Homeschool cooking: Rainbow salad… nutritional benefits, lesson plans, and recipes to encourage healthier kids

Examples of Fruit and Vegetable Fact SheetsFirst, the freebies:

  • The University of Nebraska has a great FREE resource of fruit and vegetable fact sheets that parents and teachers can download and share with their children.
  • SuperKids Nutrition Inc. in partnership with the American Institute for Cancer Research, has a great lesson that focuses on the benefits of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
    Students will discuss the health benefits of different colored fruits and vegetables to better understand how they help them to grow strong and healthy. Students will have the opportunity to prepare a Carrot Slaw with Pineapple, Apples and Almonds and learn how a salad made of fruits and vegetables can help them fight off disease.
  • Care connection has some great resources including puzzles, and games such as Vegetable bingo. Seriously, if you teach Health and Nutrition to children, download this resource. It’s called, Colors of Food.

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As for today’s lunch at the TAMS and ED home front, we taught our students that just like that wonderful pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, a Rainbow salad leads to a gold mine of healthy eating options for them. Rainbow salads generate fun and excitement. They provide us with a great way to introduce kids to new fruits and vegetables. And, because every color of fruit and vegetable contains a different set of phytonutrients, Rainbow salads should be a regular on your lunch and dinner lineup. It’s important to eat from every color of the rainbow to get a broad spectrum of nutrition.

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Whenever my students build their Rainbow salads, I have one rule: Try something in every color. Today’s salad bar consisted of purple cabbage, blueberries, green lettuce, celery, and cucumbers, yellow squash, orange carrots and cantaloupe, red radishes and tomatoes. I also allowed them to top off with a dollop of tuna salad. Here is the nutritional breakdown of those fruits and veggies:

PURPLE:

  • PURPLE CABBAGE: Purple cabbage is high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. A 1-cup serving of chopped purple cabbage provides 2 grams of fiber, or 8 percent of the 25-gram daily value as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. The potassium content in 1 cup of chopped purple cabbage is 216 milligrams. Potassium keeps your body’s fluid level from fluctuating to unhealthy volumes, and the Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 4.700 milligrams a day to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Potassium also prevents heart muscle stress by supporting the contraction that fuels your heartbeat.

BLUE:

  • BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries help promote urinary tract health, protect against aging-related eye problems, helps keep memory sharp, and being rich in fiber, is also beneficial for constipation and digestion.

GREEN

  • CELERY is a rich source of folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum metabolism.  It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps increase bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones.
  • LETTUCE: Vitamins in lettuce are varied and plentiful. It’s an excellent source of several Vitamin A and beta carotene.  Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is also essential for vision. Beta carotene aids the process. Lettuce is also a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential to the development of bone mass.
  • CUCUMBERS: Cucumbers are high in potassium. They contain unique anti-oxidant compounds that help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals.  Because of their high water content, cucumbers also have mild diuretic property, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.  Last, they have a high amount of vitamin K, which has been found to have a potential role in promoting bone mass and strength.

YELLOW SQUASH

  • Yellow squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A , fiber, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. It is also abundant in potassium, which is a key electrolyte in the balance of fluids and also provides muscle energy.  It’s also high in manganese, a mineral which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose.

CARROTS:

  • Carrots are root plants that are rich in carotenes that convert into vitamin A in the liver cells. Beta-carotene is the major carotene present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant that helps protect human body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury. In addition, it also carries out all the functions of vitamin-A such as maintaining good eye health, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial integrity, growth and development.

CANTALOUPE

  • This sweet melon is fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, packed with vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin A. Nuff said. 

RADISHES

  • Radishes are cruciferous root vegetables that are rich in anti-oxidents. A word of advice. Once you bring your radishes home, cut off the green tops as they rob the radish of essential vitamins and minersals.

TOMATOES

  • Tomatoes are in the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. They are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by Americans. They can be eaten raw or cooked (baked, stewed, grilled or stir-fried). They are wonderful to eat alone. Many Americans add tomatoes to salads and sandwiches. soups, salsas and sauces. Tomato sauce is used in many pasta dishes such as spaghetti and on pizza. Ketchup is made from tomatoes. They are fat free, cholesterol free, and a good source of vitamins A and C.

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Homeschool cooking: Mixed veggie salad & peanut butter/banana caterpillars

Around here, the phrase, “Eat your veggies,” is met with hearty smiles and excitement! We have learned that when we couple a few nutrition guidelines with some creative food crafts, the end result is healthy meals and happy kiddos.

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Rule #1 revolves around choices. Put simply, if they only have healthy foods to choose from, then we can reasonably assume that they will choose something that’s good for them.

We also get them excited and involved in their meals. As with our classroom lessons, mealtimes are hands-on opportunities to teach them about healthy living. Today, I gave them a plate of sliced bananas, a large dollop of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and carrot slivers.

Making peanut butter and banana caterpillars
Making peanut butter and banana caterpillars

To assemble the caterpillars, the girls used plastic knives to dab a bit of peanut butter on each slice. Peanut butter serves as the “glue” that holds each slice together. The girls could also choose a banana “log” if they didn’t want to work with the slices. The caterpillar’s face consisted of two chocolate chip eyes and the carrot slivers were used to make the legs.

20150728_114048While the girls prepared their desserts,  I chopped the salad ingredients. Today’s salad consisted of:

  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Black olives
  • Blueberries
  • Boiled eggs
  • Tuna

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Chef Gabriele, Chef Kylee, and Chef Khloe assembled the salad bar by arranging the ingredients in vertical rows (hands were thoroughly washed and sanitized during prep).

Rule #2 revolves around portion sizes. So, rather than allow the girls to serve themselves, I served them. They were allowed to choose what they wanted and reject what they didn’t want. As I served them, I heard giddy whispers of, “This is going to be so good!”

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They were right. Lunch was delicious and healthy.