Marketing Mania

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people discover “tricks of the trade” in food and beverage marketing. They practice comparing the messages conveyed through advertisements with the nutrition information available about different products.


Explain to the youth that eating healthful foods is important to a person’s growth, development and overall well-being. Their eating behaviors in childhood will carry over into adulthood and contribute to their long-term health and risk for chronic (long-lasting) disease. One of the driving factors influencing eating behaviors and food choices of youth is food advertising. Food advertisers spend large amounts of money targeting children, in an attempt to build brand loyalty and to persuade them to desire a particular food product. It is important that children begin to develop the skills to navigate this complex media-saturated world they live in.

Activity: Exploring Advertisements

  1. Advertisements are all around us. Ask young people to name some places they might encounter advertisements.
  2. Show young people a variety of food and drink packages, print ads, and video clips. If possible, have multiple examples for several different products or families of products.
  3. Other popular methods of marketing foods might be sweepstakes, contests or “clubs.” If one of these methods is used to market a product, then they must adhere to these rules:
    • If there is a prize, it should be clearly presented.
    • If there is an opportunity to win a prize, the odds of winning should be clearly stated. Share an example or two if available.
  4. Ask young people to compare various marketing strategies used to sell the products. For each example, ask the following questions. (Depending on the size of your group, you may want to split the youth into small groups to each answer the questions about a different advertisement. If time permits, small groups may present their responses to the entire group.)
    • What methods were used to promote and sell the products? (e.g., animation, music, bright colors or celebrities)
    • How do these methods affect your thoughts and feelings about these products? Do the props make the product more interesting?
    • What is the message? (e.g., you’ll be stronger, smarter, have more fun if you eat/drink the product)
    • Do you believe it?
    • How does the portion size of the product shown compare to what a single serving might be? (e.g., sports drink packaged in 20 oz bottle is actually 2.5 servings)
    • How does the suggested or advertised portion compare to the amount you or your family/friends would usually consume? (They are likely to consume the entire packaged/portioned amount.)

Optional Interactive Activity

Young people can practice marketing “tricks of the trade” on CoCo’s AdverSmarts Interactive Food Marketing Game. See additional game formats below.


Learning how to be savvy consumers is a skill that will serve young people well throughout their lifetimes and in many different contexts. Encourage them to pay particular attention in the days ahead to the messages that are all around them, and whether or not those messages are accurate or misleading.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can practice spotting the youth-targeted marketing all around us.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Additional Instructor Resources on Food Marketing to Children

Oversweetened: The Truth About Sugary Drinks

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the sugar content of popular beverages such as sodas, energy or sports drinks. The youth will measure out granulated white sugar so they can picture the true amount of sugar in these drinks. Young people will think of more healthful options to quench their thirst throughout the day.

Instructor Notes

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

  • Added sugars are sugars and syrups which are added to foods or beverages when they are made. Some foods have sugar that is naturally found in them, such as milk and fruit.
  • Americans are drinking more sweetened beverages than ever before. Some beverages have as many as 500 calories. This can be up to a quarter of a person’s calorie needs for the day just in added sugars.
  • Manufacturers will often target their advertising in hopes that if these drinks are purchased by consumers at an early age they will continue to be loyal buyers of that product into adulthood.
  • The body needs fluids to keep healthy; meeting those needs with sweetened beverages is not a good idea and can lead to unhealthful consequences.


  1. Ask the youth about the types of beverages they and other young people typically drink. Common examples include sodas, sports drinks (Gatorade™, Powerade™, Vitamin Water™), energy drinks (Monster™, Red Bull™), and specialty coffee drinks (mochas, smoothies).
  2. Ask the youth if they have ever thought about how much sugar has been added to the beverages? (Added sugar refers to sugars and syrups which are added to foods or beverages when they are made and do not occur naturally in the drink.) Added sugars can also be found in many other foods including cereal, yogurt and granola bars. Read the Sneaky Sugars handout to learn more about sneaky sugars hidden in common foods and beverages.
  3. Ask the youth, why do you think it isn’t good to get too much added sugar? Show pictures or models as visual examples of health consequences as they share. Ask them for their ideas, but make sure they get this message:
    • Too much sugar is not good for your teeth—it can cause cavities.
    • Too much sugar is not good for your heart.
    • Too much added sugar each day can cause you to gain weight if your body doesn’t need those extra calories in one day.
    • We want most of what we eat and drink to be things that are good for our bodies and not fill up on things that are not healthful for us.


