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A Healthy Eating Lesson Plan for the Special Ed Classroom

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

The diet of many young people leaves a lot to be desired, and this is true in special education as well as mainstream class groups. This article explains a lesson plan for creating a healthy food activity plate to share in class.

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    The key to a healthy lifestyle is understanding healthy eating. For special education students, direct instruction is a necessary component of life skills education and curriculum. The lesson provided here will provide just that.

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    What You Need

    You can vary the ingredients of your healthy food activity plate according to individual needs and preferences. Here is a basic outline for what you could include:

    • Fresh Fruit Platter: Banana slices, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, sultanas, cherry tomatoes, grapes, apple slices.
    • Savory Platter: Cherry tomatoes, cheese squares, plain rice biscuits, cabana slices, bean sprouts, snow peas, celery sticks, carrot sticks.
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    By the end of the session, students will be able to:

    • Identify the various fruits and vegetables.
    • Demonstrate good food handling practices (washing hands, cleaning chopping boards, keeping hair tied back away from the food, using tongs to pass food to each other).
    • Name Healthy foods and combinations.
    • Use descriptive words to compare flavors and textures of foods they have tried.
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    What to Do

    1. Discuss healthy and non-healthy eating practices with your students. See who can identify some healthy foods, either through pictures, spoken language or text. Alternatively, display a range of food pictures and divide them into categories of 'healthy' and 'less healthy'. Explain that foods don't always fall neatly into one or another category - most foods are fine so long as they are eaten in moderation.

    2. Help students with food handling skills. Encourage them to wash hands well before cooking, keep hair tied back and use tongs for passing food.

    3. Offer support and assistance as needed for cutting and arranging food on the platters. Some students will need co-active assistance to cut safely, while others may be able to manage with adaptive or regular equipment. Watch for the danger of slippery foods such as melon sliding on chopping boards, and for students slipping as they cut hard items like carrots.

    4. Encourage students to arrange the food neatly and attractively on the platters so it looks appealing to eat.

    5. Role model manners and social skills in passing food, requesting help with eating, sharing and offering foods and cleaning away after eating.

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    Safe Eating Practices

    Ensure you are aware of your students' needs regarding eating and swallowing. For some students, food may need to be blended, mashed or pureed before eating to ensure it is not a choking hazard. Some students may need food to be offered only in small amounts to ensure they do not overfill their mouths, as this can also create a choking risk. Students who have limited swallowing skills may not be able to safely manage harder foods such as carrot, apple, celery or rice biscuits.

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    The Power of Choice

    Taking time to provide students with opportunities to practice making healthy choices is the easiest way to demonstrate what is healthy eating.

    Make sure you offer students a choice of food items, either through real objects, verbal questioning or photos. Some students may be able to manage a choice directly from the platter, while others may need you to show them only two food items and allow them to choose between them.