Nutrition education programs at schools have improved children's dietary knowledge and behavior. However, crowded curricula mean teachers find it challenging to implement nutrition education as a stand-alone subject. Therefore, addressing this barrier by integrating nutrition with core subjects across the curriculum may be helpful.
The current study aimed to investigate the impact of a teaching unit on portion size estimation skills when nutrition is integrated within mathematics involving volume and capacity.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A pilot randomised, controlled trial in 4 primary schools (n = 72 children in Year 3 and/or 4) was conducted. The intervention group (n = 46) received six 40-minute lessons about portion size, food groups, volume, and capacity utilising experiential learning with mathematics cubes and food replicas. The wait-list control group (n = 26) continued their usual lessons on volume and capacity. Outcome measures were taken pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention and 4 weeks after intervention completion.
Relative estimation errors (%) for portion size estimation of several food replicas were calculated to compare students’ answers to the actual volumes expressed as cubes. Linear mixed models were used to determine the impact of treatment group, time, and the group-by-time as fixed effects.
Preliminary results showed a decrease in relative estimation error for the intervention group (M=11.35, SE = 9.90), whereas the control group increased slightly (M = 2.48, SE = 13.39). This difference was not found statistically significant.
This trial uses a novel approach to teach students about serving sizes and estimation skills while incorporating learning outcomes from the NSW k-6 Mathematics Syllabus. The findings indicate that this integrated curriculum improved portion size estimation skills. However, significance of this result was not established in this small sample. Future cross-curricular nutrition education interventions and strategies targeting these skills should be conducted with a larger study population to further explore its potential impact.