All Fats Are Not Created Equal!

Lesson Introduction & Overview

Fat is an important nutrient, but you only need small amounts each day. It gives you energy and helps your body grow. Here are some of the important jobs fats do:

• Give you energy: During exercise your body uses carbohydrates for fuel for about 20 minutes. After that your body depends on fat to keep going.
• Keeps your skin and hair healthy.
• Helps you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K.
• Fills your fat cells and helps keep you warm.
• Helps your brain grow and adapt as you learn new information and have new experiences.
• Helps regulate blood sugar so your energy level stays even instead of bouncing all over the place.
• Keeps you feeling satisfied so you don’t overeat.

Not all fats are “good” fats:

Trans fats are made when vegetable oils are processed (or hydrogenated) into shortening and stick margarine. Sources of trans fats include snack foods, baked goods and fried foods made with “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil” or “vegetable shortening.”

Try to limit foods made with these ingredients. Trans fats can raise your cholesterol.

Saturated fats are most often found in foods that are solid at room temperature, like butter, cheese, palm and coconut oil and red meats.

Limit the amount of saturated fat and trans fat you have each day. This will help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Unsaturated fats, the healthy types of fats, come from both animal and plant products. There are two types:

  • monounsaturated fats come from seeds or nuts such as avocado, olive, peanut and canola oils. Monounsaturated fat, in the right amounts, may reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol). They are liquid at room temperature.
  • polyunsaturated fats come from vegetables, seeds or nuts such as corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and sesame seed oils. Polyunsaturated fats can help lower cholesterol if you use them in place of saturated fats.

This lesson introduces young people to the importance of including fats in their diets and choosing the most healthful types.


Lead a conversation based on the following questions:

  • What kinds of things have you heard (from your family, friends, media, health care providers, school, etc.) about fats in food?
  • Is the information you’re getting about fats from food labels easy to understand? Why or why not?
  • Is the information you’re getting about fats in food helpful to you when you’re choosing what to eat?
  • What questions do you have about fats in food?

Introduce the types of fats: Trans fats, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (use the information above).

Prepare a sampling of snack options with healthy fats, such as: walnuts or other nuts, olives, bread dipped in olive oil, dark chocolate, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, vegetables dipped in hummus made with healthy fats (be sure to check the label).

Invite young people to complete the healthy fats word find while enjoying tasting the different foods.

Lead a reflection discussion:

  • Which foods did you like best?
  • Were there any you didn’t like?
  • Had you eaten any of these foods before?
  • What do you usually eat for snacks?
  • Are there any of these foods you’d like to eat more often?


Close by letting young people know that in addition to healthy fats, their bodies need protein and carbohydrates (such as vegetables and fruits) as well. It’s recommended that fats make up about 25 to 30 percent of a person’s daily calorie intake. Consider following this lesson with the Health Powered Kids lesson on learning to read nutrition labels.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in EnglishSpanish, Somali and Hmong so that families can learn about healthy fats at home.

Picky Eating

Lesson Overview

Picky eating often occurs at ages 3 to 5. At this age, children like to explore food rather than eat to it. Usually it is a phase that children go through and then grow out of over time. Children often refuse foods because of color or texture. Teaching them to explore foods and describe the flavors, smells and textures instead of just using words like; “like or dislike” can help improve their willingness to try new things over time.


Children don’t always take to new foods easily or right away. Here are some tips that can help a child learn to like new foods. 

  • Offer new foods many times displayed or prepared differently. It may take up to a dozen tries for a child to accept a new food.
  • Small portions = big benefits. Let children try small portions of new foods that you enjoy. Give them a small taste at first and be patient.
  • Be a good role model by trying new foods yourself. Describe tastes, textures and smells.
  • Offer only one new food at a time. Serve something that you know the child likes along with the new food. Offering too many new foods all at once can be overwhelming.
  • Offer new foods first, at the beginning of a meal, when everyone is the hungriest.
  • Serve food plain if that is important to the child. For example, instead of a macaroni casserole, try meatballs, pasta and a vegetable. Also, to keep different foods separated, try plates with sections. For some children the opposite works and serving a new food mixed in with a familiar item is helpful. Get to know the child’s preferences.



