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Pros and Cons of Making Food and Nutrition Compulsory Subjects

Linda Crampton is an experienced teacher with an honors degree in biology. She writes about nutrition and the culture and history of food.

Fresh apples and grapes at a farmers market

Fresh apples and grapes at a farmers market

Importance of Studying Food and Nutrition

Knowing how to choose and prepare healthy and nutritious food is a very important skill in life. A healthy diet supports the immune system and reduces the occurrence of many diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and some kinds of cancer. Being healthy improves the quality of a person's life and decreases public health care costs.

According to WHO (the World Health Organization), obesity has become a "global epidemic.“ Even children are becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) says that almost 36% of U.S. adults and about 17% of U.S. children are obese.

Obesity is probably caused by a combination of factors. Some of them may be beyond a person’s control and may require medical investigation and treatment. Many health experts say that the increasing incidence of the disorder in the population is at least partly due to our growing reliance on highly processed foods and large serving sizes, however.

In many cities and towns, the pressure to follow the junk food lifestyle is intense. This is especially true for young people, as I've discovered by observing the students in the schools where I've taught. High school and elementary students need to discover the benefits of a healthy diet and learn about foods that support this diet. They also need to learn cooking skills and realize that foods that are nutritious can also taste delicious.

Whole grain bread is a nutritious food.

Whole grain bread is a nutritious food.

Food and Nutrition Classes in Schools

The topics of food and nutrition are often discussed in other school subjects, such as science, biology, family studies, or home economics. This may be a successful tactic, provided enough hours are assigned to the topics. It was the system used in my last school. It seems to work quite well, but it could be improved.

Ideally, food and nutrition should be studied in the same course. The food preparation and cooking component of the course will give students practical experience to help them in their daily lives. The nutrition part of the course will give students a theoretical background and should help them understand how the treatment of foods affects their nutrient level. It may also enable them to perform lab experiments related to nutrition.

I think that a specialized course is especially important in the older grades so that food and nutrition can be covered in depth and the relationships between the topics emphasized. However the topics are studied, though, there is a strong case for making them compulsory for both genders in at least some grades. Improving the health of the upcoming generation is vitally important, not only for the sake of individual students and their families but also for the sake of public health budgets.

Fresh fruit is nutritious and delicious.

Fresh fruit is nutritious and delicious.

Advantages of a Food and Nutrition Course

A food and nutrition course offers many valuable benefits to students. For example, the course may enable students to:

  • use food preparation equipment
  • use different cooking techniques
  • follow a recipe
  • understand the health benefits of specific foods, nutrients, and additives
  • understand the potential dangers of certain food ingredients and additives
  • evaluate the contents in recipes and the ingredients listed on food packages
  • prepare and store food safely
  • take precautions to prevent foodborne illness
  • discover healthier ways to make their favourite foods while maintaining a food's appealing taste
  • discover ways to buy healthy foods and ingredients cheaply
  • eat interesting foods that they haven't tried before
  • eat foods from other cultures
  • develop an interest in creating new recipes
  • support their health and the health of their present and future family through the diet
A food and nutrition course can teach students about the taste and health benefits of spices, such as star anise.

A food and nutrition course can teach students about the taste and health benefits of spices, such as star anise.

More Benefits of the Course

A good food and nutrition course teaches students thinking and analytical skills, especially at the senior level. These skills will be valuable in other subject areas and in other areas of life. The course may:

  • teach students to evaluate the results of nutrition experiments.
  • help them assess the reliability of nutritional claims made on the Internet and reported in the media
  • help them assess the nutrient needs of people in different stages of their life or in different states of health
  • help them to appreciate the dietary preferences of different groups of people
  • enable them to appreciate the effects of a food choice on the environment or on other people
  • teach students first aid techniques for injuries that may appear during food preparation
  • enable them to learn gardening skills as they grow some of their own produce in a school garden or in outdoor or indoor containers
  • introduce them to careers related to food and nutrition

Growing Food in a School Garden

Problems: No Time or Teacher for a Specialized Class

No Time in the Curriculum

Although teaching food and nutrition in school may sound like a good idea, there are some problems with the plan. Some schools struggle to find time in the curriculum for subjects other than the core ones. Language arts, math, science, and social studies must be allotted a specific number of hours in the school year. Often physical education, a computer course, and a second language are required subjects, too. There are many other worthy subjects vying for time in the curriculum, such as music, drama, and art. There may not be time for a separate food and nutrition course.