Explain to the youth that in this lesson we are going to see exactly how much added sugar is in some popular beverages. In order to do this we need to understand how to read and get the information we need off of the Nutrition Facts label for each type of drink. Show young people the Nutrition Facts Label handout by projecting the image on the board or printing it out. Point out a few significant statistics from the label (such as serving size, number of servings per container, total carbohydrate and sugars).

Tips to teach:

  • One teaspoon of sugar has 16 calories.
  • One teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 grams.
  1. Ask for volunteers to demonstrate for the large group or divide young people into small groups. The youth will figure out how many teaspoons of added sugar are in some popular drinks. Pass out an empty beverage container, granulated sugar, measuring teaspoon and funnel (or sugar cubes) to the volunteers or small groups.
  2. Have the youth calculate the added sugars by reading the information on the label.
    • Multiply the number of servings in the container by the number of grams per serving.
    • Divide that number by four to get the number of teaspoons of sugar per beverage. Young people may use calculators if they wish.
    • Use the funnel to carefully pour the granulated sugar into the empty bottle. Secure bottle top and pass around to emphasize the look, feel and weight of the amount of sugar dissolved in the typical soft drink.
  3. Ask young people to share their findings with the class. You can see that you can get a lot of added sugar just from drinking popular beverages!
    • How many teaspoons of added sugar do you think might be OK in a healthy daily food plan? Ask them to guess a number, just for fun. The answer is about 3 teaspoons each day.
    • How does that compare with the number you might usually have each day, especially if you are having a beverage with high amounts of added sugar? For most young people it will be a lot less than what they are having each day.
  4. Explain to the young people that our bodies need plenty of fluids, including water, every day but we need to find ways to make sure we’re not getting too much added sugar in our daily food plan. Ask the youth what options they might choose to drink instead of sugary drinks to stay hydrated and keep their bodies healthy? Wait for young people to answer but be sure they understand these items:
    • Remind young people that water is the best choice to drink throughout the day for thirst and staying hydrated. Water gets the job done. It quenches your thirst, keeps your skin healthy and glowing, and won’t cause tooth decay, chronic (long-lasting) diseases or gaining high amounts of weight.
    • Milk or a milk substitute is a healthful choice with meals and snacks because it’s full of nutrients your body needs.
    • 100% fruit juice doesn’t have any added sugars and can be healthful if you drink small amounts, no more than 4 to 6 ounces each day. (100% fruit juice doesn’t have all of the fiber and nutrients as whole fruit so it’s best to get most of your fruit servings by eating whole fruits instead).
    • What about diet pop and other diet drinks? Although they have no added sugars, they don’t have any nutrients that are good for our body either, so it is best to avoid filling up on diet drinks that do nothing to keep us healthy.


Challenge the youth to read the nutrition label of the next sweetened beverage they want to drink. How many calories and grams of sugar are in it? Remember how the white granulated sugar looks when it’s measured out, teaspoon by teaspoon. See if you can think of a more healthful option to quench your thirst!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can talk about alternatives to sugary drinks from their pantries at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

More Milk, Please!

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people visualize how much milk they should drink each day by pouring 8 ounces into each of three glasses. The youth will complete a milk-themed maze activity. Optionally, the young people can photograph themselves with milk mustaches to remind them to drink milk each day.


  1. Talk with the youth about why drinking milk is good for them.
    Drinking milk will:

    • give your body important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D to help your bones grow strong
    • give your body protein to help build strong muscles.
  2. Ask the youth, what could happen if your body doesn’t get enough calcium?
    Answer: Your bones can get weak and could easily break.
    If you’re allergic to cow’s milk, you can try fortified “milk” made from soy, rice, coconut or almonds. If that doesn’t sound too good, you can also:

    • drink calcium-enriched orange juice
    • eat vegetables rich in calcium, such as cooked broccoli and spinach.
  3. How much milk should you have each day?
    Answer: For most kids your age, three 8-ounce glasses of milk each day is enough to give your body all the calcium and protein it needs.