  1. Before this session, buy a variety of fruits and vegetables, including some you think young people may have never tried before. Clean and prepare them and bring them with you to the session. Have enough so that each young person can try at least two things.
  2. Before bringing out the food ask young people to tell you their favorite foods.
  3. On a white board or flip chart make a list that includes at least one thing that everyone says they like, leaving space under each one for an additional list of words
  4. Then, one item at a time, ask young people to describe those foods. Encourage them to use words that describe flavor (sweet, spicy, bitter, salty, sour, tangy) and feel or texture (soft, hard, chewy, watery, dry). Write down what they say under each food item.
  5. Bring out the fruits and vegetables you’ve prepared. Encourage each young person to choose two items they’ve never had before (more if you have enough). Ask them to wait before tasting until everyone has theirs.
  6. Encourage youth to try one of their foods. After a few minutes, invite them to describe to you and to the rest of the group the flavor and the texture instead of if they liked it or not.
  7. Make a new list of words or add to your first list. It doesn’t matter if they describe different foods at different times. The idea isn’t to develop one list to describe each food. It is to help youth think of and learn many different ways to describe foods other than just whether they like something or not. This may help them learn to appreciate and even enjoy a variety of flavors and textures.


Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish and encourage young people to surprise their families at the next meal they share by using one or more of the words you talked about and learned today to describe taste, texture or smell.

Additional Instructor Resources

Phrases that HELP and HINDER

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Six tips to help picky eaters learn to like new foods

Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand ingredients in energy drinks and sports drinks that may be unhealthful for children and teens. The youth will compare the caffeine levels of various drinks and create a warning label with some facts about their effects.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information. This can be shared with young people during your discussions.

Ads for sports drinks and energy drinks are hard to miss these days. It’s not uncommon to see children drinking these beverages that are formulated for fully grown, serious athletes who are doing intense training and competition. Unfortunately, many of these drinks are not good for children and can be harmful.


  1. Ask the youth what they know about sports drinks and energy drinks.
  2. Show one example of a sports drink and one example of an energy drink. Define “sports drink” and “energy drink” using the information below.
    Sports drinks: These beverages have carbohydrates, minerals and electrolytes. Many of them also have added coloring and flavoring.
    Sports drinks are meant to replace water and electrolytes lost during exercise. These beverages can be helpful to athletes who are doing intense activity. For children, they are usually just a source of extra calories that are not needed.
    Energy drinks: These beverages may have similar ingredients as sports drinks. They also have stimulants such as caffeine and guarana.
    Energy drinks often have much more caffeine per serving than other beverages. This increases the chances of having too much caffeine, which can have dangerous and sometimes lasting harmful effects.
  3. Ask the youth if they can name any other sports drinks or energy drinks. Explain that these drinks are often marketed towards young people but may contain ingredients that are unhealthful for children and teens.
  4. Caffeine in children can cause side effects such as:
    • an increase in heart rate
    • high blood pressure
    • problems sleeping
    • anxiety and nervousness.When children drink a lot of energy drinks and then stop drinking them, they can go through caffeine withdrawal. This can cause side effects such as:
    • headache
    • fatigue (tiredness)
    • decreased alertness
    • irritability
    • trouble concentrating
    • muscle pain or stiffness.
  5. Most energy and sports drinks are also very acidic. This means that drinking these beverages could cause damage to tooth enamel.
  6. Optional: If appropriate for your group, distribute the handout Energy Drinks: What You Need To Know. Allow young people time to read about this topic before proceeding to the activities.

Activity: Caffeine Counts

  1. Organize the youth into teams of three or four. Ask each group to use the Caffeine Counts worksheet to identify and record the following information for several different sports drinks and energy drinks. Include some sodas, other beverages, and even other products for comparison.
    • name of the product
    • serving size
    • amount of caffeine.
  2. Ask the youth to choose some of their favorite products or ones they have in their home or ones they have heard of from advertisements. They can use the Energy Drinks: What You Need To Know handout and/or  the Caffeine Informer database to find information. You can also bring in labels or containers from home or, if you give them enough notice, ask them to do so.
  3. Talk about what the young people found. Were there surprises? Which products had the highest levels of caffeine? Based on what they’ve learned about how caffeine affects bodies, how safe do they think these products are?

