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Unit 2, Activity 7: Diet and Health

Activity Description/Rationale 

The guiding questions of this lesson are: what are the most common diet-related diseases? What health issues are exacerbated or alleviated by specific diets? How do specific diets make us think and feel? This activity explores the connections between diet, physical health and psychological health.


Students will…

- identify major diet-related diseases and examples of good health

- know the effects of diet, both positive and negative, on diet-related diseases and conditions, other diseases and conditions, and general physical and emotional health


Universal Design for Learning/Differentiation



  1. the documentary Food Matters
  2. the documentary Supersize Me
  3. students’ food journals from Unit 1
  4. notecards with diet-related diseases and conditions, examples of prime health, nutrients, additives and quantifying adjectives (i.e. high, low) written on them


Estimated Time of Activity
50 minutes

Students will have completed the emotional column in their food journals from Unit 1 (which you previously collected), and have become familiar with diet-related diseases from the readings.

Activity Instructions

  1. Warm Up/Do Now (10 min): First, ask student groups to write down as many diseases/health conditions and examples of good health as they can.  After they have completed their lists, ask them to identify which things are their lists are related to diet.  Have students share their answers and write them on the board, adding in additional information as needed (e.g. highlighting autoimmune diseases that are affected by diet), and ensuring that the major diet-related diseases and conditions (obesity, diabetes, heart disease, malnutrition, hunger) are listed.  Take a quick poll of how many students know people who are afflicted with the diseases, and/or who exhibit characteristics of good health.
  2. Whole Class Activity (20 min): Have the entire class get in a circle, and hand out the notecards to each student (depending on the size of the class, you may have to give students multiple cards – this is fine, just make sure they are cards from different categories – for example, don’t give “high” and “low” to the same student).  Call out a disease or condition, and have the student with that notecard step into the middle of the circle.  Then have students figure out and call out what quantities of which nutrients or additives cause that disease or condition, and have the students with the adjective and nutrient or additive cards stand next to the student with the disease or condition card in the middle of the circle.  Discuss students’ answers, wrong and right, while they figure things out.  Follow the same procedure for a few more diseases or conditions and examples of good health.  Then show the clips from Food Matters.  Follow the same procedure, but instead of asking students to figure out the cause of the disease, condition, or good health example, ask them to figure out what quantities of what nutrients could remedy the disease or condition, or decrease good health.  Discuss. 
  3. Presentation and Individual Work (15 min): Explain that the focus is now going to shift from physical health to emotional health.  Show the clip from Supersize Me.  Hand back the food journals and ask students to think about what they just watched and look at the emotions column in their journals, as they answer the following questions: * are your emotions affected by your diet? * is your behavior affected by your diet? * did you consider psychological health in your homework essay? If not, write a few sentences commenting on it now.
  4. Wrap-up/Whole Class Discussion (5 min): Briefly discuss the diet and emotional health questions.  Explain that the next lessons are going to focus on what diets and thus health conditions particular food environments encourage. 

- read “Food Environments: Background Reading” and “Food Security” in “Hunger and Food Security: Background Reading” (p. 3-4), in Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future’s Teaching the Food System curriculum, Unit 3  ( and (

Assessment and Reflection
The Warm Up/Do Now assesses whether students retained knowledge of diet-related diseases and conditions from the readings, and their prior knowledge of what constitutes good and bad health.   The Whole Class Activity assesses their understandings of nutrients, additives and health.  The Individual Work asks students to reflect on their food journal and their own and others’ observations of the impact foods have on their psychological health.

Instructor’s Notes

This is another activity that covers a lot of ground and may require at least half of another class period.  You may want to shorten the Warm Up/Do Now to leave more time for the other parts of the activity.  The next activity allows a lot of time for less complex tasks so if Activity 7 spills over into the next session, Activity 8 could be condensed so that both activities fit into two sessions.