Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8
In this balanced diet lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources (including an online interactive tool, Chef Solus’ Build-a-Meal Game) to learn about healthy eating and maintaining a balanced diet.
- Identify healthy and unhealthy foods in each of the food groups.
- Explain how nutrients can be balanced over the course of several meals in a day.
- Use an online interactive tool to plan fictional meals and analyze their nutritional content based on feedback provided through the tool.
- Apply understandings by tracking real life eating habits and planning healthy meal choices.
- Interactive whiteboard (or just an LCD projector)
- Computers with internet access for BrainPOP
- Class set of photocopies of either the Write-In Food Daily Tracking Sheet or the Write In Weekly Food Journal (links below)
Preparation:This lesson plan uses a free online tool from Nourish Interactive called Chef Solus' Build A Meal. The interactive tool is based on the USDA guidelines for a healthy diet. Students will need to select their gender, age and activity level, and the interactive will automatically compute the calories and number of servings from each food group required for each student to have a balanced diet. Once a student has entered the required information, she or he will be taken to a meal planning screen with squares designated for breakfast, lunch dinner and two snacks. The student will then begin to select food items from three virtual scenes: a kitchen, a school cafeteria and a grocery store. Using their mouse, they can click and drag food items onto their tray. The child will see a horizontal bar at the bottom of their screen that represents the energy or calories their body needs for one full day. As they select their food items, the associated servings and calories will automatically be filled in for them. If the student selects too many high calorie foods and goes over their calorie needs, the bar will begin to turn red.
There are no calculations required to use the interactive. Food groups servings are color coded and each box represents one serving of that particular food group. By scrolling over selected food items shown at the bottom of the screen, students can learn the amount, food group(s) and calories of a particular food item. The challenge is to find the right combination of foods that meets their calorie requirement and gives them enough servings from each of the food groups. Once a student has created his or her meal plan for the day, the game will evaluate the choices and give advice on how to make it a balanced healthy meal if needed. There are over 160 food choices for the student to choose from. There is an optional “HELP” audio feature to guide students.
Because students will need to have some background knowledge about the food groups and balanced meals in order to complete the interactive successfully, we recommend using this lesson plan toward the end of your unit on the USDA Food Plate and/or nutrition. You can also use the lesson as a culminating activity.
In preparation for the activities below, choose the BrainPOP movie topic or topics you would like to integrate. We recommend Nutrition, Fitness, Body Weight, Carbohydrates, Fats, and Metabolism. Younger students can view BrainPOP Jr.'s Food Groups or Eating Right movies. You should also download either the Write-In Food Daily Tracking Sheet or the Write In Weekly Food Journal and make photocopies for the class. Additional ideas for utilizing the interactive and the tracking sheets can be found in the Nourish Interactive Lesson Plan.
- Help students make connections to prior learning through the BrainPOP or BrainPOP Jr. topic page you selected from the list above. We recommend playing the movie and utilizing its related resources and activity pages.
- Project Chef Solus' Build a Meal for students to see. Model how to use the interactive before releasing students to play on their own. Demonstrate how to use the mouse to pick your age, picture of boy or girl, and the picture that best describes how active you are. Draw students' attention to the empty calorie bar with a goal number of calories, and an empty plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You make want to repeat this part of the interactive a few times, selecting different genders, ages, and activity levels. Talk with students about how these factors affect the amount of calories children need.
- Explain that students will create three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), and will also be able to store food in a backpack for two snack times. Allow students volunteers to select which meal to plan first.
- As you begin the interactive, you will enter a virtual place where food is stored. Show students how to use the mouse to click and drag food items to the plate. You will see the different colored boxes begin to fill up depending on the foods you chose. The orange boxes represent the grains group, the green boxes represent the vegetable group, the red boxes represent the fruit group, the blue boxes represent the dairy group, and the purple box represents the protein group. You will also see your calorie bar begin to fill up. Experiment with different combinations and talk with students about how the calorie bar changes according to which foods are selected.
- Click on the green arrow on the right bottom of the screen to go back to your meal page and select another meal to create. Be sure students understand that if they need help, they can simply click on the help button in the upper left hand corner.
- Once you are done, click on the green box at the top to indicate you're ready to show the meal you have created to Chef Solus. Facilitate a class discussion around the results. You can go back and make changes to meal and predict how those changes will affect Chef Solus' feedback.
- Allow a few student volunteers to take a turn building meals. Have them explain their choices as they select each food, and encourage the rest of the class to provide constructive comments about how balanced the meals are, how they could be improved, and why.
- Provide 10-15 minutes for students to explore the interactive on their own or with a partner and select their meals for the day. You may want to have students take screenshots of their completed meal selections to share with the class later on.
- Talk with students about the meals they created. Did they notice any foods that significantly moved the calorie bar? Why do they think that is? What foods could be added to make a meal more substantial and filling without excessively moving the calorie bar? Do all meals have to have a perfectly precise balance of nutrients, or can they be spaced out throughout the day? Why? What were the biggest challenges in creating a balanced diet in Build a Meal? What are the biggest challenges in real life?
- Challenge students to track the food they eat at home over the next day or week using the Write-In Food Daily Tracking Sheet or the Write In Weekly Food Journal. Encourage students to examine their meal records with a partner and take turns playing the role of Chef Solus in giving feedback.