also believe that if our school has to provide healthy options to students, they should also serve vegan/vegetarian options. Our school does have salads but they almost always have chicken or cheese in them and they aren’t nearly big enough to fill someone. I believe schools should provide free healthy options for students but improve the quality of food that they serve.

Learn more about Current Events Conversation here and find all of our posts in this column .


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    Good food fundamentally is simple and does not have to be expensive or complicated. The four topics that kickstart this food choices journey include: pH values, food labels, gut-brain axis, and fodmaps. All activities are organized with a purpose, multiple tasks, methods, and include criteria for grading. pH Values Activity. Food Labels Activity.

  9. PDF SuperTracker Nutrition Lesson Plans for High School Students

    Standards. SuperTracker Nutrition Lesson Plans for High School Students are intended to enable students to achieve the following healthy behavior outcomes: Eat the appropriate amounts from each food group every day. Eat a variety of foods within each food group every day. Eat fruits and vegetables every day.

  10. Teaching High School Nutrition: 13 Ideas

    Prisma. Prisma is an accredited, project-based, online program for grades 4-12. Our personalized curriculum builds love of learning and prepares kids to thrive. Our middle school, high school, and parent-coach programs provide 1:1 coaching and supportive peer cohorts.

  11. PDF We Are What We Eat!

    East Chapel Hill High School Beekmantown High School Chapel Hill, NC West Chazy, NY . Summary . This lesson is for high school students and can be used as part of a unit about nutrition. It will help students understand the critical role that certain nutrients play in human health. Students

  12. Nutrition Lessons

    High School/Upper Secondary College/University Other Back; Content type0. TED-Ed Animations TED Talk Lessons ... Nutrition Fruits and veggies for kids/Eat your rainbow. Lesson duration 03:30 26,078,290 Views. 17:28. Health How racism makes us sick - David R. Williams ...

  13. Lessons for Middle & HS

    Standards-Based Nutrition Education from the Ground Up. Ten inquiry-based lessons that engage 5th and 6th graders in growing, harvesting, tasting, and learning about fruits and vegetables. Fast Food Nutrition Lesson Plans. Provides nutrition facts for the most popular fast food restaurants in the United States.

  14. Let's Eat Healthy for Teens Lesson 2: Food Is Fuel

    Let's Eat Healthy for Teens Lesson 2: Food Is Fuel. Nutrition education designed for high school students. Free Educator Guide to help instructors. This page as well as Food + You, O ptimal Nutrition and Eating Patterns are designed for high school students and adapted from the online nutrition curriculum Eat Move Win.

  15. Nutrition Education Course for Teens and Young Adults

    While this short nutrition education program is open to ANYONE, we designed it especially with these audiences in mind: Middle school students High school students College students Learners in their twenties Educators who want to assign a fun, learner-driven nutrition education lesson to their entire classrooms

  16. Nutrition Teaching Resources

    Newest Nutrition Resources. Our cross-curricular resources on wellness education and nutrition will engage your students in pre-K, elementary, middle school, and high school, with fun and informative lesson plans, worksheets, and projects on their well-being. Teach them about illness, physical education, and balanced diets so they have the ...

  17. Printable Materials and Handouts

    USDA, HHS. View printable brochures and handouts with healthy eating tips based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, including: Build a Healthy Eating Routine. Cut Down on Added Sugars. MyPlate Print Materials. USDA, Food and Nutrition Service, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

  18. Healthy Eating Education Activities

    The Healthy Eating Education Activities will provide students with a foundational understanding that will address the what, why, and how as it relates to healthy eating learning the following important competencies: Think - Students will develop cognitive skills and strategies that facilitate knowledge about healthy foods, food habits, food ...

  19. Let's Eat Healthy for Teens Lesson 3: Optimal Nutrition

    Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy, fueling the brain and supplying energy for all of the cells. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down by digestion into smaller units called glucose. Carbohydrates are found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, whole grains and legumes. Whole foods that contain carbohydrates ...

  20. An Introduction to Nutrition

    Table of Contents. Chapter 1: Nutrition and You. Chapter 2: Achieving a Healthy Diet. Chapter 3: Nutrition and the Human Body. Chapter 4: Carbohydrates. Chapter 5: Lipids. Chapter 6: Proteins. Chapter 7: Nutrients Important to Fluid and Electrolyte Balance. Chapter 8: Nutrients Important As Antioxidants.

  21. PDF Foods and nutrition 12 Introduction Assignment

    Sugar is added to many foods. In one year, a daily 12-ounce can of pop (160 calories) could increase your weight by 16 pounds. Many processed foods such as packaged, canned, boxed, or frozen meals contain high amounts of salt and food additives that may not be good for your health. When you can, make meals using fresh food.

  22. Healthy Eating Learning Opportunities and Nutrition Education

    US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year, 9 far below the 40 to 50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change. 10,11 Additionally, the percentage of schools providing required instruction on nutrition and dietary behaviors decreased from 84.6% to 74.1% between 2000 and 2014. 9. Given the ...

  23. High School Educator Guide for Lesson Plans

    The guide includes: premade slide decks to guide instruction, tutorial videos, tips and step-by-step guide for integrating these lessons into Google Classroom. Each lesson outline includes links for easy integration and access to the reading assignments, activities and student learning assessments. Our educator guides and curriculum are ...

  24. What Students Are Saying About Making School Lunch Healthier

    School meals will soon contain less salt and sugar under new nutrition guidelines released by the Biden administration. School cafeterias will have to cut sodium levels 15 percent by the 2027-28 ...