How much nutrition did you study in school?
I have asked my patients that question and the answers range from “none” to “almost none”.
For the most part,
- We don’t study nutrition in grade school.
- We don’t study nutrition in middle or high school.
- We don’t study nutrition in college.
- We don’t study nutrition in graduate or professional school.
- We don’t even study nutrition in medical school.
My 6th grade daughter has had about 5 hours of nutrition-related instruction. By contrast, she has had two (2) units on rocks and minerals, totaling about 40 hours of classwork.
Rocks and minerals you say?! You mean those things that don’t change? Those things that are as exciting as – well – rocks?
Yes there is a childhood obesity epidemic, and our answer is to keep teaching rocks and minerals.
Consider our significant investment in teaching mathematics. Math is important. Arguably more important than most other things we study in school. Yet is it more important than nutrition? We average about 45 minutes (1 class) of mathematics per day for all of our school years. This comes to about 1800 hours of in-class mathematics (not counting homework).
Now I ask you: which is more important?
- We study math
1800hours in school.
- Most people need math skills about
1time per week.
- Our mathematics probably
Doesn'taffect our happiness.
Fewstudies show mathematics makes us live longer.
✓Mathematics is an employable skill.
- We study nutrition
20hours in school (or less!)
- Most people need nutrition skills about
35times per week.
- Our nutrition probably
Doesaffect our happiness.
100sof studies show nutrition affects our lifespan.
✓Nutrition is an employable skill.
It may be heresy to suggest that our most cherished subject (math) is less important than a subject that we hardly teach at all (nutrition). But that is precisely what I am suggesting.
Let’s be honest to ourselves. How often do we really need to know the Pythagorean Theorem? Or algebra? How frequently do we calculate the area under a curve? Really?
Granted, math (might) help us think. It is certainly useful for engineers and other technical professionals to know. So it might help you land a lucrative career. Doesn’t the same goes for nutrition?
By contrast, we really do need nutrition skills, desperately. Look at the foods kids (and many adults) eat. We make decisions regarding whether to eat, what to buy, what to eat, how to eat it on an hourly basis. Each of these food actions uses our food skills. Consuming and liking foods is a learned skill. If we want a child to know how to determine the slope of a line, we do not assume it is innate, and he either has it or he doesn’t. Rather, we would teach that child that skill.
But if we want a child to like to eat healthy foods like cauliflower, many people assume it is innate. We don’t teach them a thing about how to learn to appreciate bitter taste (through repeated exposure) or how to season it to be more palatable. We never bother to mention how important for cancer prevention are the glucosinolates and other phytonutrients in cauliflower. Or that our hungry microbiota are just dying for the wonderful fiber packed in each morsel. Too often, we just assume our child hates cauliflower because he tried it once.
So what are you proposing Dave?
I propose we have continuous instruction in food, nutrition, and agriculture, from pre-K through graduation from high school.
How would we fit this nutrition education into a packed school curriculum?
I would do away with much of the outdated “classics” of our curriculum.
Rocks & Minerals would be a subject of the past. Assuming our society did not then collapse into anarchy, I would also trim much of the unneeded content in our math and social studies curricula. Perhaps this is a topic for another blog post but I suspect we could survive as a nation if we stopped teaching historical fiction like Paul Revere’s Ride or Johnny Appleseed. Just a theory.
What do you propose to teach the kids?
I have put dowm some specific ideas for what a K-12 nutrition curriculum would look like.
Check it out! You can vote and add your own ideas.