School & Community News

Getting ‘even smarter’ about foods and dental health
April 3, 2016

April 2016… He sipped samples of seltzer water, and then examined containers of seltzer water, club soda, tonic water, and regular soda.

He bit into three varieties of apples.

The result, said Marvin, a fourth grade student at Highland Park Elementary School in Upper Darby, was that he had “gotten even smarter” about nutrition, he wrote in a thank-you letter to Amy Deahl-Greenlaw.

Ms. Deahl-Greenlaw, a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) working with Healthy NewsWorks, had conducted taste tests with Marvin and his classmates to teach them about the ways different fruits and beverages called “water” and “soda” can impact dental health.

In his letter, Marvin also said he hoped she would come back “soon so [he] could learn even more.”

“It’s always surprising to me how much excitement simple taste tests can generate,” Ms. Deahl-Greenlaw said after the classroom visit.

The enthusiasm for the apple exercises was palpable in the students’ letters.

“I learned a lot about apples,” Micah wrote in his thank-you letter. “Those apples were delicious.”

Daniel agreed: “I learned apples are healthy for your teeth because they are sugar-free and they can help whiten your teeth.”

Why have the children try three different varieties of apples?

“To have them realize how differently we all taste foods,” Ms. Deahl-Greenlaw explained. “It’s important to find [a variety] that you love so you will eat it again.

“Healthy behaviors, like eating apples, need to be engaged in regularly if they are to have any benefit. It’s great to eat an apple once. But eating one regularly is the only way it will have a health impact.”

Sampling the different waters also was fun, and instructive, according to the children’s letters.

“I learned so much,” Gabrielle wrote. “I did not know that club soda is healthy. I thought it was as unhealthy as regular soda.”

For his part, one student wrote, “I never knew that tonic water isn’t healthy and club soda is.”

Perhaps one child summarized it best: “You should always look at the nutrition facts and ingredients. This was a really fun, but informational, experience. I will always look at the nutrition label as well as the ingredients and inform my family to do the same.”

For Ms. Deahl-Greenlaw, that student’s reaction underscores the value of teaching children about healthy eating habits.

She said: “It’s wonderful watching [children] learn and acquire skills—like learning what to look for on a beverage label—they can use in their everyday lives.

“I especially love it when they say they can’t wait to tell their families.”

—By John Fried, Healthy NewsWorks volunteer

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Since 2003, Healthy NewsWorks has been empowering elementary and middle school students to become researchers, writers, and confident communicators who advance health understanding and literacy through their factual publications and digital media.