Tuesday, November 5, 2013

#FoodDay - Demo on Antioxidants for #Kindergartners

#FoodDay Fruit & Vegetable Demo
 at Heritage Montessori

This year marked the third annual nationwide Food Day event that aims to bring awareness about healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. This year, I did a food demo in my son’s Kindergarten class at his Montessori school. Below is the outline from which I taught a lesson to twenty-three 3-6 year old children. I know they grasped it and they learned a new word – antioxidants! Fruits and vegetables along with nuts and whole grains are wonderful sources of antioxidants. For the demo, I focused on fruits and vegetables only.

I.                    Fruits and Vegetables

Q. What are fruits and vegetables good for? Where do fruits and vegetables grow?

A. Fruits and vegetables are filled with nutrients and antioxidants.
The children said: Fruits and vegetables are good for our body, our brain, our lungs, our heart, our muscles, and skin. They grow on plants, in the ground, in a garden, and on trees. 

Further: Fruits and vegetables are good for our body! They help us run, play, focus, learn and stay healthy.

By a show of hands, who loves: 1) asparagus (only a few hands went up), 2) broccoli (everyone raised their hand), 3) tomatoes, 3) celery, 4) eggplant (only 2 hands went up), 5) grapes (everyone raised their hand), 6) strawberries, 7) pears, and 8) apples (everyone raised their hand)? 

Though some vegetables weren't a favorite among many, every single fruit or vegetable had at least 2 hands up but some had everyone raising their hand. Fruit is a popular food among kids. I hope to change their minds over time about vegetables. Perhaps I can blend green smoothies for them for National Nutrition Awareness month in March introducing them to leafy greens! 

II.                  Traffic Light Eating Demo

The activity: We’ll stay on the line but this activity will require a little energy. I asked the children to tell me the 3 colors on a traffic light and what each color represents then I went into the lesson. See below the image.

Green light foods are go, grow foods and they’re all fruits and vegetables as close to nature as possible. When I hold up a green light food, run in place. Green light foods keep us energetic and are an excellent choice for after play time when we are hungry. I encouraged them to ask their parents for fruit or vegetables for a body friendly food item. Fruits and vegetables make our bodies happy, strong, and helps us learn! 

Yellow light foods are slow down foods. Examples: whole grains, nuts, pasta, fish, lean meat like chicken, turkey and lean cuts of beef, and dairy like milk, yogurt, and cheese. When I hold up a yellow light food, walk in place. They are healthy foods but we have to eat our portion size. We can have seconds if our parents or teachers say it is okay. 

Red light foods are stop and think foods. They are special occasion foods. Name me a special occasion. Do these happen every day? Examples include birthday cake with icing, candy, French fries and doughnuts. When I hold up a red light food, stand still. Red light foods when over consumed lead to belly aches, unnecessary sleepiness, and contributes to decreased immune systems. 

I shared 3 bins that were designated green, yellow, and red and 14 plastic foods were categorized.  

How did the children do?

The children did excellent when it came to identifying the fruits and vegetables as green light foods. The tricky part was identifying what is considered truly healthy and not just a kid favorite (i.e. pizza) but to keep it simple, I said vegetable pizza is better than the other types. I also said that french fries made at home by mom or dad is healthy compared to french fries at a fast food place like McDonald's, which would be a red light food plus I wanted to instill in them that french fries are not a reliable source for vegetable consumption. The children really enjoyed the activity where they ran in place, walked and stood still. They sat down after the 14 items and stated they were tired. This led right into free radical damage that is caused by exercise (see the other causes in section III). 

III.                Free Radicals and Antioxidants

Now that we’ve exercised, we’ve built up some free radicals in our bodies.

Q. What are free radicals?

A. In its most basic sense, when oxygen (what we breathe in) interacts (touches) cells (found in living things), it creates oxidation which is a natural job in a body. Free radicals are molecules that float around on the surface of a living thing’s cells looking for another molecule to hang out with. If the free radical meets another molecule, the body continues to work as it should but if it never meets a molecule to connect with, they’ll float around and eventually create sickness. Free radicals are created by oxygen, exercise, and pollution. There are more causes like cigarette smoke and sunlight, but I wanted to keep it brief.

I used blocks and craft balls to demonstrate our body and free radicals floating around. When the blocks are together, our bodies are stronger and the free radicals can't get through. When the blocks are open because we're not eating enough green light foods, the free radicals can get through and float around our bodies. (I had to keep it simple plus biology is not my strong suit.)

They liked it when I showed them that free radicals (the craft balls) look for a friend (another free radical) and this is a natural function in the body. I asked them, "When we are sick, do we feel like helping our friends?" They said, "No." When free radicals float around without a friend, they cause sickness. When they pair up, they're helping each other, they're friends. I reminded them that free radicals are caused by play time, exercise, sunlight, oxygen, and eating. Free radicals need antioxidants to keep them functioning normally. Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables. When we eat just an apple, we are choosing a healthy option. But when we pair that apple with another fruit or a vegetable later, we are building up the antioxidants in the body. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily keeps our bodies stronger and healthier and reduces free radicals from floating around without a friend. 

Further: These un-paired free radicals can make us sick if we leave them in our bodies. What can we eat to get them out? Any guesses based on what we’ve covered today?

The children said: Green light foods and some even shared different food choices like watermelon, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and strawberries. 

We can eat fruits and vegetables daily! And we’ll stay healthier, be able to think clearly, learn, play, focus, and have fun!

Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants. And antioxidants help our bodies stay healthy. We should aim to eat a variety every day! They’re ‘team players’ and 'friends' in our bodies.

IV.                Apple Demo

This was an apple cut in half (it had been exposed to the elements for 24 hours). One slice has lime juice on it and the other does not. Apples are a green light food, are natural and good for us. The lime juice represents an added layer of antioxidants, also a green light food.
Note: The image represented here shows an apple and a potato. The apple and potato on the left has no lime juice. This is the oxidation after 24 hours. Oxidation creates free radicals. 

Q1. When the oxygen hits the apple without the lime juice, what happened to it? 

The children said: The apple turned brown and looks yucky. I shared with them that when we don't eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily, the insides of us can get yucky (sickness), too. 

Q2. What is happening to the apple with the extra antioxidants (the lime juice)?

The children said: It's brighter and fresher looking. 

This is why we should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. We’re running, playing, learning, and our bodies require nutrients and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables to help keep our bodies strong and healthy!

V.                  Snack time!

The children enjoyed apples with lime juice.

(This lesson whole or in part may not be used without written permission from the author, Jessica David of Conveying Awareness.) 

Choose, eat, and live well! =)


  1. I love working with kids. They are so aware and ready to learn about the goodness that foods can provide.

  2. I think this would make a great play date activity for my mom's group.

    1. Hi Leyna, Thanks for your comment. Be sure to stop back through and share the feedback from your moms' group activity.

  3. This is EXCELLENT!!! We are pinning and sharing it to Facebook!

  4. Excellent way to teach children how to eat healthy! Great job! Thanks for sharing this on Makeovers & Motherhood's Welcome Party Wednesday Link-Up! Pinned.

    1. Hi Alisha - Thanks so much for your comment and readership. =)