Activity: Caffeine Warning Labels

  1. Explain that there are people who think that caffeine products should come with warning labels and are trying to get a law passed to require it. These would be similar to those found on cigarettes or alcohol.
  2. In the same or different small groups, have the young people create what they think would be a good warning label to put on caffeine-containing products. They don’t have to agree that having a label is necessary, but if a law were to be passed to that effect, ask them what they think the warnings should say.
  3. Ask them to share and describe their labels.


Remind young people that companies that market and sell packaged foods are very good at figuring out how to convince people to buy their products. This doesn’t mean that all packaged foods are bad, but it does mean that consumers should be cautious and pay attention to ingredients to make sure they know what they’re putting in their bodies.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families work together to spot unhealthful amounts of caffeine in the beverages of young people.

Additional Instructor Resources

Grocery Store Virtual Tour

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the way that grocery stores are designed, how products may be deceptively marketed, and ways to find the most healthful options in grocery store aisles. The youth will compare two similar products and then pick the healthier version. They will make informed choices by looking at the ingredients list.


Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following definitions. These can be shared with young people during your discussions.

Shelf life: This is how long a product can sit on the shelf or counter, or in the refrigerator, before spoiling, rotting or molding.

Processed food: This is food that has been changed from its original form. For example, a potato made into a potato chip. These foods usually have several ingredients. Processed foods have been packaged into a bag, box or other container. They are shipped from a factory and will have a shelf life of weeks or even years.

One-ingredient food: This is a food that has been grown, picked and washed before selling, and usually does not have an expiration date stamped on it. This type of food will not last for more than a few days before spoiling. Fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs and meat are examples of one-ingredient foods. Some one-ingredient foods can be packaged and may have a longer shelf life if stored properly, such as flour.

Perimeter: The edges of the store as you walk around; does not include the center aisles.


Activity: Parts of a Grocery Store

Have a picture of a grocery store layout or arrange the products that young people brought from home around a designated area to show food locations. For example, fruit, veggies, meat and dairy around the perimeter and chips, cookies and cereal in the center.

Show the youth the Sample Grocery Store Layout and point out the sections.

Perimeter of the grocery store

Point out that in this grocery store, most of the one-ingredient foods are located around the perimeter of the store. The boxed, bagged and packaged items (processed foods) are located in the center aisles.

While shopping, you will want to get the majority of your food from the perimeter of the store. The foods around the perimeter are better for your body because they have not been changed from their original form.

Caution: Grocery stores are starting to put processed foods around the perimeter, too. Sometimes you may find sugary cereals on the perimeter. You will also find one-ingredient foods boxed in the center aisles, like flours, oatmeal, and frozen fruit and veggies.

The produce section

Talk about the difference between conventionally grown produce and organically grown produce.

  • Conventionally grown produce is grown with synthetic fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides (weed killer) to protect the crops from mold, bugs and disease.
  • Organically grown produce is grown with natural fertilizers such as manure and seaweed, insect predators (like ladybugs and bats) and barriers to prevent pests. The farmers weed by hand or mulch in order to prevent weeds.

The chemicals used to grow conventional fruits and vegetables can’t be washed completely off or peeled away. For example, you peel a banana before eating it but the chemicals are not just on the outside. They can get into the soil used to grow the banana and can be found in the fruit. Peeling your banana will not keep you from eating small amounts of these chemicals.

Note: Always remember to wash your hands and your produce well before eating, even if it is organic.

The center aisles

Explain that although the center aisles are more likely to have processed foods, you can still make healthful choices here. There are several different types of processed foods on the shelves. Just walk into the chip aisle! It is floor-to-ceiling choices! For any of these items, picking the healthiest product will be most beneficial, but how do you know which product to pick?

  • Have the young people look at the grocery store picture or study the layout of the products.
  • Have the young people go through the grocery store and pick up four products that they would like.
  • Hold up the bag of regular Lay’s® potato chips and the bag of SunChips®. Ask the following questions:
    • By a show of hands: Do you think you can choose the healthier product by looking at the front of the package?
    • Read the front of the packages and then ask: Which chip is healthier? Why?
    • Do you think you can choose the healthier product by looking at the nutrition label?
    • Read calories, sodium, and fat content and then ask: Which chip is healthier? Why?

