The purpose of this lesson is to develop an awareness of the need for wise food choices for meals and snacks.

Materials Needed:
Variety of foods (these can be Head Start lunch or snack foods as suggested on p. 65)
Carrot sticks
Celery (one 3"-4" piece for each child)
Sugarless peanut butter or cheese spread
Sunflower seeds or any similar seeds or nuts
4" x 6" index cards
Pictures of foods from old magazines
Flower pots (optional)
Vegetable seeds (optional)
Potting soil (optional)
Parent Letter, "Wise Food Choices for a Healthy Mouth"
Attachments to Parent Letter, "Food Selections from the Four Food Groups" and "Sugarless Recipes"

Background Information for the Teacher:
For good dental health and overall health, children need to develop sensible eating habits. Here are suggestions based on what is known about how foods affect teeth.

To get the nutrients they need for good overall health, children need to eat a balanced diet. A balanced diet includes the following:

* Milk and Dairy Products - 3 servings daily. Examples: Milk (whole, skim, evaporated, powdered), buttermilk, hard cheeses, cottage cheese, yogurt.

* Meat, Fish, Poultry, and Eggs - 2 servings daily. Examples: Beef, veal, lamb, pork, liver, chicken, turkey, eggs, fish, dried peas or beans, nuts, and peanut butter without sugar.

* Fruits and Vegetables - 4 servings daily. Examples: Oranges, bananas, pineapples, melons, grapes, plums, peaches, pears, apples, and other citrus fruits; white potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, string beans, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, and other green, leafy vegetables.

* Breads and Cereals - 4 servings daily. Examples: Enriched or whole grain breads, rolls, crackers, macaroni, spaghetti, noodles, rice, oats, corn and wheat products, and cereals.

Small children need to eat some snacks because they cannot eat all the food they need at meals. It is important, however, to select snacks carefully.

Dental researchers know that all types of sugars can promote tooth decay. These sugars include fruit sugar, milk sugar, and grain sugar such as corn syrup and honey. Sugars have many different names, including sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, dextrose, and maltose. One or more of these sugars are contained in many foods, such as apples, grapes, pears, raisins, and milk. Even some medicines, such as cough syrups, contain sugars. Because many processed foods have sugars added, you will find it helpful to read food labels when you shop. Labels list ingredients in descending, order, according to weight. The ingredient present in the highest quantity is first on the list. It is important when selecting foods that you read the ingredient label to check for the sugar content. If foods you serve for meals or snacks are packed in a syrup, drain and rinse the food before it is served to remove as much of the sugary syrup as possible.

From a dental point of view, the following snacks are preferred:
Cheese, plain yogurt, meat, fish, hard boiled eggs, peanut butter (without sugar), strips of raw vegetables, pretzels, toast, crackers, nuts, popcorn, dill pickles, pizza, refried beans, tortilla chips, cornbreads, tacos.

Although children need some snacks, they should be discouraged from snacking all day long. Because so many foods contain sugars and starches that can cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids that harm teeth, it is important to limit the number of times a day children snack between meals. This will minimize the number of acid attacks the teeth receive.

In addition, the physical characteristics of the food and the length of time it takes to eat the food play a role in acid production. The longer the food is allowed to remain in the mouth, the more opportunity the bacteria in plaque have to produce acid. Examples of foods that remain in the mouth for a long period of time are raisins, dates, sticky! soft dried fruits (figs, raisins, dates, etc.), sugary breakfast bars and cereals eaten as much a snack, lollipops, breath mints, etc. For these reasons, snacks should be selected wisely.

Please note: Foods cannot be used to clean teeth. Some people used to believe that when you could not brush your teeth, chewing foods such as apples, carrots, popcorn, and celery would serve as a substitute for cleaning teeth. This is not true. There is no substitute for tooth brushing and flossing.

Children should not snack all day long. Because so many foods contain sugars of any kind, as sugars contribute to tooth decay. (Foods containing sugars should be saved for meals, when they are harmful to teeth.)

Starting the Lesson:
To begin this lesson on nutrition, we recommend that you ask the following questions after the children have been served their meal or snack. You may want to change the questions based on the food items that are served that day.

"What colors are the foods on your plate?"

"Do any of the foods on your plate have a special shape?"

"Are there any soft foods on your plate?"

"Are there any hard foods on your plate?"

"Which of the foods is your favorite?"

After discussing the foods in their meal, explain to the children that there are many different kinds of food and that it is important to eat many types of food each day. To develop the concept that foods have different tastes, ask the children to describe the various tastes of the foods on their plate. If there are any "finger foods," ask the children to describe how that food feels.

Classroom Activities:
1.Food Group Cards - Cut out a wide variety of food pictures from magazines, and mount each picture on a 4" x 6" index card. Be sure to select pictures of foods that are familiar to children and that represent all cultures. These foods should also be
representative of the four food groups. For your reference, examples of items from the four food groups are listed below:

Milk and Dairy Group Milk, cheese (Swiss, Cheddar, American, Colby, cottage), and plain yogurt.

