It’s amazing how many kiddos- and adults!- don’t know about the basic macronutrients.
At Nurture, we teach a variety of lessons (matched to the common core standards for those schools that require a curriculum match) that we endeavor to make fun.
Let me tell you a little story about how I taught a lesson to 5th-grade students. My task? Educate these students about the importance of and difference between the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and protein.
The teacher asked me to come and teach the nutrition lesson on a Friday afternoon- a FRIDAY AFTERNOON?
I knew that, given the CRAZY timing, I would have to be creative and engaging to keep the students’ attention. These kiddos couldn’t wait to get started on their weekend activities.
Most of the kids were looking out the window at the beautiful day awaiting them…until I started running around the room.
“I’m really active! I need fast-acting fuel! Give me carbohydrates!”
Then, I pretended to reach into my pocket for a snack.
“Oooh! An almond! Almonds are nuts, which have carbohydrates.”
Then I started to pretend to lift weights. I was squatting down and pulling up with my imaginary weights. As I groaned and grunted, the kids started to really pay attention. And laugh at me.
“Phew! Now that I’m done with that, I need to rebuild my muscles! I need protein!”
So I pretended to reach into my pocket again.
“Oooh! A cashew! Cashews are nuts, which have protein.”
Then I rubbed my tummy.
“I’m still hungry. What macronutrient besides protein really helps me feel satisfied?”
I pretended to reach into my pocket again.
“Oooh! A macadamia. Macadamias are nuts, which have healthy fat. Healthy fat makes you feel full and helps your body at the cellular level.”
I went on to explain that nuts are an example of a balanced food that contains all three of the macronutrients. Then I talked about the foods that are heavier on carbohydrates (grains, fruits, and veggies), heavier on fats (olive oil, coconut oil), and heavier on proteins (meat, poultry, and fish).
To keep the kids’ attention, continued to run around the room, tapping the kids to test them on macronutrients.
“Name a food that has protein!”
Students: Steak, lentils, beans.
“Name a food that has fat!”
Students: Olive oil, butter, cheese.
“Name a food that has carbohydrates!”
Students: Crackers, apples, rice.
At the end of the school year, I asked the students which lesson was their favorite.
“The one where you ran around the class like a crazy lady, talking about nuts!” one student said.
Another added, “Mrs. Guylay, we love when you come to teach in our class, even though you are a bit nuts.”
DOSE OF FUN: Make healthy choices and follow your gut, even if everyone thinks you’re a nut
MORE MAGIC: Having a basic understanding of the three macronutrients can also help you and your kids keep things in balance. Most Americans get too many carbohydrates, and our fat-phobic culture has overly reduced our intake of healthy fats, such as oils and omega-3 fatty acids. Remember that our brains absolutely love fatty acids, and our skin, hair, nails, and eyes shine when we get enough healthy fats. Even if it is for vanity’s sake, make healthy fats your friend. For those that want to increase their knowledge about nutrition and get into the details of macronutrients and micronutrients, I love Dr. Meaghan Kirshling’s podcast Beyond the Basics Health Academy. I was honored to be her guest on episode 123, during which we talked about healthy eating habits for kids. You can listen to our interview here.