  1. To show how much milk a young person should drink each day, pour 8 ounces of milk into three glasses.
  2. Ask for feedback from the youth: Are they surprised with the amount? Did they think they needed to drink more or less?
  3. Give each young person a glass or carton of milk and ask them to try and make a milk mustache. (Offer a milk substitute such as soy milk for young people who cannot have cow’s milk.)
  4. Optional: Take a group photo of the young people with their milk mustaches to hang in your classroom as a reminder to drink milk every day.
  5. Have the youth complete the milk maze.


Remind the young people that drinking milk is good for their bones, muscles, and overall health. Ask them to count how many 8 ounce glasses of milk they have to drink today. Will they get to 3 glasses? Count again tomorrow and remember to get enough milk every day!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue to talk about drinking milk getting enough calcium at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Healthy snacking: Moving beyond milk and cookies

Additional Instructor Resources

The Dish on Gluten

Lesson Overview

This lesson will help young people understand gluten allergy and gluten sensitivity. They will look for gluten in the food groups on MyPlate and think of ways to be kind to those who follow a gluten-free diet.

Instructor Notes

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

  • Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. (Experts recommend only consuming oats labeled gluten-free as cross-contact may occur when oats are grown side-by-side with wheat, barley or rye.) This includes a lot of foods you probably eat everyday like bread, cookies, crackers and pasta.
  • The gluten in bread makes it soft and spongy. Gluten helps baked goods like bread, cakes and muffins rise and hold their shape. It also acts like glue to help food such as crackers to not crumble.
  • There are many health claims surrounding following a gluten-free diet, some of which are not supported by scientific studies. Many believe that eating a gluten-free diet is healthier and will increase energy levels. This can be true if a well-executed gluten-free eating plan is established. It often means buying fewer processed foods and eating more fresh, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. If not carefully planned gluten containing foods are often swapped for more highly processed foods, which is an unhealthful way of eating.
  • Gluten is harmless for most people, except those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity.
  • Celiac disease damages the small intestine and keeps the body from using nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot eat any food that has gluten. Their immune system responds to the gluten by damaging the small intestine. It can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. They may also have a headache and feel really tired. If not treated it can affect growth and cause damage to the nervous system. It can also cause people to be malnourished.
  • A gluten sensitivity is similar to celiac disease, but it does not damage the small intestine or affect growth and development. Eating gluten may cause someone with a gluten sensitivity to feel sick, but the person’s body will still be able to use the nutrients from the food he or she eats. Other symptoms someone may have who is gluten sensitive is “foggy mind”, depression, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, gas, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue when they eat gluten containing foods. They will want to eat gluten-free so they feel better every day.
  • Food you eat has many nutrients (vitamins, minerals and calories) to help you be healthy. When people who shouldn’t eat foods with gluten in them do, their bodies will not be able to use the nutrients as they should.
  • Common gluten-free grains include rice, corn (maize), soy, potatoes, beans, quinoa (KEEN-wah), tapioca, millet, sorghum, buckwheat, flax, chia seeds, teff, nut flours and gluten-free oats. Despite the name “buckwheat”, there is no wheat or gluten found in buckwheat and instead it is actually a relative to rhubarb.
  • Other gluten-free foods include fruits, vegetables, fresh meat and eggs.
  • It isn’t always clear which foods have gluten in them. It can be very challenging to try to eat only foods that are gluten-free. People who have to eat this way get very good at reading nutrition fact labels to see if a food is gluten-free or not.
  • People who have food allergies, sensitivities or other restrictions often have to deal with people not understanding their situation. Sometimes other people can be unkind about it, or put their friends at risk by not being careful.


Give some background on gluten and gluten-free foods.

  • Show the youth grains that have gluten: wheat, rye, barley.
  • Show the youth examples of grains that do not have gluten, such as rice, quinoa, corn and others listed above.
  • Show the youth how on MyPlate the gluten-free grains fit into the same orange section as the grains with gluten.

Activity: Gluten-free Foods on MyPlate

Go to MyPlate. Click on each food group, one at a time, to explore which foods are gluten-free. Within each food group, click on “View Food Gallery” and click through the slideshow to have the young people guess which of the foods are gluten-free.

