Middle School students are often in control of what they put in their mouths, but many times they do not make or do not know how to make healthy choices. It is crucial to instill nutritional concepts in middle school children, because the way they eat now is likely to be the way they eat as adults. The University of Florida Cooperative Extension Program is working to help motivate local middle school youth to take charge of their health by making nutritious eating choices through a series of nutrition education lessons.
Children in middle school are still growing rapidly, which makes healthy eating a vital part of their lives. Middle school students need the vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants found in a variety of foods, which makes nutrition an important part of their education. Middle-schoolers also benefit cognitively from eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, milk, and whole grains.
As middle-school students gain more independence, they are more likely to begin making their own meal choices, which often include unhealthy foods like cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, French fries and soda. This is where local Extension faculty is helping to educate youth about making smart food choices and about the importance of being active. As middle-schoolers continue to approach adulthood, they need to learn healthy eating habits, because the way they eat now is likely how they will eat as grownups.
Even though they are more advanced academically, middle school students still respond to hands-on learning activities. One specifically that is being utilized is food preparation skills. The students get the opportunity to cook on their own and sample food prepared. All of the recipes the students prepared were healthy and to some of the student’s surprise, tasty as well! Lessons covered included smart snacking, food groups, the importance of breakfast, the importance of being physically active, and students even got to make homemade cheese during one of the lessons.
Nutrition education is an evidence-based, cost effective way to improve health outcomes and foster healthy eating habits for a lifetime.
If you would like to learn more about healthy choices and nutrition, contact your local extension office.
Lori Wiggins- UF/IFAS Extension Agent III