More Food For Thought

Today we ended our two-week All School Unit on Food for thought.  In Week 2, those concentric circles focused on specific topics and service projects.  In my own group, the "Self" group, we dug more deeply into personal choices in food.  Remember that we are working with kids aged 5 – 14, and so we have to create activities with wide appeal that are also going to be memorable in some way.  We had five days, and there were four of us teachers, and one field trip day, and so each of us took one day.  One teacher took on the idea of calories, and how many a kid needs in a day (1800, I guess, is the new number), another looked at vitamins and minerals.  My topic was sugar.  I gathered as many raisin bran and "Cheerios"-type cereal boxes as I could find.  Luckily, we had asked in advance for families to send in empty food packages, so I had a lot and the rest I found online.  Students read food labels to determine the amount of sugar and fiber in each cereal, used a scale to weigh out that amount of sugar, and displayed it on a plate next to the box.  With 24 kids we had an interesting "gallery" the kids could look at to get the idea. Then we had the kids take their boxes and arrange themselves in a line from least to most sugar, and then rearrange to show amounts of fiber.  The kids were fascinated to see that something regarded as "healthy," like raisin bran, could have so much sugar (up to 29 grams per 1 cup serving), although others had far less.  The worst offenders were the brands that sugar coat the raisins, and the best were the ultra-natural brands like Skinner’s.  We also looked on a raisin-box label to see that one 1/4 cup serving of raisins contains something like 25g of sugar, so there is plenty of "natural" sugar in the mix.  When it came to Cheerios, the actual Honey Nut Cheerio cereal had the most sugar and almost no fiber.  So don’t go there looking for something heart-healthy the way they boast on the commercial!  Plain old rolled oats had the most fiber and the least sugar, of course. 

For our all-school assembly, each group got up and demonstrated something they had learned.  We did the cereal-box lineup, plus a fashion show of students wearing outfits covered in food packages.  Each costume added up to 1800 calories when one serving of each was eaten.  This was the high point for most of the kids.  Have I bored you enough with breakfast cereal?  Well, this unit really was food for thought for ME, and for my husband as well.  Lately we’ve been reading food labels for sodium content, and now feel like it’s in so much of the food we eat that we’ll need to make some changes.  There’s especially a lot in foods that are low in sugar, like the Joe’s O’s we have around the house — like, 200mg per serving!

Another group showed a book with accompanying website called Hungry Planet: What the World Eats.  This was something that the kids really found interesting, and so did I.  

More boring stuff later…. bet you can’t wait!

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2 Responses to More Food For Thought

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not boring at all. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your unit. And yes, the salt thing is unnerving. Salt draws calcium from bones, and is especially problematic for those fighting bone loss.
    Just wondering. Is sweetening your cereal with raisins as bad as using sugar? Should the sugar grams from raisins be counted equally with the grams from processed sugar? What about bananas or other fruit?

    • wingraclaire says:

      We told the kids that sugar from raisins was at least natural, with many of the vitamins and minerals of the fresh fruit. It also has fiber, so that’s another plus. We said that about all fruit, but dried fruits have the most sugar because it’s so concentrated.

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