You can definitely get some important information from both of these locations, but you get more accurate and specific details from the ingredient list.

Activity: Virtual Shopping Trip

1. Ask the young people to “go shopping” in your virtual grocery store (see internet option below). Have each young person or group of young people choose at least two items (you may adjust this number based on how many food items are available in your virtual grocery store). As a larger group, have the young people separate the products they “bought” on the floor into two piles using the following criteria:

Pile A (Put the bag of Lay’s® potato chips in this pile.)

  • The product has five ingredients or less.
  • Sugar is not in the first five ingredients.
  • You can pronounce all the ingredients and know what they all are.

Pile B (Put the bag of SunChips® in this pile.)

  • The product has six ingredients or more.
  • Sugar, or any form of sugar, is in the ingredients.
  • You can’t pronounce some of the ingredients, or you can pronounce them, but don’t know what some of them are.

2. Take a look at the products in your piles. The products in Pile A have the criteria above, let’s see why they may be healthier than the products in Pile B. Talk about why the products in pile B are in this pile.

3. Have the young people pick an ingredient (one they can or can’t pronounce BUT don’t know what the ingredient is) and research the specific ingredient to find out what the ingredient is. An example to look up would be ‘Red 40,’ or any other food coloring.

Internet shopping option: If internet-enabled devices are available to the youth, they can do a digital version of this activity using an online grocery store such as Coborns Delivers or Fresh Direct. Nutrition labels are available for most items in the item detail view. Young people can take a screenshot of the item they’d like to “purchase” and share it with the instructor. The instructor can sort the images of products on the interactive whiteboard or any mobile app that allows you to import and sort images.

4. Here are some questions to answer about the ingredient:

  • What is it?
  • Why is it in the product? For example: thickener, coloring, etc.
  • What other product is the ingredient used in? Any non-food item?
  • Is the ingredient banned in other countries? Why?

Here are some additional questions to answer about the products.

Question: Is the product advertised on TV? Why do you think this is significant?

Answer: Products that are advertised on TV, radio and Internet are usually produced by big companies who spend a lot of money on marketing and research to get you to buy their products. Think about cereal! While watching cartoons or any other kids show, cereal commercials market to kids. The commercials are very exciting and make you want to buy their products. The commercial almost makes it ‘cool’ to eat the product.

Question: What do you think about the food commercials you see on TV? Which ones are your favorites and why? Do you make your decisions on what to ask your parent to buy at the grocery store by what you hear or see on the commercial? Have the youth give some examples.

Possible answers and discussion topics:

  • These processed products are mass produced; usually contain modified food stuff, things that are not naturally found in one-ingredient foods. An example is major chemicals, like food coloring, and makes the company very wealthy. The products usually don’t cost much because the commercials help sell the products which keeps the prices low.
  • Processed foods usually have ingredients that make the food more flavorful and addicting. This can make processed foods more appealing than fruits, vegetables or other healthful choices.

Question: What products are not advertised? Why do you think this is significant?

Answer: One example is apples. They are not advertised on TV, radio or the Internet. Farmers do not have money to make commercials to advertise their products.


Remind young people to think about what they’ve learned the next time they visit a grocery store with their families. Ask them to look for products with the following criteria:

  • The product has five ingredients or less.
  • Sugar is not in the first five ingredients.
  • You can pronounce all the ingredients and know what they all are.

Challenge the youth to find the most healthful options, even in the potato chip aisle! Visit our virtual care package for more virtual health and wellness resources.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can practice shopping for healthful foods together.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Additional Instructor Resources:

Hungry for Breakfast

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the importance of breakfast. The youth will think about good food choices by discussing “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle and singing The Breakfast Song.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about the importance of breakfast for children. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

  • If young children learn important concepts about eating breakfast it will lay a foundation of eating right for years to come. Studies have shown that eating breakfast improves a child’s concentration and mental performance.
  • Young people who skip breakfast are less focused and alert and often too tired to complete morning tasks.
  • Young people who are hungry experience more learning difficulties as compared to well-nourished children.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that children who eat a healthful, well-balanced breakfast are more likely to:
    • meet their daily nutrient requirements
    • have better concentration
    • have better problem-solving skills
    • have better hand-eye coordination
    • stay alert
    • be creative
    • miss fewer days of school
    • be more physically active.