  • Fruit: All gluten-free.
  • Vegetables: All gluten-free.
  • Grains: Brown rice, popcorn and white rice are gluten-free. (Note: Many cereals have other things added to them that have gluten even if they are made from corn. Cornbread is only gluten-free if it is made in a special way without regular flour.)
  • Protein: All fresh cuts of meat, nuts and seeds and beans are gluten free. (Note: Deli meat is usually not gluten-free unless it is made especially for people who cannot eat gluten. The gluten-free deli meats will be labeled “gluten-free.”
  • Dairy: Milk, soymilk and cheese are gluten-free. (Note:  Yogurt, pudding and frozen yogurt may all have gluten in them because of added flavorings. Always check the label to see if a product is gluten-free.)
  • Oils: All oils are gluten-free as long as the one type of oil is the only ingredient in the ingredient list.
  • Special consideration: Even though potatoes are naturally gluten free, when you deep fry them to make French Fries they can be cross contaminated with other gluten foods that were fried in the same oil.

Activity: Gluten-free Birthday Party

  1. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of someone who needs to avoid gluten. We are going to act out a story about a birthday party. A boy named Logan has celiac disease and needs to avoid eating gluten. All of his friends can eat foods with gluten, including the tasty birthday cake. As you are acting out the story, remember how hard it would be for someone like Logan to not be able to eat the same food as his friends.
  2. Read the following story out loud: Logan has celiac disease. On Friday night, he goes to his friend Andrew’s birthday party. A birthday cake made with wheat flour is served, but there is also a special cupcake for Logan. Some of the other friends tease Logan and are rude. They seem to be jealous about the special treatment. Alex stands up for his friend Logan and helps explain that celiac is a serious disease.
  3. Break the youth up into small groups to act out the story. Walk around and offer ideas for what Alex could say when he stands up for Logan. If young people need prompting in how to address the topic in a positive way, Alex could respond that he wanted everyone to feel special at the birthday party without excluding anybody for any reason.  The gluten-free cupcake was just one consideration of the needs of the friends invited to the party.
  4. Then ask for a few volunteers or one small group to act out their storyline to the entire group. Discuss.

Activity: Word Find

Pass out the Gluten Word Find and instruct young people to find all 18 foods that contain gluten. The answers can be found on the Gluten Word Find Answer Key.


Remind young people that it can be very challenging to try to eat only foods that are gluten-free. Ask the youth to pay attention to nutrition labels and notice how many of the things they eat contain gluten. If they have a classmate or friend who can’t eat gluten, think of ways they help that person from being left out when food or treats are given out at special events.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can practice spotting gluten in their meals at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

The dish on gluten

What you need to know about food allergies

Food Allergy Awareness for the School Year

Additional Instructor Resources

Does My Child Need a Gluten-Free Diet?

Gluten-Free Diet



How Hungry Am I?

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people think about the ways their bodies give them signals telling them when they need to eat. They will use a worksheet to track their hunger before and after a snack and learn that tracking your hunger can keep you from overeating.


Ask the youth, what does a baby do when it is hungry? Usually he or she cries or whimpers. A dog might do the same thing…bark or whine to let us know it’s time to eat.

Inform the youth that our bodies let us know in much the same way when we are starting to feel hungry. How? Maybe our stomach growls, we get a headache, we become cranky or irritable, or feel tired or weak. It takes about 10-15 minutes once we have started eating for our bodies to notice the change. The feeling of fullness is the result of your brain reacting to chemicals and hormones that are released when you eat. Your brain can take up to 20 minutes to register these chemicals before you are signaled you are getting full. Therefore, it’s important to eat slowly enough to give ourselves time to adjust. Our bodies send signals that we’ve had enough, like our belly actually feeling a bit more filled up. If we eat too much too fast we can’t notice those cues until it is too late and we feel extremely full and uncomfortable.

Here’s a simple way to gauge before, during and after eating what state we’re in:

😐 = Pretty hungry, my stomach feels empty

🙂 = Just right! Not too hungry or too full; satisfied

🙁 = Too full, I ate too much

This language of hunger is different from the cravings we feel when we smell our favorite food or see something delicious looking in a magazine. That’s our thoughts telling us, “Wow…I sure would like to taste that,” no matter whether our body is hungry or not.

