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Food n' Fitness Kid Connection: Powerful Proteins, Complete Activities

Content by: NCES, Inc.

Food n' Fitness Kid Connection is a comprehensive Lesson Plan for kids of all ages...

Food n' Fitness Kid Connection:  Powerful Proteins, Complete Activities






Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, peas, eggs, nuts and seeds provide the body with protein, zinc, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, many B-vitamins and vitamin E. These nutrients are essential for good health. They help the body build healthy strong muscles, maintain a healthy immune system and maintain healthy nerve function.

When eating foods from this group, it is important to make wise choices by incorporating beans, peas, nuts and seeds along with fish, skinless poultry and lean cuts of meat. Lean cuts of beef include round steaks and roasts, top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts. Lean cuts of pork include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham. If choosing ground beef look for the “extra lean”, the label should read “90% lean” or even better 93% or 95% lean.

NOTE: Some children may eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, so their intake from this group may consist of dry beans (including tofu), peas, nuts and seeds.


Have children research a specific type of nut or bean. Ask them to work with their parents or caregivers to find the item at the grocery store, what is the price, where it grows, when it is in season, how it is harvested, how is it grown, how it is used, such as eaten whole, used in recipes etc. Depending on your class, you may ask them to bring in a sample or they can just bring in a picture, draw or color a picture of the nut or bean, or show the class using a website.

NOTE: If you have any students with nut allergies, do not have students bring in samples.


It’s time to gather nuts for the winter! Bring assortment of nuts to class –enough for each student to sort 3-5 nuts by types and colors. Divide class into two teams – TEAM A gathered nuts all season in preparation for winter and TEAM B waited until the last minute to find food to store for the winter. TEAM A’s nuts are at the front of the line in a basket. TEAM B’s nuts are 10 feet away. Both groups have to run to the “hollow trees” (brown painted #10 cans retrieved from school kitchen) to sort the nuts printed on the cans. Each squirrel counts/sorts 3 to 5 nuts by type and color and returns to the forest to gather more nuts and tags the next in line. The first team to correctly sort the nuts wins because they are ready for winter!!!

If you have a student with a nut allergy or do not have the resources to purchase nuts, you can have students cut “nuts” out of brown and white construction paper and use the paper nuts for the relay.


Divide class in half and have each group form a circle standing shoulder to shoulder. Give two students (one on each end of the group) in each group one bean bag from the bean bags provided in the kit. Have students place the bean bags on their forearm and have them pass the bean bag from arm to arm until each bean bag has made it completely around the circle. While the students are passing the bean bags discuss with them how protein helps build strong muscles, and strong muscles are needed for balance and coordination.


Bring in two to three bags of dry beans (try to bring different beans). Pour into a large container and allow children to “scoop” (you can use an actual scoop or a 1/2 cup measuring cup). Have children count out the number of beans they have. Then have them divide based on color or type of bean – for example 9 are black beans, 6 are pinto beans etc. Ask how many black beans do you have? (9) Use the Graph It handout and have students graph the different beans based on number or color. Then ask the students to write how many black beans as a fraction of the total. For younger children, you could have beans already portioned out in snack size plastic bags.


• Two bags (1 green bag for healthy lean meats and beans and 1 red bag for higher fat meats)
• Food images

Using food models, pictures of food from the accompanying support materials and magazines, or empty boxes and bottles, have students bag the healthy lean proteins in the green bag and higher fat proteins in the red bag, to illustrate we need to eat these less often.

Examples of Healthy Lean Proteins Include: black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, low-fat refried beans, any dried beans, hummus, peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, fish (can use pictures of salmon or tuna canned in water), skinless chicken, skinless turkey, lean red meat, such as sirloin, extra lean ground beef, pork loin, lean ham, and eggs.

Examples of Higher Fat Proteins: (these should be eaten less often) – 80% ground beef, fried chicken, fried fish, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, pepperoni.


Using the Healthy Score Card have student’s track their protein intake for a week; encourage them to make lean meat choices. You may want to send a note to parents asking the whole family to participate. After they complete the activity discuss the different protein group foods they ate and if they tried any new ones.


Foods in the protein group give your body the nutrients it needs to build strong muscles and maintain a healthy immune system. The immune system helps your body fight germs and illness. Your muscles help move your body. Muscles let you lift your arms, knees, move your neck from side to side, talk, walk. If we didn’t have muscles we couldn’t move.

Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, peas, eggs, peanut butter, nuts and seeds all contain something called protein and protein helps build strong muscles. These foods also give us iron which helps carry oxygen through our body and zinc which helps keep our immune system healthy.

For alternatives to meat, discuss the following protein sources.


• Tree Nuts: Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Cashews, Hazelnuts, Macadamias, Pecans, Pine Nuts, Pistachios, Walnuts • Peanuts


• Baby Lima • Black • Blackeye • Cranberry • Dark Red Kidney • Garbanzo • Great Northern • Light Red Kidney • Navy • Pink • Pinto • Small Red

Question: How many muscles do you think you have in your whole body? [Take guesses]
Answer: You have around 630 muscles in your body. Different muscles help us do different things. There are about 30 muscles in your face and they help you to smile, frown, chew or talk. Our biceps which are located [Flex your arm and point to your bicep] here help you lift things.

[Ask students to flex their arm to show their bicep] The large quadriceps muscles in our legs help us to bend our knees, take a step, run and much more. Bend and lift your knee (show students).

Question: Can you feel your quadri-ceps muscle? Now take a step forward. How many muscles do you think it took to take that step? [Take guesses]
Answer: 200. It takes 200 muscles to take a step. We use muscles every time we move –even when you roll over in your sleep. You have 630 muscles and we need to keep them healthy and strong.

How much do cool students need?
Children 6 to 8 year old need 3-5 ounces a day.
Children 9-12 year olds need 4 -6 ounces a day.

Use a box of 8 crayons or a deck of playing cards to show what 2-3 ounces of meat looks like. You can use a 1/2 cup measuring cup to show a serving size of dried beans and peas and 1 tablespoon to illustrate the correct serving size of peanut butter. Showing students how much they need a day can encourage proper portions. In addition to eating a healthy diet with lean meat and bean choices, what else do we need to do everyday to keep our muscles strong? [Take guesses] We have to be active everyday – play basketball, jump rope, ride your bike, swim, dance to your favorite music. In fact, let’s work our muscles right now. [Do physical activity]

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