Authors as Published

Elena Serrano, Associate Professor, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise. (

Age X  Children 7-10X Children 11-14 X Mixed AgesVirginia Standards of Learning
English 3.1, 3.2, 3.8, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2
Health 3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 5.2
Setting   Classroom    CampX     Either
Location   OutsideX Indoors     Either

Project Skill: Learning about time and eating

Success Indicators: As a result of this activity, children will be able to:

  • express differences in eating pleasure based on how quickly they eat
  • understand that eating quickly can mean eating more food

Life Skills: Decision Making, Teamwork, Collaboration

Preparation Time: Collect the necessary materials.


  • Stopwatch
  • Paper and pencils for all members
  • One of the following foods:
    • Bag of marshmallows
    • Bag of M&Ms™
    • Bag of popcorn
    • Bag of pretzels
    • Bag of cookies
    • Bag of baby carrots
    • Bunch of grapes


  1. Set up different stations with different types of foods.
  2. Tell the children they will examine how food can be enjoyed when time is taken to eat meals and snacks.
  3. Tell children to count off from 1 to 5 (or however many foods you have available) and then get in their number groups.
  4. Within the food groups, ask the members to separate into two groups representing the “fast” and “slow” eaters.
  5. The instructor will set the stopwatch for 30 seconds and the first two members in each food group will begin eating. The “fast” member will try and consume as much of the food as possible in the time, while the “slow” member will eat one piece of the food for the time period. The instructor will do this again, so another two members can experience this activity.
  6. Have students switch groups, so that students can experience eating foods in both manners.
  7. Move the groups through the different stations.
  8. Talk about the discussion questions, reinforcing the message that eating faster does not mean you get any “more” out of the food. You can enjoy food by eating slower.
Enjoy your food.
Eat and chew slowly.
Take time to enjoy a meal or  a snack.
Think about why you eat.
Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.


  • Ensure that students do not run around the room when they are eating quickly so as to prevent choking.
  • If you use chocolate, candy or something considered “unhealthy,” reinforce the idea that everything is okay in moderation. MyPlate should be used as a guide for eating.
  • Add a math piece to this lesson by having students count the number of foods they ate in the different time periods and divide by the number of seconds.  Also, consider calories.  How many calories did they eat per second?


  • What happened during this exercise?
  • What did you like about it? What did you dislike about it? Why?


  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • How fast do you usually eat?
  • What differences did you experience between eating “fast” and “slow”?
  • What about the taste of the foods? Did the taste change depending on if you ate “fast” or “slow”?
  • What senses do you use when you eat?
  • How do you determine if you are hungry or full?
  • How would eating “fast” or “slow” affect how much food you eat?


  • Why is this experience important?
  • How can it help you “enjoy” your food more? When do you ‘mindlessly’ eat? What happens? Do you eat more or less?
  • What are other ways to increase the enjoyment of eating and food?
  • For what other activities is it important to do things slowly rather than quickly?
  • What kind of confidence do you have that you can take your time when you eat or drink something?


  • What will do you with this information?
  • What will you tell your parents about this activity?

This publication was partially funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low incomes. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact your local county or city Department of Social Services (phone listed under city/county government).  For help finding a local number, call toll-free: 1-800-552-3431 (M-F 8:15-5:00, except holidays).  By calling your local DSS office, you can get other useful information about services.  
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, age, disability, or political beliefs.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call, toll free, (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
This publication was partially funded by the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, USDA, CSREES.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

December 14, 2011