Being hungry is different from craving and we can teach ourselves to better listen to our bodies to know the difference.


  1. Ask the young people to make a fist. Tell them that their stomachs are about the same size as their fist.
  2. Ask the following questions to further explore the topic of hunger:
    • How would your stomach feel if you put too much food in – two or three times the size of your fist? (Sore, bloated, sticking out)
    • How would your stomach feel if you didn’t put enough food in or if you missed having a meal or a snack? (Pain, rumbling)
    • Would it feel this way if you saw a piece of cake on the counter that you thought looked really delicious? Or if you smelled your favorite meal cooking? (You might feel these things for a short while when you are having a craving, but if you take a few minutes to pay attention they will go away. A craving won’t make you feel hunger that lasts.)
    • What if you put just the right amount of food in your stomach— about the same amount as your fist? How would it feel? (Content, not stuffed, good, nice, satisfied)
  3. Let’s enjoy a snack in an amount that is a little bit smaller than our fists, or the size of our stomachs, but let’s first think about how hungry we actually are so that we don’t eat too much and get those uncomfortable feelings.
  4. Pass out the Kids Hunger Tracker worksheet. Ask the youth to fill in the first line, writing down today’s date and then drawing the appropriate face in the “Before the Meal” column.
  5. Then pass out the snack. Encourage young people to eat slowly and chew the food well. Have them notice the flavor and taste and how their bodies feel. Encourage them to stop when they feel satisfied regardless of whether the food is gone.
  6. After the snack, have them complete the final column on the worksheet.


Encourage young people to use the worksheet over the next several days to track their hunger and see what they notice. The more they practice this mindful approach, the more attuned they will become to their bodies’ food needs.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

‘Tis the season to take note of your hunger cues

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the ways that young people know they are hungry and when they have eaten enough.

Gardening – Growing Goodness!

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand where healthy food comes from. The youth will discuss what kind of plants produce their favorite fruits and vegetables. Then they will try out gardening themselves by planting some bean seeds and watching the plants grow.


  1. Ask the young people where our food comes from. Give the youth a couple of minutes to share with another person where they think certain fruits and vegetables grow.  Discuss their thoughts as a group. You may want to mention the following points:
    • All food has to “grow” somewhere, whether it’s an animal for meat, grains for processing into flour and other products, or artificial flavorings made in a lab to mimic whole food flavors found in nature. Artificial flavorings and colors are used in some candies and flavored drink mixes.
    • It’s good to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Fruits and vegetables are the easiest type of food to find in a natural state. That means that not much has been done to them before they get to us. Foods that come in boxes and can be stored on shelves for months, for example, have been processed and have had things added to them to preserve them long before they get to us, in particular lots of them may have added sugar.
    • The sugar that is in fruits is different from the sugar in candy. The sugar in fruit is a natural sugar that is not made from many different chemicals like those found in candy, cookies, cereal and other sweetened treats, that’s known as processed sugar. Foods direct from the earth, no matter how sweet, are the healthiest foods for people to eat. So just where do our fruits and vegetables come from? Fruits and vegetables grow in many different ways. They can grow on trees like apples do, or they can grow underground from a root like a carrot. They also grow on vines and bushes.
  2. Download the interactive whiteboard activity from the What You Need section above. The goal of the activity is to match up the fruit or vegetable with the growing location whether it’s underground, above ground on the surface, or on a tree.
  3. Were they able to match certain fruits and vegetables to the type of plant they grow on such as underground, on a vine or in a tree?

Activity: Plant a Garden

  1. Talk about: Why are gardens healthy? Growing a garden can be beneficial in more ways than just getting healthy food. Gardening can help people relax. It can also be a time for family bonding if you work together in the garden. Gardening can even be a type of physical activity. Furthermore, seeds are cheap to buy, so why not grow your own food and save some money?

  2. Plant a mini garden. Have the young people plant their own green beans. You can split the youth into groups of four so they can plant one as a group, or you can hand out clear plastic cups to all young people to plant their own. However you wish to do this, you will need to handout a clear plastic cup (16 ounces) to everyone who will be planting seeds. Follow these steps for a successful gardening project:

    • Each young person or group will need to write their names on the cup so they know whose is whose.

