Host a Taste TestPrint Page
Believe it or not, some students have never tasted a fresh pear. In fact, they may be surprised to see that pears come in a shape different than the little white cubes like they see in their fruit cocktail! Having students taste healthy food items is at the heart of nutrition education, because if students have the opportunity to try and like healthier foods, they’ll be more likely to become healthier eaters. A series of taste tests is a great way to reinforce what students are learning about a particular food group.
Taste tests can take place anytime and anywhere. Try some of these strategies:
- Complement nutrition education lessons with a taste test or use taste-testing as a way to celebrate the culmination of a nutrition unit.
- Do a taste test as part of a science or language arts lesson. Ask students to describe the size, shape, color, smell and texture of the food in a journal, and discuss afterward.
- For a taste test in the cafeteria, consider these set-up options:
- Place sampling cups on the line so students can grab a sample as they get their lunch.
- Set up a taste testing table where students can stop by after they finish their lunch.
- Make it mobile! Decorate an extra cart with stickers and balloons, load it up with samples, and take it from table to table in the lunchroom.
- Set up a table outside the cafeteria so students can take a sample on their way into or out of the lunchroom.
- Host a taste test at back-to-school events, math or literacy nights, or parent-teacher nights. Use it as an opportunity to inform parents about your nutrition education efforts.
- Schedule a taste testing party for a particular food group. Here are some ideas for whole grain taste tests, fruit and veggie taste tests, and dairy taste tests.
- Make taste testing part of school celebrations. For example, Halloween pumpkin seed snacks.
- Host a P.A.C.K. Week at your school, where students bring in a different colored fruit or vegetable as a snack each day.
- Does your school have a garden? Use freshly harvested produce in your taste test. Learn more about school gardens and farm to school.
- Help students experience new foods through food art. Taste test the foods used to create food art masterpieces.
Social Emotional Health Highlights
Activities such as these help students explore…
Self-Awareness: Allowing children to decide for themselves whether they do or do not like a certain food at a taste test helps them to establish self-efficacy and self-confidence to speak up about their preferences. A taste test encourages children to step out of their comfort zones and learn more about themselves by being brave and trying something new!
Social Awareness: Taste tests are a great way to showcase foods and culinary practices from different cultures. Children can learn more about their peers likes and dislikes, or favorite dishes at home, by identifying similarities and differences and practice perspective-talking when sharing about their own.
Responsible Decision Making: Providing children with healthy food options creates an openness in the school community to discuss optimal nutrition and how it can be achieved through the discovery and exploration of new foods. Even though a child does not like carrots, doesn’t mean they won’t like peas! Letting children make the decision for themselves increases the chances that they will choose healthier foods in the future.
Use this taste test timeline to ensure the taste test is a success!
When tasting fruits and vegetables, show students the fruit or vegetable in its whole and cut up forms. This will help students identify the fruit or vegetable in the grocery store.
Use students as a resource to increase your capacity: Students can be involved in preparing and serving samples, encouraging their peers to participate, and surveying students afterward.
Engage your school nutrition staff to help purchase food or help facilitate a taste test during breakfast or lunch.
Get student input using age-appropriate surveys. If possible, incorporate items students liked best into the school meal program.
Be strategic. If tasting broccoli or starfruit in the cafeteria, provide teachers with materials to teach students about the benefits of broccoli and starfruit. Then, include a sample recipe in the school newsletter so parents can extend the tasting at home.
Taste testing is more than tasting! Encourage students to examine how a food looks, smells and feels when it’s ripe. Use this opportunity to expand student vocabulary by introducing new adjectives to describe food.
Ask students to share what they learned with their families, and encourage them to do a taste test at home.
Engage volunteers. Who in your network has skills or interests that complement your needs and can provide a helping hand?
Complement taste testing with nutrition education. Communicate why the food is healthy through posters, morning “eat better” announcements, or mini-lessons in the classroom.