Activity: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Read the book “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

  1. After reading the book, talk with the young people about all the foods the caterpillar ate. These include apples, pears, oranges, plums and strawberries. Talk about how fruits are good, healthful foods that give our bodies energy. Then talk about all the junk foods the caterpillar ate, such as chocolate cake, ice cream and candy. What happened to the caterpillar after he ate those types of foods? Why?
  2. Ask young people to raise their hands if they had breakfast this morning. Let a few share what they ate.
  3. Tell the young people that today we will be talking about breakfast as one of the most important meals of the day. Breakfast is the first chance to get nourishing food into their bodies and their brains for a great start to the day.
  4. What does it mean to be hungry? Let the youth answer and have them give examples of how they feel and look when they are hungry. Explain that it would be hard to think, learn and play if they felt hungry and tired. That is how they may feel if they don’t eat breakfast.

Activity: Breakfast Song

Ask the youth what happens when we feed our body with nourishing foods for breakfast vs. eating no breakfast or a breakfast without healthful foods. Invite young people to stand to learn a song that will help us remember what foods to eat for breakfast to help our brains and our bodies start the day!

Teach young people the lyrics to the Breakfast Song.


Remind young people that what they eat in the morning has the power to energize them throughout the day. Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the importance of breakfast at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Rise and dine! The importance of a healthy breakfast

Additional Instructor Resources

Vegetarian Basics

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand healthful ways to follow vegetarian diets by researching the different types and how to get enough nutrients while following each one.


Ask the youth:

  • Has anyone has heard of vegetarian diets?
  • Do you know of anyone or do you follow a vegetarian diet?
  • What do you think it means to be a vegetarian?

Explain that a vegetarian diet is one way of meeting an individual’s nutritional needs. A person may follow a vegetarian diet for cultural, ethical, environmental or health reasons.

Activity: All About Vegetarian Diets

Introduce young people to the different kinds of vegetarian diets in the Vegetarian Online Learning Activity. Young people may explore the lesson independently on computers or mobile devices, or it can be projected on the classroom’s SMART or Promethean Board.

Review the 4 types of vegetarian diets listed in the presentation.

  1. Strict Vegetarian or Vegan: This diet includes only plant-based foods. It doesn’t include any kind of animal food sources, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
  2. Lacto-vegetarian: This diet includes all plant-based foods and dairy products. It doesn’t include meat, fish or eggs.
  3. Lacto-ovo Vegetarian: This diet includes all plant-based foods, dairy products and eggs. It doesn’t include meat and fish.
  4. Flexitarian: This diet includes mostly plant-based foods and occasionally includes eggs, fish, dairy products and meats.

Conclude that there are many different types of vegetarian eating styles. One is not necessarily better than the other and all can fit into a healthy lifestyle. Explain that if a person chooses not to eat a certain type of food or food group, he or she may not get the right amount of some nutrients. Some of these nutrients include calories, protein, and calcium, Vitamin D, Iron, Zinc and Vitamin B12.

Activity: Vegetarian Nutrition Research

Have the young people research one type of vegetarian diet and create a poster board and the nutrients that may be missing from that diet. Have them include what food sources may be included instead that would provide the nutrients they need. Each poster should include the following:

  • The name of the type of vegetarian diet
  • Nutrients that may be missing or hard to get from this diet
  • Pictures of allowed food sources to meet those nutrient needs.

Invite each young person or group to present their project to the class.


Remind young people that it is possible to be healthy while following a vegetarian diet if you know about healthful sources of protein, calcium, and Vitamins D and B12. Young people considering vegetarian diets should refer to MyPlate’s Information for Vegetarians to get more information.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, with information about vegetarian diets so that families can continue discussing balanced nutrition at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Vegetarian Lifestyles from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

 Vegetarian Nutrition

Tips for Vegetarians from

Water: Making Living Things Grow!