    • Next use a thumbtack to poke a few holes in the bottom of the cup to let the extra water drain.

    • Once this is done, each cup will need to be loosely packed half way with potting soil. Make sure the soil is moist/damp.

    • Then place 5 to 6 seeds near the side of the cup so the youth are able to see them grow through the clear cup.

    • Cover the seeds with more moist soil to the top of the cup, and lightly pack it.

    • Place plastic wrap over the cups to help keep in the moisture, and place near a window for sunlight.

    • Once you see the beans starting to sprout, remove the plastic wrap and water as needed.

    • Continue to keep the cup in the sun.

    • The cups may need to be put into some sort of tray so the water doesn’t leak.

Activity: Veggie Scramble

If time allows, hand out the Veggie Scramble worksheet. Allow the youth time to complete the word puzzles, then share the correct answers from the Veggie Scramble Answer Key.  This worksheet may also be sent home as an enrichment activity.


You can keep the cups in the classroom and note their progress. This provides great informal, ongoing opportunities to talk about nutrition and health. Or you can have the young people bring plants home and care for them there. In that case you can, if you like, ask for periodic reports on how they are growing. Either way, once their plant has grown big enough, young people can transfer their seedlings into a big garden or larger pot at home!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing fresh, healthy foods at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Additional Instructor Resources

What Kind of Sugar is in Your Food? Handout – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)

MyPlate and Yours Too!

Lesson Overview 

This lesson helps young people get acquainted with MyPlate and how it can be used as a visual tool for a lifetime of healthy eating. They will explore the food groups that are represented on MyPlate and analyze a meal of their own by drawing it on a paper plate. Finally, youth will reflect on the food they eat and how they can make more balanced meal choices in the future.


Ask the youth: Why do we need to learn about the right foods to eat, and how much food to eat?

Allow the young people time to give their answers, but make sure they understand:

  • Eating healthful food keeps our brain, heart, muscles, and bones growing and developing well. The right amount of food helps us feel good and have plenty of energy. It even helps us learn better in school.
  • If we eat too much of certain foods and not enough of others, we could end up hurting instead of helping our bodies.

Tell the youth that one way to learn about healthful foods, and healthful amounts of food, is with MyPlate.

Ask the young people: What do you know about MyPlate?

MyPlate is a tool that helps show us what kinds of foods we should eat every day and how much of those foods we should eat. Its message is simple: eating a variety of colorful foods from the five food groups at each meal helps our bodies stay healthy.

Note: Instructors should be aware of young people with special nutrition needs including food allergies and intolerances. Instructors should clarify to those young people that it is okay that they follow special food guidelines set by their parents and/or doctors.

Activity: Getting to know MyPlate

Explore each section of section of MyPlate on the interactive whiteboard lesson (see What You Need) or the ChooseMyPlate.Gov website. Click on each of the sections and read some examples aloud. Discuss the information about the foods included in the different food groups.

  • Click on the Grains section, to see the differences between whole and refined grains. Emphasize that we want at least half of our grains to come from whole, unprocessed sources.

  • Click on the Vegetables section to see the five subgroups of vegetables. Emphasize that the deeper, darker colored vegetables will be higher in nutritional value.

  • Click on the Fruits section to see whether frozen or canned fruits are okay, and also to see whether or not 100% fruit juice counts as a fruit.

  • Click on the Dairy section to see what kind of dairy foods are best to choose.

  • Click on the Protein Foods section to see what kinds of choices are best and how to get variety.

  • Fats and Oils (butter, mayonnaise, oils found in fried foods) are not considered a food group, but are part of one’s daily food intake.

  • If using the interactive whiteboard lesson, practice by sorting the foods into the food groups. Can you name other foods to put in the different sections of MyPlate?

Activity: Color Your Plate

Just for fun, let’s think about a meal we’ve eaten recently. It’s time to bring out the paper plates! Pass out paper plates to young people.

Ask young people to draw, list, or cut and paste the foods they had for one meal on their paper plate. Remind them to include drinks.  For example, if they had a grilled cheese sandwich and milk, those items could be listed, drawn, or cut and glued onto the plate.

When the group is finished, review the paper plate activity and invite young people to share with the class what is on their plate:

  • How does your plate compare with MyPlate?

