Does Your Food Make You “Go” (or Make You Slow)?

This post provides Nurture materials (curricula) to support positive change for health in our world.

Although Nurture has curricula for various ages, this particular post is focused on content to support nutrition education for kids.

I’ll start with a question: How can we best talk to kids about food without creating blame/shame but instead reinforce a positive attitude about healthy foods?

In my opinion, it starts with establishing a simple vocabulary to talk about food.

We call it the go vs. slow-down lesson, using words that make sense to kids and refer to what they want to do.

Do they care that canned frosting has fats that may be bad for their heart? Not so much.

Do they care if eating unhealthy foods will make them slow down, not have sustained energy, or make them sleepy? Yes!

By understanding why the body needs food, it becomes much easier to decipher what types of food provide the best fuel.

Any food with calories provides energy for the body. However, not all calories are created equal.

A powdered-sugar donut has the same number of calories as a bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and slivered almonds. Yet, while the body feels hungry several hours after eating the donut, the oatmeal is filling and nutritious.

What foods give the body long-lasting energy?
These answers are right on target. Note the absence of low-fat energy bars, fast food, baked chips, and processed foods.

The only responses were whole foods, mainly fruits, and vegetables, which Nurture calls go foods because they fuel the body with long-lasting energy, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to support growth and activity.

Go foods include fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, legumes, eggs, milk, and whole grains.

Go foods fuel the body so it can move!

What foods slow the body down?
-Ice cream
-Potato chips
-French fries

Nurture refers to foods that have little nutritional value as slow-down foods or sleepy foods. These foods may provide a short burst of energy, but they soon leave the body feeling hungry or tired. Slow-down foods slow down the body.

“If slow-down foods make us sleepy, does that mean we can never eat them?” your child might ask.

What answer do I suggest?  “Slow-down foods are okay every once in a while.”

What I love most about this Nurture lesson is how even kindergarteners understand that go foods are the best, but slowdown foods can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. We are not making anything bad or creating shame. By promoting a positive relationship with food, we are setting the stage for a healthy, energized relationship with food. Energy is a buzzword that is loved by kids and adults because it implies movement and fun. Go foods, on the one hand, capture this liveliness. Slow-down foods, on the other hand, promote sleepiness.

And not many children want to feel sleepy!



For younger kids (K-2)

Food for Fuel: Go or Slow? Energy Balance Tug of War Go/Slow Foods Relay
Slow, Slow, Go!
Go or Slow Food Handout

For grades 3-5

Food for Fuel: Go or Slow? Ingredient Spelling Test Go or Slow Food Handout

More Materials:

Food for Fuel: Go or Slow?

Discuss why we eat and how to sort foods by go & slow

Go and Slow Relay

Sort foods by Go & Slow

Go Slow Cartoon

Draw how you feel after eating Go foods and after Slow foods

Go and Slow Foods

Peanut Buttery Oatmeal

From Go to Slow

Case studies of helping students to reinforce concepts from the year

Simon Says Go or Slow

Reinforces categorizing Go and Slow foods

All About Me

Describe and draw things they do to stay healthy

Fun, Fresh, Family

Watermelon Smoothie

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