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Eat a Rainbow

By creating a class rainbow representing what students eat in the course of a day, students identify whether they can improve the variety of fruits and vegetables they choose.

Canada’s Food Guide suggests that we “eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day,” but it’s more fun—and more nutritious—to “eat a rainbow!” Eating a rainbow every day means eating at least one fruit or vegetable from each of the colour groups: red, orange/yellow, green, blue and white.

Phytochemicals (literally “plant chemicals”) give fruits and vegetables their colour, taste and smell, and also may affect the severity of diseases such as cancer, stroke or metabolic syndrome.

By "eating the rainbow", we give our bodies the range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that make and keep our bodies healthy. Be wary of trying to get these through dietary supplements, the claims of most pills and shakes aren't supported scientific evidence. Most scientists think that you get the best health benefits if you eat the whole food instead. Plus, it’s more filling!

Objectives

  • Identify and compare a healthy variety of fruits and vegetables and how they can improve their own eating habits.

Materials

  • Per Student or Group:
    Food Rainbow handout
    paper
    pencils
    slips or squares of paper—at least 5 per student
    markers or colouring pencils in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and black (to outline white)
    masking tape
    whiteboard, bulletin board or large wall space

Key Questions

  • What types of plants do you eat every day?
  • What types of plants are a part of the cooked meals you eat?
  • What plants do you eat sometimes? What do you never eat?
  • Are you eating at least five fruits or vegetables in a day?
  • What colour are the plants that you eat? Are you eating plants from each colour group?
  • What colour of fruit and vegetables do you think you could eat more often?
  • Is your class eating enough plants from every colour category? If not, what kinds of foods should everyone try to eat more often?

What To Do

  1. Brainstorm/review reasons people need to eat a variety of different coloured vegetables and fruits, and predict whether the class as a whole is eating a healthy balance of plants.
  2. Write down a list of all of the meals and snacks you ate yesterday, and identify all of the fruits and vegetables. Remember:
    • Fruit and vegetables are: Fresh, frozen, or canned (without added sugar) whole fruits and vegetables. Homemade smoothies, juices and dried fruits.
    • Fruit and vegetables are not: fruit-flavoured juices and highly processed foods like fruit candies and potato chips.
      NOTE: real fruit juice and dried fruit have less vitamins and minerals than whole fruit and have greatly increased sugar concentrations. Comercial production increases this problem. Even blending fruit into a smoothie changes the way our bodies absorb the nutrients making them less nutritious than whole fruits.
  3. Write out the name of each type of fruit or vegetable that you ate yesterday on an individual slip of paper.
  4. Colour-code each slip of paper by using a coloured marker. Use the Food Rainbow handout to help identify some tricky ones, especially foods with peels
    Hint: Think about which part you eat. For example, bananas are a “white” fruit because the part you eat (and the part with nutrients) is white, but apples are red, green or yellow, depending on the colour of their skin (so long as you eat the skin!).
  5. Put masking tape on the back of each slip of paper, and arrange the slips on a wall, whiteboard or bulletin board to create a rainbow of all of the fruits and vegetables the class ate in one day.

Extensions

  • Make individual rainbows several times over a week or month, and identify which fruits and vegetables you eat frequently and which you could encourage your family to eat more often.
  • Does your school eat a rainbow? Try this activity with the whole school to create a huge fruit and vegetable rainbow. What fruits and vegetables could everyone try eating more often? Start a campaign to get your class or school eating more healthily. Can you find a local supermarket or farm who can donate some items for you to try?