In higher grades, students are often constrained in their subject choice by college or university admission requirements. Food and nutrition may have to be an elective subject rather than a compulsory subject in these grades.

No Specialist Teacher Available

Another problem is that a school may have no teacher qualified to teach food and nutrition at an advanced level. If there is a qualified teacher, he or she may be too busy teaching other subjects. There may not be enough money in the budget to hire a new teacher if one is needed.

An enthusiastic teacher who has time to do some research and create enjoyable and informative lesson plans could spark interest in students even if the teacher has no specialist training. This isn't always the case, depending on how much educational background is required in order for the person to teach a particular subject, but it is sometimes true.

There may be a problem with asking a teacher already at the school to teach food and nutrition if they haven't done this before. Most teachers that I know are very busy people. Planning their assigned lessons, interacting with students on a personal basis, and marking assignments take a lot of time and can sometimes be draining. It may be possible to plan a new course during the summer if the teacher knows that they will be required to teach it in the fall, assuming they don't have to work during the summer months.

Growing produce in a garden is a useful strategy for teaching nutrition.

Growing produce in a garden is a useful strategy for teaching nutrition.

Expensive Cooking Ingredients and Equipment

For schools with small budgets, buying recipe ingredients for an entire class or for multiple classes may be difficult financially. This may limit class size and force food and nutrition to be an elective subject. Buying large pieces of equipment like ovens may also be difficult.

Teachers may be able to solve the problems of expensive ingredients or equipment by following some of the following suggestions.

  • If only one oven is available, students could prepare a food that needs to be baked and then give it to the teacher instead of putting it in the oven. The teacher or a helper could bake the food during the rest of the day and give the baked goods to the students before they go home. The teacher could bake his or her own sample of the food during class to demonstrate when a product should be taken out of the oven.
  • Portable hotplates are cheaper than stoves, but the teacher needs to be aware of safety issues when using these devices.
  • Students could prepare food as part of larger groups so that fewer ingredients and less equipment is needed.
  • Students could watch more food being prepared in videos and take less time following recipes themselves. Some hands-on work is necessary for the most effective course, though.
  • Students could prepare only cold or no-bake foods in class and watch the preparation of food that needs to be cooked in videos.
  • Teachers could prepare some foods as a demonstration and share them with the students afterwards.
A healthy salad with low-fat cheese

A healthy salad with low-fat cheese

The Problem of Accommodating Special Diets

Vegans eat no food that comes from animals; vegetarians eat plants, eggs, and dairy but no fish or meats. A vegan or vegetarian family is unlikely to want their children to learn about the best way to cook salmon or to practice making healthy gravies for beef.

Children who don't eat meat could follow a separate recipe that uses a vegan source of protein, such as tofu. Some families with strict dietary requirements may not want their children to be present in the room where certain foods are being prepared or discussed, however.

There may also be health concerns related to the use of specific ingredients in class. For example, people with celiac disease are intolerant to gluten, a substance present in many grains. In these people, gluten ingestion causes damage to the tiny projections on the lining of the small intestine, which are called villi. The villi absorb nutrients from food. When they aren't functioning properly or are absent, serious health problems can develop. The intestine usually heals on a gluten-free diet, but even a small amount of gluten can trigger more damage.

A student with celiac disease mustn't make a product with gluten-free flours while the other students in the class are using a flour that contains gluten. Flour particles containing gluten can drift through the room and settle on the gluten-free version.

Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to have a number of health benefits. Not everyone wants to eat fish, however.

Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to have a number of health benefits. Not everyone wants to eat fish, however.

Handling the Problem of Different Dietary Requirements

Making food and nutrition an elective subject would solve the problem of accommodating students who have different dietary requirements from the majority of a class or school. It may have the unfortunate effect of excluding these students from a popular elective which they would like to take, however.