  • What food item could you add to include more food groups?

  • What food/drink could you have less of or substitute with another food/drink to make it more like MyPlate?

  • Are there any food items on your plate that are not part of the five food groups?  (fats, oils, added sugars)

Remind the youth that eating foods not in the five food groups is OK in small amounts as long as they are eating most of their foods for the day from the five food groups.


Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can continue discussing healthy meals at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

It’s Mealtime! Relax and Enjoy

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how to eat slowly and mindfully. The youth will practice by paying close attention to smells, texture and taste while eating a healthful snack.

Instructor Notes

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

Research points to at least three good health reasons to eat slowly and mindfully. These are:

  1. Healthy weight. There is good evidence that eating slowly leads to eating less which leads to a healthier weight.
  2. Better digestion. It takes our bodies time to break down and absorb the food we have eaten. Start the process off for better digestion by chewing your food well, which in turn leads to slower eating. More time between bites also gives our bodies’ time to react to what we’ve already consumed.
  3. Less stress. Eating slowly and paying attention to our eating, can be a great form of relaxation and mindfulness. When we are in the moment, breathing deeply and fully, rather than rushing through a meal, we are taking good care of our whole selves, not just our bodies.


Give each young person a sample of one of the snacks you brought, but tell them not to eat anything yet.

  1. Ask them to look at the food item and describe how it looks, such as bright, foamy, and red.
  2. Now ask them to smell the food. How does it smell? For example, sweet and fragrant.
  3. Tell them to take a normal bite of the food, but hold it in their mouths without chewing. After about 15 seconds, have the young people start to chew, but ask them to chew slowly.
  4. How does it taste? For example, sweet or tart.
  5. What does it feel like in their mouths? For example, soft or crisp.
  6. Repeat above steps for each snack item you brought food so the youth can see the differences in look, smell, feel, and taste.
  7. Explain that when we eat very quickly we miss out on a lot of what’s good about food, such as the taste, texture, smell, and enjoyment of the food we are eating.
  8. We may even discover that we enjoy or like a food that we hadn’t eaten before.
  9. Let the youth finish the snack, encouraging them to enjoy it slowly.
  10. Ask them at the end what they noticed during the exercise, this will help them process their thoughts better.


It takes our bodies time to break down food and take from it what we need. Remind young people to chew their food well and eat slowly. More time between bites gives time for our bodies to react to what we’ve already consumed, so we can digest and absorb our food better.

Encourage young people to practice eating slowly at home using the tips in the Healthy Families Newsletter.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing healthy eating habits at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Relax and enjoy your food

Additional Instructor Resources

Safe Food is Good Food

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how handling food safely will help them avoid becoming sick from food poisoning. Youth will gain interest in the topic by reading a story and solving a mystery.  They will learn tips for keeping food safe and test their knowledge with a quiz.

Introduction: Food Safety Story

Without introducing the topic of food poisoning, tell the young people that there is a mystery you need them to solve. Distribute copies of Food Safety Story. Have the youth work in small groups to read through it and identify the reasons they think the catastrophe might have happened. After a while debrief as a group, perhaps asking each group to share one idea, one at a time, until all ideas have been shared. Write their ideas on a flipchart or whiteboard. Then introduce the topic of food safety, assuring young people that you will come back to the story at the end of the lesson.

Activity: Learning about Causes and Consequences of Food Poisoning

Introduce food poisoning by explaining that it is an illness that can happen when we eat foods that have harmful bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins. The effects can range from barely noticeable to extremely unpleasant.

1. Ask the young people if they know what symptoms these harmful germs may cause.

Symptoms of food poison may include:

  • upset stomach

  • nausea

  • vomiting

  • diarrhea

  • fever

Tell the youth that mild cases of food poisoning are actually common and we may not even know we have it because we think it is just a stomach flu or virus. We can’t get rid of all bacteria and some bacteria can even be good for us. There are many things we can do, however, to prevent us from getting sick from the foods we eat.

2. Most of the germs that can cause food poisoning (also known as food borne illness) come from animals, such as meat, eggs, milk, shellfish, or unwashed produced. Raw or undercooked foods are also more likely to cause food poisoning because the process of thoroughly cooking often kills unhealthy germs. