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Dinner Train

By forming a train, students learn how different foods fuel their bodies

Tags: nutrition activities, elementary school, dinner

Description: Students move through the classroom as a "dinner train,” speeding up when someone calls out a healthy dinner food to fuel the body.
Objective: Students will identify a variety of healthy dinner foods.
  1. Have the students stand in a single file line behind you.
  2. Say, "Let’s pretend to be a ‘dinner train.’" Remind them what trains run on (fuel).
  3. Ask them what trains run on (fuel). Then ask them what people run on (food). Explain that food is fuel for our bodies. We need food so we have energy to learn and play. Tell them eating healthy dinner foods is important because they refuel our bodies with energy spent during the day.
  4. Then remind them it is important to eat different kinds, or a variety, of dinner foods because each type of food does something different and special for our bodies. Give examples (e.g. grapes keep our skin healthy, spinach keeps our muscles healthy, and milk keeps our bones healthy). Ask the students for some examples of healthy dinner foods (see below for healthy dinner food ideas).
  5. Tell the students to silently choose which healthy dinner food they are on the dinner train.  Remind them what food groupings are (categories of foods based on what they provide for and how they affect our bodies).  Give them examples of foods in each grouping (fruits— grapes, watermelon; vegetables— squash, cabbage; grains— whole wheat pasta, rye bread; milk and milk products— skim milk, low-fat yogurt; meats, beans, and nuts— grilled chicken, fish).
  6. Next, say to the students "Chew, chew, here we go!"
  7. Begin to jog slowly around the playing space in your single file line. Explain that you are going to "fuel up" with different dinner foods.
  8. Each time someone names a healthy dinner food, the train should speed up and each time someone names a "not so healthy" food high in added sugar or fat, the train should slow down. When that happens, they can even beg for someone to name a healthy food so they can go faster. OR
  9. Explain that you are going to "fuel up" with different dinner foods and that, one at a time, the last car on the train (the student at the end) should run up to the front of the train to take the place of the leader.  Then, she or he should call out her or his healthy dinner food. Once she or he has shared her or his food, the next student at the end should run up to the front, etc.
  10. If possible, encourage the students not to repeat foods and to make "fueling up" noises as they move.

Eating dinner is important because it refuels the body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best. Dinner is also a social event, and it can be quality time spent with family members. Frequent family meals are associated with better grades, a lower risk of smoking, drinking and using marijuana, and a lower incidence of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts.

"Go" foods refer to nutritious foods which give the body the energy to go and grow. "Slow" foods refer to foods high in fat and added sugar which can slow the body down.

Healthy ("Go") Dinner Foods and Drinks:

  • asparagus
  • avocado
  • brown rice
  • black beans
  • carrot sticks
  • corn
  • green beans
  • mushrooms
  • snap peas
  • salads
  • tofu
  • watermelon
  • yogurt
  • zucchini
  • baked potatoes
  • steamed broccoli
  • steamed cauliflower
  • grilled chicken
  • grilled turkey
  • grilled tuna
  • grilled salmon
  • low-fat macaroni and cheese
  • low-fat milk
  • whole-grain (brown) noodles
  • low-fat vegetable pizza
  • turkey sausage
  • corn or whole wheat tortillas
  • vegetable burgers

Less Healthy ("Slow") Dinner Foods and Drinks:

  • refried beans
  • hamburgers
  • bacon
  • creamy soups
  • soft drinks
  • cookies
  • hot dogs
  • fried chicken
  • General Tso's chicken
  • french fries
  • fried fish sticks
  • high fat pepperoni pizza
  • sweet and sour chicken

Related National Standards

NHES: 1.2.1, 7.2.1
NSPE: 1, 5
NS: NS.K-4.6

Further information about the national standards can be found here.

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