If the course is compulsory and a student can't stay in the classroom when a certain recipe is being followed or discussed, he or she could leave the class to work on a written assignment, watch a video, or participate in another activity. Separating a student from his or her class isn't a good situation, so the student should return to the classroom as soon as possible. It's important that no student feels bad about being temporarily excluded from a course.

Perhaps at another time the whole class could make a food that incorporates the special dietary requirements of one of its members. This not only makes the class more inclusive but prepares students for the real world when they may have guests that cannot eat certain foods. They may even discover that they love the foods made with alternate ingredients.

Tomatoes have a variety of colours.

Tomatoes have a variety of colours.

A Poll—Food and Nutrition Classes

Food and Nutrition in the Elementary and High School Curriculum

Food and nutrition are very important topics for students and for society. I believe that it's essential that they are incorporated into the curriculum in some way in both elementary school and high school. In my opinion, schools should make sure that all of their students learn about food and nutrition in as many grades as possible, even if the subjects can't be taught in a separate course.

Diet is a major factor affecting the health of humans. Knowledge about healthy food choices and suitable preparation techniques is therefore very important. Studying the subjects can teach useful skills and provide information for life.

References and Resources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2013 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 23, 2020:

Thanks, Loschini. Good luck with your debate.

Loschini on February 23, 2020:

Thanks for this fantastic article about pros and cons...this will be great to compete on my debate session with these points and elaboration

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on April 02, 2019:

Thanks for commenting, calissa.

calissa on April 01, 2019:


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 19, 2018:

Thanks for the great comment, Holly. I agree with the points that you've raised. Nutrition is an important aspect of health for everyone.

Holly on March 19, 2018:

I'm graduating college soon with a science degree in sustainability, and I've had the amazing opportunity to learn how to grow my own food and how to eat responsibly for my body.. and I can't help but wonder how much my life and others' lives could've been improved had I known this information when I was younger. I didn't take care of my body and I know many students and adults still don't understand the connection between food and nutrition. I hope that soon people will decide collectively that the value of nutrition is important enough to be taught to our youth, to improve our nation's quality of life and ultimately improve the worlds quality of life.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 11, 2018:

Your idea sounds excellent, Rochelle. It seems to me that in some places students aren't being taught important skills that they need in life.

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on February 11, 2018:

Well presented program that should be part of the high school curriculum. I like that you included alternate diets.I think it should be part of an "independant living" course that includes managing money and making other life choices.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 11, 2018:

Thanks, Manatita. Obesity seems to be a major problem in some parts of the world today. It's a sad situation.

manatita44 from london on February 11, 2018:

Well done piece and perhaps great reading for children and some of those of whom you speak.

Big problem with obesity and I was talking about this only today. Great article on the subject of food, nutrition and their effects on humans.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 13, 2017:

Thanks for commenting, Papi.

Papi on June 13, 2017:

i agree with you

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 30, 2017:

Thank you for the comment.

Unknown on May 30, 2017:

I totally agree with you. Using this as an opinion topic in the future.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 12, 2016:

I meant to add that the food is served in a potluck fashion. The students and staff always have access to enough food, although they won't all be eating the same meals.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 12, 2016:

The events are calendar celebrations, such as Christmas. There are several of these events in the year because we're a multicultural school. Only a few students come out of class to help prepare food for everyone, and they are volunteers. (We are a small school, so this is possible.) Some of the food is prepared at home by parents and just needs to be heated, but some items are made at school. The event is certainly not a substitution for a cooking class, but it does give some students cooking practice that they may not have at home.

Paula Mitchell on October 12, 2016:

What are some of the special events?

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 09, 2016:

This sounds like a worthy project, Paula. I hope you get some good suggestions. Where I teach, nutrition is a required component of certain courses that the students must take. There is no requirement for a cooking class, however. Whenever the students cook anything, it's for a special event.

Paula Mitchell on October 09, 2016:

I have read that some schools do make cooking a mandatory class. If somebody could tell me how the problem of time and space is handled I would appreciate it, as I am considering working in my own state on changes in this area.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 07, 2016:

Hi, Paula. I agree. Ideally all students would learn about nutrition and preparing healthy meals, but as you say budgeting and space could be major problems. Thanks for the comment.

Paula Mitchell on October 07, 2016:

I would love to see Cooking and nutrition a mandatory class. I think it could be worked into Health class. However the main problem is budgeting and space. My graduating class had 1,200 kids alone. You would almost need a separate building just to teach the class.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 15, 2014:

Thank you very much for the comment and for sharing your experience and opinions, Peg. I agree - learning about healthy food and good nutrition is very important for school students today and for adults as well!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on July 15, 2014:

There really needs to be a life skills class in the curriculum, although, I can see where there's little room in today's classroom. Whenever I see a special program on the benefits of teaching healthy food preparation, I'm astounded by the lack of information that some parents seem to have gained before starting a family. Portion control and healthy ingredients take a back seat to the economy of cheaper and less nutritious foods.

The first time I ever cooked vegetables from raw ingredients was in Home Economics in 9th grade and later in Advanced Food and Nutrition as a senior. I was amazed at how easy it was and how important. This is truly an essential subject and you've covered it well.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 09, 2013:

Thank you so much, wabash annie. I appreciate your comment very much. Thanks for sharing your teaching experience, too!

wabash annie from Colorado Front Range on March 09, 2013:

Excellent topic and well written hub, with great suggestions. I am a retired special education teacher and incorporated nutrition (also label reading) in my SPED science class at a middle school. The students loved those lessons and remembered what they learned. Your pictures were wonderful and should excite everyone's taste buds!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 05, 2013:

Thank you very much, Eddy! I appreciate your comment, the votes and the share. I hope that you have a great day too.

Eiddwen from Wales on March 05, 2013:

Wow so very interesting and useful. Here I vote up,across and share.

Have a great day .


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 03, 2013:

Thank you so much, Prasetio! I appreciate your lovely comment and your vote. I hope that the upcoming week is a great one for you.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on March 03, 2013:

You deserve to get 100 hub score. My friend, thank you very much for writing this hub and your passion in sharing useful information for us. I always learn from you. Voted up and take care!


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 03, 2013:

Hi, Deb. Yes, if we teach kids good eating habits they may be able to teach their parents! Diet is a sad problem in some families. Poor eating habits could cause serious problems in the future.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 03, 2013:

Thanks, Bill. I agree - good eating habits need to begin in elementary school. Thank you very much for the vote and the share!

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on March 03, 2013:

This really has been a necessity for decades. Kids have fallen off the bandwagon, due to the fact that both parents have to work, and mom or dad just throw together what they can as quickly as p[ossible after work. Kids can teach their parents important things to get family eating back into the sync that it should be. Heck, when I grew up, I ate well.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 03, 2013:

Great hub Alicia. If we want kids to grow up with healthy eating habits we need to start this when they are young. As you stated, this should be a part of every curriculum. We should be introducing this to kids in elementary school. Great job, voting up & sharing.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 02, 2013:

Thank you, drbj! I appreciate your wonderful comment very much!!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on March 02, 2013:

This may be one of the most sensible articles I have ever read on the subject of food, nutrition and the escalation of obesity, Alicia. Wait a minute, I take that back. Strike the 'may.' It IS the most sensible, and every parent should share it with their children who are old enough to understand. Voted way Up, m'dear.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 02, 2013:

Hi, Bill. I know exactly what you mean by teaching to the test. This is a troubling phenomenon that is eliminating very valuable subjects from the curriculum. There are so many life skills that students need to learn as they grow up, and some of them are missing out on these skills. Thanks for the visit.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 02, 2013:

No time and no funding in schools for this, which of course is ridiculous but a way of life here in the U.S. Teach to the test and leave everything else out of the curriculum. This stuff should be taught in health classes in every school in America.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on March 02, 2013:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, anndango!

anndango on March 02, 2013:

Interesting hub. I agree there needs to be better emphasis on nutrition in schools, and I like how you offer solutions to some of the problems.