Friday, September 25, 2009

Nutrition 101:Choose Life!

Something magical happens when family and friends gather in our kitchen. It’s really remarkable that such a simple experience could have so much power, but I bear witness to it nearly everyday. Stress and troubles of the day disappear as we sit around the table sharing stories and food. Many times meal time is more than just physical nourishment
at our house. It is a time for sharing, laughing, and encouragement, story telling and re-connecting.

It has always been important to me to not only share delicious food with my kids, but to teach them the importance of healthy food choices. When we received Nutrition 101: Choose Life for review I was excited, but my kids were less than impressed. Their initial reaction was similar to the response I get when I remind them “no dessert until you eat your vegetables”. I was thrilled that I now had a full curriculum of intelligent, well researched information to back up my motherly advice.
Nutrition 101: Choose Life published by Growing Healthy Homes is a comprehensive high school level course which can be adapted to use with the whole family. This 280 page curriculum with accompanying 19 additional pages of supplemental activities and 124 pages of appendices is available as a CD Rom e-book for $79.95 or traditional paper book for $99.95 on the Growing Healthy Homes website. Customers can order a CD and paper book combo for $129.95. The text is well designed making use of color photographs, diagrams and drawings where appropriate. Sample pages of the curriculum and an introductory video explaining the purpose of nutrition education can be viewed on the company’s website.

The course is divided into 6 different units which cover the 12 main body systems. Each unit is subdivided into 4 chapters. Our family took one week to complete the reading, discussion, activities and cooking for each chapter.

Nutrition 101: Choose Life is described by the authors as “not a re-hash of biology or science, but a discovery of how the body systems are affected by the foods- good or bad- we eat.” Having recently re-visited high school biology for the 4th time I can testify the authors are accurate in their description. The curriculum is steeped in current recommendations for healthy eating based in scientific fact plus offers practical advice for incorporating these principles through the use of activities and recipes.
For example, Unit 1- The Brain and Nervous System includes detailed description of the structure and function of the brain, information regarding brain health issues, nutrition information for maintaining a healthy brain including a breakdown of saturated and unsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, hydrogenated fats and trans fats. Moving beyond the basic scientific information, Nutrition 101 follows with helpful information regarding the food we eat and how it detracts or adds to our desire for optimum health of the body system being studied.

After reading through the information provided in the text families
continue learning about the brain through discussion questions and a multitude of activities divided into categories for elementary and secondary students. The activities are designed to reinforce the material read in the chapter. Our favorite culminating activity by far was testing out the recommended “Power” recipe which always centered on a food choice to support the body system studied. The first chapter, “The Brain” included a recipe for guacamole described as an excellent, and I might add delicious, way to incorporate avocados into our diet. Avocados, we learned, contain healthy fats which support brain health.

We used Nutrition 101: Choose Life as a family unit study. Family members participating ranged in age from 5-45. Due to the in depth nature of the curriculum I found most of the chapter text was just too detailed for younger students, but offered a great deal to students 7th grade and older. The activities brought a hands-on approach to the topics and hopefully taught the younger ones a basic understanding of the concepts being mastered.

Polling the students I found mixed, but interesting opinions regarding the curriculum. Our 8 year old, Sierra, was enthusiastic. “I think it is fun to learn about your body. I like knowing about the things you should eat because they are healthy for your body and the things that you shouldn’t.”

According to Micah, age 12, “It was good information, but it seemed to tell a lot and it was hard to remember everything at some points. It had good recipes to eat!”

Jonah, age 15 said, “It had a lot of good information that I could use. The guacamole recipe was good. I hadn’t had guacamole before and I was surprised that it was so good. I think it would make a good course for high school.”

I was probably the biggest fan of the curriculum finding it fascinating and extremely valuable information. As a mother I struggle with balancing good food choices for my family in a culture with so many bad options. Nutrition 101: Choose Life empowers Moms, Dads and kids in their pursuit of a healthy lifestyle ensuring my family and friends can continue to experience magical meal times for years and years to come.

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