Lesson Overview

This lesson provides a visual example for young people of what happens to a living thing (in this case a plant) when it is hydrated with water vs. liquids with added ingredients such as sweeteners, flavors and colors.


Every living thing needs water to survive. Nearly every system in your body depends on water to work right, including our organs, muscles, joints, and nervous system.

Ask the youth, what would happen to plants, animals and babies if they were given beverages that have lots of sugar and other ingredients in them?

Answers:  Sick, tired, wouldn’t grow right, might die

The same is true of bigger kids and adults: If we depend on flavored drinks for our liquids, our bodies won’t grow right, we won’t feel well and we might get sick.

Ask: What do you think might happen to our bodies if we stopped drinking mostly water or milk and drank mostly pops, fruit drinks and sports/energy drinks? (Same answers as for babies/animals/plants.)


Explain that you are going to do a classroom experiment involving water and growing. Present the three plants. Explain that you are going to care for the three plants in three different ways:

  • The first one will get water every day or as needed.
  • The second one will be “watered” with soda.
  • The third one will get no water or other liquids.

Create (or have young people create) labels so you can keep track of the plants.

Explain that when doing a scientific experiment like this one it’s important to keep notes about your findings because otherwise when it’s over you might not remember the details.

Give each person a copy of the “Plant-Water Experiment Notes” worksheet. Ask the youth to complete the first row by jotting down notes about the color of the leaves, the texture of the plant, and other details. You can also do this activity with the interactive whiteboard template (see What You Need) and keep track of it as a class.

Ask the youth to take notes every day for several weeks to track what happens to the three plants over time. Younger kids can simply describe what they are seeing.

When doing this activity with younger children ask them to describe what they are seeing and you write the notes.

Consider taking regular photographs of the plants in order to visually track the change over time.


Even if the results of this experiment aren’t dramatic, there will be differences the young people can discover if they pay close attention. Encourage them to think about this the next time they are choosing how to “water” (hydrate) their own bodies.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the importance of hydrating with water at home.


Nutritional Supplements

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how whole foods stack up against protein bars, powders and shakes. The youth will compare the nutrients in a supplement product against the amount in whole foods. Young people will also consider cost as they recommend healthful sources of protein and other nutrients in a presentation or poster.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about supplements. These facts can be shared with young people during your discussions.

  • The food we eat for daily meals and snacks should supply our bodies with enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for normal growth and development. This means we probably don’t need additional nutrition supplements such as vitamins and minerals or protein shakes/bars/powders.
  • In some cases, a child’s doctor or dietitian may recommend a supplement to make sure he or she is getting needed nutrients, or if the child has an extended food dislikes, a food allergy, or an intolerance that prevents him or her from eating an entire food group.
  • Some over-the-counter vitamin/mineral supplements and protein supplements claim to help you get over colds or help you build muscles or other benefits. These types of products are not usually supported by science and may even be harmful to children.
  • Please refer to the additional instructor resources for further information on dietary supplement use.

Activity: Nutritional Content Comparison Poster

  1. Introduce the topic by letting the youth know that the food we eat for daily meals and snacks should supply our bodies with enough vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and other nutrients to keep us healthy. This means most of us don’t need additional nutritional supplements in the form of pills, capsules, shakes, bars, or powders. Points to emphasize:
    • Nutrition supplements should be used only if recommended by a healthcare professional.
    • Nutrition supplements can come in colorful packages and shapes but they aren’t candy.
  2. As an example, ask young people to research and compare the amount of protein in a protein shake, powder or bar against the amount of protein in healthful food items such as milk, meats, eggs, nuts, and beans. Young people may choose instead to select a vitamin/mineral supplement to compare with healthful food items.
  3. Have the youth compare the cost per serving and other nutritional benefits they may get from eating a healthful food item. This will present a good case as to why it is better to get nutrients from whole food vs. a supplement.
  4. Create a poster with their comparison and recommendation for the healthiest choice. Young people are encouraged to include pictures/photos/graphics and Nutrition Facts Labels on their posters.
  5. Young people may use the nutrition facts label to find nutrition information or the USDA nutrient database.


