A red apple sits on a teacher’s desk

Good nutrition is the bedrock of a child’s health and well-being, and ensures they are physically and mentally able to learn and concentrate at school. Whether a student is hungry, hopped up on sugar, or living with patterns of disordered eating, research has shown that poor nutrition will limit their capacity for academic growth.

It’s important for children to understand nutrition, so they can become aware of their health and motivated to incorporate healthy habits into their own daily lives. But just what is the best way to integrate a nutrition program into the school curriculum? At SPARK, we believe that physical education (PE) classes are the ideal opportunity for teaching students about nutrition. Read on to discover why PE is a great time for nutrition talk, and how you can effectively introduce this topic into your lesson plans.

PE Encourages Healthful Habits

With school-age children becoming increasingly sedentary and the consumption of sugars and unhealthy fats continuing to rise, it’s clear that healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand among younger generations.

PE provides an excellent opportunity for students to make the connection between the food they eat and how they feel and move within their bodies. One of the main goals of a nutrition program is to help students understand that food is fuel for the body. The better the fuel, the better they can function – not just in PE class, but throughout the school day, and outside of school too.

Your PE classes may already encourage students to incorporate more physical activity into their free time, and nutrition can be approached in exactly the same way. Easy-to-follow tips and interesting information on healthy eating can allow students to become more aware of their nutrition and make some simple changes at school and at home. Even the smallest change is a step in the right direction – especially when exercise and healthy eating are combined.

PE Is a Time for Positive Empowerment

When students are empowered to understand how healthy portions, food choices, and hydration shape their development, mental clarity, and physical abilities, the power to live healthily is placed directly in their hands.

The habits children form in their developmental years have a lot of sticking power, and positive experiences are key to this. For many adults, PE lessons bring back bad memories of being picked last for a team or being punished with laps and pushups.

One of the reasons these memories are so difficult is because they are moments of disempowerment, rejection, or some sense of not “having what it takes.” As a result, some people have become discouraged from taking part in physical activity all together.

Fortunately, PE classes are becoming a more empowering and positive period at school for healthy living. A nutrition program is another way to empower students to look at their progress and the difference healthy changes can make to their lives, both now and in the future.

Help Your Students Get Healthy

In order to create an effective nutrition program at your school, it’s essential to set attainable goals, especially within the context of the students’ socioeconomic environment.

If you’re aware that your students aren’t receiving much nutritional education at home, you could start with a more introductory approach to food by explaining the food groups, the benefits of eating certain foods, and the foods to try to eat less of. You can then advance to having the students evaluate their own diets and coming up with healthy meal plans. By following a clear nutritional curriculum, you can ensure a framework that’s easy for students to understand and progress through, no matter how much they already know about nutrition.

For more ideas and support for your nutrition program, check out SPARK’s new Healthy Kids Challenge today. Healthy children become healthy adults, so let’s help them get there.

SPARK is dedicated to creating, implementing, and evaluating research-based programs that promote lifelong wellness. SPARK strives to improve the health of children and adolescents by disseminating evidence-based physical activity and nutrition programs that provide curriculum, staff development, follow-up support, and equipment to teachers of Pre-K through 12th grade students. SPARK is committed to providing outstanding customer satisfaction through timely delivery and exceptional service. SPARK believes in fostering a positive working environment that values professional growth, upward mobility, and opportunities for people to work together toward common goals.