Last Friday, social studies teacher, Jerica Slocum taught E.A.G.L.E. Center students about nutrition with a lesson aimed at making them question their favorite foods and beverages.
Specifically, the lesson focused on the impact of refined sugar on the human body and the revelation that students consume much more sugar on a daily basis than they imagined.
“I wanted to give a presentation to our students that would resonate with their daily lives,” Slocum said. “ Hopefully they will be more mindful about reading labels and remembering that sugar is put into almost everything these days. Given the sugar content of some of the most popular snacks for young people, ideally we can affect the food and drink choices they make on a daily basis”.
The lesson began with students sampling a homemade chocolate cake. They were tasked with guessing the ingredients by only using taste and smell.
Because the cake was made with ingredients not usually associated with such a decadent dessert, the students struggled to point out ingredients using their palates. Eschewing traditional ingredients such as flour, butter and sugar, the healthy recipe contained honey, almond butter, zucchini, banana, and flax. None of the students were able to guess any of these ingredients. While some of them may have balked at the mere mention of zucchini, there wasn’t much leftover cake afterwards.
The rest of the presentation was spent discussing the health impact of refined sugar, learning new nutrition guidelines and discussing ways to enhance one’s health. At one point, Mrs. Slocum passed around a 20-ounce Vitamin Water drink along with a container filled with the 32 grams of sugar found within the beverage. Comparing the plastic bottle of purple-colored liquid, the marketing for which makes dubious claims of being a healthy alternative to soda, to the vial of pure white sugar seemed to represent an abnormally large portion of the Vitamin Water.
“I was surprised to learn that Vitamin Water contained so much sugar,” Jalen Knife said. ”Maybe it isn’t so healthy after all.”
It was eye opening for students to learn how packaging and commercials could misrepresent the “healthiness” of a product. If they wish to limit their consumption of sugar, preservatives and dyes, they must make a habit of reading labels.
“The most important thing that I learned was to look at ingredients before you buy something,” Daniel Semon said.
By taking an interest in the sugar content and other ingredients in their favorite foods, and through exposure to treats that use alternative ingredients, Slocum hopes the EC students now know that healthy diets can still be sweet.