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Nutrition Education in Schools Supports Health

By: Angela Asch, MA and Trina Robertson, MS, RDN

  • Monday, October 4, 2021
  • 3 Minute Read   

Read how nutrition education in school supports health.

Nutrition education equips students with important skills they can use to improve their health throughout life. Including credible nutrition education curriculum as part of classroom instruction can go a long way in providing the foundation and tools students need to support good health while also benefiting teachers and whole communities.

This includes learning the basics of nutrition, the nutrients contained within foods and food groups, plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks, how to read a nutrition facts label, and more. These learned skills and positive health behaviors support physical, social and emotional health, as well as academic success. When children consume healthy food, they are better supported to grow, learn and excel.

Nutrition Education Leads to Positive Changes

The average student in the United States receives less than eight hours of nutrition education each school year, yet evidence shows that good nutrition and healthy habits benefit many aspects of a child’s life. When students are taught nutrition, they are able to adopt new behaviors that contribute to:

  • Increased nutrient intakes
  • Better health outcomes
  • Higher performance on tests
  • Improved grades and knowledge retention
  • Lowered instances of absenteeism

Fortunately, nutrition resources like the Let’s Eat Healthy Nutrition Curriculum for grades K–12 make it easy for teachers to incorporate science-backed nutrition education in classrooms. Let’s Eat Healthy resources are plug-and-play lessons that align to Common Core State Standards, enabling educators to teach nutrition and satisfy state-mandated educational requirements at the same time.

The educational environment is changing, and teachers are adapting to this ever-evolving landscape. Let’s Eat Healthy Nutrition Curriculum can be integrated into classroom instruction using a variety of teaching tools—print or digital student workbooks, videos, digital programs, games and activities—that can easily be incorporated into online learning management systems such as Google Classroom, and these online tools work! Insights gleaned from pre- and post-assessments conducted in 2020–21 aggregating feedback from over 10,000 students confirmed that using resources like online interactives improves student retention of key nutrition education concepts.

Nutrition Education Improves Students’ Knowledge and Attitude About Healthy Eating 

Elementary School Survey Results_Square_Cropped (1)Survey results for Let’s Eat Healthy nutrition lessons show that students increased their knowledge and understanding about the impact food has on health. Specifically, students demonstrated improved nutrition knowledge, ability to identify and correctly understand how to read a nutrition facts label, and confidence in their ability to choose healthy snacks and meals.

By teaching Let’s Eat Healthy nutrition education in the classroom, teachers were able to empower students to make healthier food choices by applying their new knowledge of nutrition. As a result, students:

  • Realized and understood the importance of having a healthy diet
  • Made healthier eating decisions
  • Applied the tools they learned to set and achieve health goals
  • Started eating breakfast and increased their activity level

Educators Benefit From Nutrition Education Too

Elementary School Survey Results_Square_Cropped (2)Students aren’t the only ones to experience the positive impact of nutrition education. Survey results collected from K–12 educators during the 2020–21 school year showed that educators who taught nutrition in their classrooms also improved their personal health behaviors. By teaching nutrition to their students, educators were more conscious of foods consumed, resulting in:

  • Fewer sugar sweetened beverages consumed
  • Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Increased consumption of milk and dairy foods
  • Improved eating patterns

One of the best ways to learn is by teaching others. A positive outcome of teaching nutrition is personally applying the lessons, enabling students and teachers alike to benefit from increased nutritional intake and better health. When educators, students and the entire school include nutrition education as a valued component of health and well-being, the whole community benefits.  

The Ripple Effect of Nutrition Education

Join thousands of educators across California and the country who are elevating the health of their students and communities—including themselves—by teaching nutrition education. Free grade-specific curriculum is available in print or downloadable formats, including pre- and post-assessments for each grade level, games and activities, educational videos and more at HealthyEating.org/Curriculum. Get started today and inspire healthier students all year.

 

References 
Nutrition Education in US schools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/nutrition/school_nutrition_education. Accessed July 28, 2021.
Cotton, W., Dudley, D., Peralta L., & Werkhovena, T. The effect of teacher-delivered nutrition education programs on elementary-aged students: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis [published correction appears in Prev Med Rep. 2020 Dec 12,20:101284]. Prev Med Rep. 2020;20:101178. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2020.101178
FoodCorps Celebrates as Senators Booker, Cornyn introduce Bipartisan Legislation to expand school nutrition education. FoodCorps. https://foodcorps.org/foodcorps-celebrates-as-senators-booker-cornyn-introduce-bipartisan-legislation-to-expand-school-nutrition-education/. Published April 28, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2021.
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Angela Asch, MA

Angela Asch, MA

Angela, Project Manager for Resource Development team, brings expertise in child development and nutrition education to her role.

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Trina Robertson, MS, RDN

Trina Robertson, MS, RDN

Trina, Project Manager at Dairy Council of California, is a registered dietitian nutritionist with more than two decades of experience.

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