Meat, Fish, and Egg Group Nuts, eggs (esp. hard boiled), ham, chicken, lamb, tuna, shrimp, turkey, hamburger, hot dogs, roast beef, peanut butter, refried beans, and baked beans.

Fruit and Vegetable Group
Fruits: (Fresh and/or packed in water or natural juice.) Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, cherries, strawberries, grapes, melons, avocados, apricots, and pine apples.

Vegetables: Salad greens, cauliflower, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, radishes, carrots, celery, collards, kale, okra, corn, peas, broccoli, potatoes, and green beans.

Bread and Cereal Group Soda crackers, toast, hard rolls, pretzels, tortillas, pizza, noodles, grits, bagels, rice, oatmeal, corn bread, fried bread, flat bread, and macaroni.

Using the food picture cards, show the children one card at a time. Ask the children to name the food shown on the card. If the children are unfamiliar with the food, name it for them. Ask children to identify their favorite foods of those that have been shown on the cards.

2. Food Comparisons - Give children the opportunity to compare the shapes, colors, and textures of different foods by showing them two food cards selected from the entire group of cards you have made. Ask what is alike and what is different about the foods shown. Repeat the activity using pairs of the remaining cards.

3. Tasting Party - Using foods that the children seemed unfamiliar with when viewing the food cards, plan "tasting parties," giving the children samples of those foods. If possible, bring the food in its original form and show the food item to the children before it is broken into bite-size pieces. Have children discuss how the food feels, looks, tastes, and smells. Some specific questions you may want to ask include:

"What color is the food?"

"What shape is the food?"

"Is the food soft?" "Hard?"

"Does the food 'crunch' when you eat it?"

"Which teeth do you use to bite it?" "Chew it?"

"Does it taste like any other foods you have eaten?"

If possible, invite parents to participate in your tasting party.

4. Choosing snacks - Begin this activity with the following questions about meals. Note: Since many children will not be familiar with the names of meals or periods of the day, describe an activity the children routinely participate in at that time of the day. For example, for question two, "What do we call the meal we eat in the morning?," we have defined "morning" by adding "right after we wake up." For question three, define "middle of the day" by describing what happens for the children at that time of the day, such as "right before you go home from school."

"What are the names of the meals you eat each day?"

"What do we call the meal we eat in the morning, right after we wake up?"

"What do we call the meal we eat in the middle of the day?"

"What is the last meal we eat during the day?"

"Do you ever eat food between breakfast and lunch?"

"Do you ever eat food between lunch and supper?"

Tell the children that the foods we eat at times other than mealtime are called snacks. Snacks are those foods we eat in between our meals. Ask the children the following questions:

"Do you know that there are some snacks that are bad for our teeth?"

"Do you know what they are?"

So that children can become familiar with various tastes (sweet, sour, salty, etc.) discuss these tastes during meal and snack times. Explain to the children that foods that are sweet should not be eaten as a snack. It is better to eat sweet foods as part of a meal.

The following is a list of good snacks. Find pictures of good snacks and make a poster or bulletin board. Have the children "name" the bulletin board. Give children an opportunity to identify which foods on the bulletin board are their favorite snacks.

Good Snack Examples:

Cauliflower, raw carrot sticks, celery sticks, popcorn, cheese, peanuts, crackers, pretzels, tortilla chips, pita bread, etc.

If possible, end this activity by giving the children a good snack to eat.

5. Snack Preparation:

Give each child a 3- to 4-inch piece of celery on a paper plate. On a table, place the following items:

* A container of sugarless peanut butter and/or a container of cheese spread. (There should be enough for each child to stuff his or her piece of celery with.)

* A container of sunflower or sesame seeds, or any other seeds or nuts that can be eaten and are available.

Allow each child to make a celery snack by following these instructions:

Using a plastic spreader, stuff each celery stick with peanut butter or cheese spread.

Sprinkle with sunflower or sesame seeds.

When each child has prepared his or her snack, allow the children to eat their snack.

6. Field Trip - To reinforce the concept of the various food groups, arrange for field trips to the following places so the children can develop an understanding of various foods and how they are produced:

* Grocery store or market (arrange for special tours of produce and meat departments).

* Bakery (to see demonstration of bread baking).

* Farm (to see the dairy production, fields of grain, vegetable gardens, and chicken hatchery).

* Orchards (to see fruits on trees and vines).

* Fishing harbor (to see fish being brought in).

* Group Discussion: For an ongoing activity, identify and discuss the various foods served during meal and snack time each day.

Note: Contact a representative from your local dairy council- you may write for information and materials available for teaching preschoolers about nutrition.

7. Planting and Growing Foods Activity - If possible, make arrangements to use a plot of ground outside of your classroom to plant vegetables. Consult with a gardener in your area to determine what vegetable plants would most successfully grow in your particular climate as well as during the months of the school year so the children will experience success with their planting activity.

