Healthy Classroom Parties: Five Food Group Fares
Healthy Classroom Parties: Five Food Group Fares

Research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that when schools take an integrated approach to wellness—from teaching nutrition to adopting healthier snack guidelines in the classroom—they can reduce students’ intake of less healthy foods and beverages by 30 percent.

Classroom celebrations and snacks are a wonderful opportunity for teachers and parents to be partners in healthy eating to reinforce and extend classroom nutrition lessons. However, this movement toward healthier choices does not have to mean the end of fun and enjoyment for students. The following Five Food Group Fares are healthy classroom party ideas that include foods from each food group. Be sure to contact your school foodservice director for assistance and direction obtaining and serving foods for your classroom.

children at a tableFlavor Factor

Modeled after a hit reality-TV game show, Flavor Factor rewards children for trying new and unfamiliar foods. Teachers have a wonderful opportunity to introduce students to new foods from all five food groups with a healthy classroom party idea called Flavor Factor! Even children who may seem reluctant to try new foods at home are willing to expand their food horizons in this fun group activity.

Divide your classroom into teams and offer a variety of unusual foods from each food group.

Suggestions include:

Milk & Milk Products: Greek yogurt, kefir, cheese (preferably stinky)
Vegetables: Asparagus, cactus, long beans (purple), snap peas, zucchini
Fruits: Kiwi, lychee, prickly pear, star fruit
Grains: Couscous, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta
Meat & Beans: Fava, garbanzo, kidney or lima beans, jerky

Give teams points for the total number of foods tried or for each student who tries a new food. Ask children to vote for their favorite new foods and graph the results. The possibilities are endless and students may find new favorite foods in the process.

My Very Own Pizza

The interactive tool My Very Own Pizza helps children learn how to provide all five food groups in one popular and tasty entree. The My Very Own Pizza Five Food Group Fare brings this online tool to life, extending the learning in the classroom!

Provide students with a list of options for pizza crust, sauce, cheese and toppings from all five food groups based on the ideas listed below.

Then, working with school foodservice personnel or volunteer parents, have students assemble their creations, bake and enjoy them for a communal lunch and snack. If individual pizzas are not feasible, have students vote on favorite ingredients and make one or two larger pizzas for the class to enjoy.

two children with foodPizza Options:

Milk & Milk Products: Alfredo sauce, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, yogurt-based ranch sauce
Vegetables: Artichoke hearts, bell peppers, broccoli, onions, pesto, salsa, tomato sauce
Fruits: Apples, cranberries, pears, pineapple
Grains: Bagels, corn tortillas, English muffins, French bread, whole-wheat pitas
Meat & Beans: Black beans, chicken, ham, lean ground beef

When you serve the "My Very Own Pizzas," talk to students about how eating from all five food groups can be done in one food item, like a pizza. Most people enjoy foods that contain ingredients from multiple food groups. Ask students to describe their favorite pizzas and how using whole grain crust and adding additional nutrient-rich foods like cheese, fruit and vegetables can make pizza a healthy choice.

Eat the Alphabet

When California schools were asked recently about local wellness policies, a surprising number of schools reported having A to Z salad bars as a way to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. Eat the Alphabet expands upon the A to Z salad bar with foods from all the food groups. Start with an A to Z salad bar and add in nutrient-rich foods from the Milk & Milk Products; Grains; and Meat & Beans food groups. Browse the suggested food list below and work with a school foodservice director to select what's available, affordable and in season.

healthy food groupsA: Almonds, anchovies, apples
B: Beans, berries, bulgur
C: Cantaloupe, Cheddar cheese, collard greens
D: Dates, doughnut holes, dragon fruit
E: Eggs, eggplant, escarole
F: Falafel, fava beans, figs
G: Greek yogurt, green beans, grits
H: Hearts of palm or romaine, hominy, hummus
I: Ice cream, Italian bread
J: Jalapenos, jerky, jicama
K: Kefir, kidney beans, kiwi
L: Lassi, lima beans, lychee
M: Mango, milk, macaroni and cheese, mozzarella
N: Naan, navy beans, nectarines
O: Oatmeal, okra, omelet
P: Peas, pita bread, pudding made with milk, pumpkin seeds
Q: Quesadillas, quince, quinoa
R: Raspberries, rice, rutabaga
S: Salmon, soybeans (edamame), Swiss cheese
T: Tapioca, tortilla, tuna, turkey, turnips
U: Udon noodles, ugli fruit
V: Vermicelli (noodles), Vienna sausages
W: Watercress, watermelon, wheatberries, white beans
X: Xigua (Chinese watermelon-like fruit), X-Ray Carrots (get creative!)
Y: Yams, yogurt, yucca
Z: Ziti, zucchini

Five Food Group Fiesta!

Celebrate with a make-your-own nacho, taco or burrito bar! With staples like corn, beans, rice, milk products and plenty of fruits and vegetables, the traditional Mexican eating pattern has a very healthy, nutrient-rich and balanced base. To make the Fiesta a true Five Food Group Fare, plan a fruit salad or Chilled Spiced Fruit as a side dish.

fruits and vegetables

Suggested toppings and ingredients include:

Milk & Milk Products: Colby, Monterrey or Pepper Jack Cheese, Greek yogurt "sour cream"
Vegetables: Avocados, cabbage, corn,  jalapenos, onions, salsa, shredded lettuce, tomatoes
Fruits: Cantaloupe, lime, mango, peach, pear, pineapple, strawberries, watermelon
Grains: Corn tortillas, flour tortillas, rice, tortilla chips
Meats & Beans: Black beans, fish sticks, ground beef or turkey, pinto beans

This Five Food Group Fiesta can be celebrated as part of Dia de los Muertos in November or as a way to talk about how cultures and foods influence other cuisines and eating patterns. For more information on cultural food patterns from Mexico and other countries, be sure to check out our resource called A Celebration of Culture.