Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS1210 | July 2013
A taste-testing activity is an opportunity for students of all ages to sample a small amount of a single food or a recipe item in the classroom or cafeteria. Students may evaluate foods based on many factors such as taste, smell, appearance, personal preference and willingness to try again. It is also an opportunity to compare foods, for example different varieties of apples, soups, or roasted vegetables.
About one-third of the total calories consumed by children come from foods that are high in fat and/or added sugars, while at the same time children are not eating enough "nutrient dense" foods. Nutrient dense foods and beverages are those that provide vitamins, minerals, and other substances that may provide positive health effects with relatively few calories from solid fats and added refined sugars and starches. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat free milk are all examples of nutrient dense foods that children would benefit from increasing in their diet. However, some children are reluctant to try new foods and it may take repeated exposures to a food before a child likes it. Tastings in school can be a fun way to introduce students to nutrient dense foods and help them improve their eating habits.
There are a number of reasons to choose a specific food for students to taste including having a curriculum or seasonal connection to a food, a request or inquiry about a food from a student, or a celebration of the harvest of a school garden. Whatever the reason for conducting tastings in school, it is important to choose foods that are nutrient-packed. The key messages of the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines and the MyPlate icon can guide the selection of these food items:
Consult with your school nutrition professionals for more ideas. They may be able to supply some of the food, and/or help to prepare it. Assure that the food or recipe you've chosen can be added to the school breakfast or lunch menu if students provide positive feedback from the tasting.
Students learn by doing. Children are more likely to try a new food when they have an opportunity to be part of the planning of the taste-testing activity. Involve children by having them choose what food or recipe to try and prepare the item(s) for tasting by buying, cleaning, peeling, cutting, mixing, and distributing the samples.
Take a look at how taste-testing activities can be an interactive way to support your curriculum.
Food allergies affect people of all ages and are a serious issue. Before selecting a tasting item, check with the school nurse to identify foods to avoid due to allergies or sensitivities.
Practice safe food handling. Check with your school nutrition professionals for your district's food handling policies. Be sure students and volunteers wash their hands properly before handling any food. To ensure clean hands, follow hand washing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/handwashing:
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