For an indoor activity, vegetables such as short carrots, leaf lettuce, and radishes will grow arid flower in trays placed on the windowsill. Consult a greenhouse for vegetable selection and potting instructions for your particular classroom. Give the children frequent opportunities to witness the growth of plants and to share in the responsibility for caring for the garden. At harvest time, give the children the opportunity to taste the food they have grown.


Hello, girls and boys: I'm so happy to see all your smiling faces again. Did you have fun learning about all those good foods to eat? Can someone tell me the name of a food you tasted here in school? Was it good? You know, there are many great tasting foods that help you grow strong and stay healthy. We eat some of these foods for breakfast right after we wake up. Do you want to know what I like to eat for breakfast? I like a bowl of cereal with milk. And I put my favorite fruit on top. Who would like to tell me what you like to eat for breakfast? Sounds yummy Would someone else like to tell me what you like best for breakfast? Sounds good to me!

If you get hungry before lunchtime, there are all kinds of good snacks to eat. Can someone tell me what you like to eat for a snack? That sounds yummy. You might like peanut butter on crunchy celery sticks. Or a slice of cheese and some crackers. Or some popcorn and milk. Would someone else tell me what you like to eat for a snack? Sounds good A good snack helps you grow strong and will keep your teeth healthy.

But listen, kids Sweet snacks, like candies and cupcakes, can stick to your teeth. So, if you want a sweet treat, be sure to eat it with your lunch or supper. What do you like best to eat for lunch? Foods like spaghetti and meat sauce? Or tuna fish salad? Or macaroni and cheese? Or a crunchy taco? Or vegetables and rice? Gosh, there are so many good foods to eat that I get hungry just thinking about them. Remember to eat good foods and brush your teeth after you eat. Good-bye, girls and boys. See you again soon!

Parent Letter: "Wise Food Choices For a Healthy Mouth"

Dear Head Start Parent:

A healthy diet is important for your child's growth and development. At Head Start, we choose healthful foods for your child's meals and snacks each day. We also have had classroom activities to teach your child to eat foods that are most healthful.

Every day your child needs at least four servings of fruits and vegetables, four servings of breads and cereals, three servings of dairy products, and two servings of meats. The attached page lists some appropriate foods from each food group.

To help your child have healthy teeth, it is important not to eat too many sugary snacks. Although young children need to eat some snacks because they cannot eat all the foods they need at meals, it is important to choose snacks that do not contain sugars. The following are good choices: cheese, plain yogurt, meat, fish, eggs, peanut butter (without sugar), strips of raw vegetables, pretzels, toast, crackers, popcorn, tacos, dill pickles, nuts, refried beans, pita bread, and tortilla chips.

If sugary foods are eaten, they should be given to your child at the end of the meal rather than as between meal snacks.

By giving your child a balanced diet and encouraging good eating habits, you can help your child have good dental health. We have also attached a few sugarless recipes for you to try.



Dairy Group
Milk, cheese (Swiss, Cheddar, American, Colby, cottage), and plain yogurt

Meat Group
Nuts, eggs (especially hard boiled), ham, chicken, lamb, tuna, shrimp, turkey, hamburger, hot dogs, peanut butter, roast beef, and refried beans.

Fruit and Vegetable Group
Fruits: (Fresh and/or packed in water or natural juice.) Oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, cherries, bananas, strawberries, grapes, melons, avocados, apricots, pineapples, and fruit juices without added sugar.

Vegetables: Salad greens, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, radishes, carrots, celery, collards, kale, okra, corn, peas, broccoli, potatoes, and green beans.

Bread and Cereal Group
Soda crackers, toast, hard rolls, pretzels, tortillas, pizza, noodles, grits, bagels, rice, oatmeal, corn, bread, fried bread, flat bread, Indian fry bread, and macaroni.



Snacking on sugar rich foods contributes to the decay of healthy teeth. The "right kinds" of snacks are more nutritious and less costly. The following are recipe suggestions for lunches, special treats, and celebrations. Help keep your child happy and healthy.

Nutty Balls

Roll softened cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, or sugarless peanut butter balls in chopped nuts, roasted sesame seeds, or parsley. Chill before serving.

Stuffed Celery Sticks

Stuff celery with cream cheese or sugarless peanut butter, and top with sunflower seeds, roasted sesame seeds, paprika or caraway seeds.

Nutty Cheese Cookies

1/4 lb. grated Cheddar cheese
3-4 Tbs. milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup finely chopped nuts
3 Tbs. oil
1/4 tsp. salt
Dash of cayenne pepper

Mix cheese, flour, oil, salt, and cayenne until crumbly. Add milk and nuts. Form into 1-inch balls. Place on oiled cookie sheet and bake at 3500 for 20 minutes.

Individual Pizzas

English muffins
Tomato sauce
Grated Mozzarella cheese

Cover half of an English muffin with tomato sauce. Sprinkle grated cheese over the sauce. Broil in oven until cheese melts.


Table of Contents