Invite young people to present their findings to the group. Remind the youth that healthful whole foods are almost always the best choice for healthy bodies and minds.  Encourage young people to read the Nutrition Facts Labels when choosing their meals and snacks.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can prepare healthful meals full of protein and other nutrients at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Blank Nutrition Facts Label
USDA Dietary Supplements
NIH Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet
Dietary Supplements: What You Need To Know
Consumer Protection

Milk Matters

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the health benefits of low-fat milk by analyzing nutrition labels.

Instructor Notes

Beformide facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about low-fat milk products. These facts can be shared with kids and parents during your discussions.

  • The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. According to researchers, fat-free and low-fat milk is essential to children and adolescents’ development and overall wellness. In fact, fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products provide four of the five “nutrients of concern” that children don’t get enough of: calcium, potassium, Vitamin D and magnesium.
  • White milk comes in four varieties: whole (full fat), 2%, 1% (low-fat) and Skim (no fat). Flavored milk also comes in different varieties such as low-fat and fat-free.
  • Who should drink whole milk? Answer: Children 12 months to 24 months (1-2 years old). After that, kids may switch to 2%, low-fat or skim milk. (As long as the child isn’t gaining weight quickly, they can drink 2% milk.)
  • Babies (0-12 months) should drink breast milk or infant formula as cow’s milk isn’t digested well by babies under 12 months, and it lacks essential nutrients.
  • Some children are allergic to some nutrients/items found in milk, like protein. A milk allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to the protein found in milk and can trigger a range of symptoms from mild (rash, hives, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.) This means that they may need to choose a milk substitute. Make sure to choose a milk alternative that is fortified with 30% DV (Daily Value) of calcium. If you have young people in your class that fall into this category, ask them to complete the activity with the understanding that this may not specifically apply to them.
  • Other children may have an intolerance to lactose found in milk, which means they are missing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. This results in the inability to digest milk or other dairy products which may cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, gas, bloating and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance can cause great discomfort, but it is not life threatening.


  1. Ask the youth: What kind of milk do you drink? If they don’t know, show them examples of cartons of each type to see if that helps them identify the type of milk they usually drink.
  2. Let’s figure out which type of milk may be the healthiest for us to drink by looking at what’s on the Nutrition Facts labels of four different types of milk. Pass out the Milk Nutrition Facts Labels worksheet and the Compare Milk Activity worksheet you printed at the beginning of the lesson. Tell the youth to use the milk Nutrition Fact labels to fill in the chart and answer the questions on the worksheet.
  3. Ask young people to share what they learned about the type of milk they drink.
  4. Review answers to questions with the youth using the Instructors Answer Key.


Encourage kids and parents alike who don’t already drink 1% or skim milk to work towards that as a goal. Tell them if they don’t like it at first, try mixing 1/2 their milk with the lower fat milk, changing it gradually each week until you are drinking only the lower fat milk. Most people really do get used to the skim milk after awhile. The same idea works for flavored milk. If you are used to drinking flavored milk, try mixing 1/2 white skim or lower fat milk until you get used to not having the added sweetness.

Or you might want to try this approach: If you usually drink whole milk, switch to 2% by the end of one week, 1% by the end of two weeks, and skim by the end of three weeks. If you usually drink 2%, switch to 1% by the end of one week, and skim milk by the end of two weeks.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing their milk choices at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Breakfast Power

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the importance of eating a healthful breakfast every day. The youth will plan and research a breakfast meal and create a poster or digital presentation including nutrient information.

Instructor Notes

Before facilitating this lesson, you may want to review the following information about breakfast habits for young people. These facts can be shared with the youth during your discussions.

  • Studies show that kids who eat breakfast tend to eat healthier overall and are more likely to participate in physical activities which helps in maintaining a healthy body weight.
  • Kids will often skip breakfast, which makes them feel tired, restless, and irritable.
  • Breakfast gives the body the refueling it needs for the day ahead after going without food for 8 to 12 hours during sleep.
  • What they eat in the morning is important too. Choosing breakfast foods that are rich in whole grains, fiber, and protein while low in added sugar may enhance their attention span, concentration, and memory — which they need to learn in school.


  1. Ask the youth, what does the word “breakfast” mean?
    Break = to separate or divide.
    Fast = a period of time without food.
    Breakfast means to break the fast.
  2. How many hours does your body normally fast from suppertime to breakfast? How about from breakfast to lunch?
  3. Why is “breaking” your fast by eating in the morning so important?  Young people can share ideas and brainstorm why it is important. Possible answers include: less tired, less likely to overeat later in day, more likely to choose healthful foods, think more clearly, perform better at school and extra-curricular activities.
  4. Explain to the youth that our bodies were not designed to go from suppertime to lunch the next day without eating so our brain and body go into what is referred to as a “starvation mode”. This is where your brain and body starts to conserve energy as a natural mechanism to protect your from starvation, which may leave you feeling more tired, irritable, less able to concentrate, and overall sluggish.

Activity: Calculate Your Basal Metabolic Rate

  1. Show the formulas for estimating Basal Metabolic Rate, which is the baseline number of calories our body’s burn in a day when we are being sedentary. Exercise and other activity will increase this, but it gives a starting point. Point out that each person is different. Here are the formulas:
    Male Calculation:
    [Basal Metabolic Rate] = (Body Weight (kg) x 10) + (Height in centimeters (cm) x 6.25) – (Age x 5) + 5
    Female Calculation:
    [Basal Metabolic Rate] = (Body Weight (kg) x 10) + (Height in centimeters (cm) x 6.25) – (Age x 5) – 161
  2. ***Body weight in kilogram (kg) = Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 (Example: 130 lbs ÷ 2.2 = 59 kg body weight.
  3. ***Height in centimeters (cm) = Height in inches x 2.54 (Example 5’5 ft tall = 65 inches x 2.54 = 165 cm tall.
  4. Ask young people to calculate their personal Basal Metabolic Rate, using calculators if necessary and available. They can keep their height and weight private during this activity.
  5. Once they have done this, explain that the BMR gives a general idea of how many calories they need to consume each day in order to effectively fuel their bodies. However, if we go too long without eating (for most people between 8 and 12 hours) our BMR drops because our body begins to go into “starvation mode.” That means it burns fewer calories in order to protect itself. This can be bad for weight control, as the body naturally fights back, doing everything it can to make you stop losing any weight. The body and brain may respond by making you hungrier so that your will eat more and at the same time hold onto more of the calories you consume to protect you from losing weight. It also will likely have many other effects on you such as lower energy levels, poorer concentration, poor memory, and feelings of irritability.
  6. The bottom line of all this is that breakfast is a very important meal, perhaps the most important of the day.

Activity: Breakfast Recommendations for Young People

  1. Ask the youth for some reasons why young people don’t eat breakfast. Possible answers include: want to sleep more, not enough time, nothing to eat at home, not hungry that early in the morning, takes too long to prepare, don’t like typical breakfast foods.
  2. Ask the youth for some solutions. Possible answers include:
    • Go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier.
    • Get up 15 minutes earlier or set out clothes and shower the night before.
    • Eat school breakfast.
    • Pack breakfast or a snack to eat on way to school.
    • Plan three easy quick breakfasts ahead of time.
    • Eat leftovers from last night’s dinner.
  3. Ask, what makes a healthful breakfast?  A healthful breakfast is one that has many nutrients, includes foods from different food groups (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and protein).  It should be low in added sugars and fats, high in vitamins and fiber.
  4. Introduce the poster activity and have the youth plan and research a breakfast meal and then create a poster or PowerPoint including nutrient information. Grade his or her recommendations by breakfast completeness (at least three of the five food groups included), taste, appearance, and time it takes to prepare.
  5. Assign a day to have young people present their breakfast idea to the group.


Breakfast is a critical piece of the Health Powered Kids puzzle. Without breakfast our bodies don’t get the jumpstart they need to operate at their fullest potential throughout the day. Encourage young people to share with their families the ideas they gained through this activity, and to work on making breakfast a routine part of their day.

Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families continue discussing the importance of breakfast at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Rise and dine! The importance of a healthy breakfast

Additional Instructor Resources
Article: Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents
There Are Sneaky Sugars! – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)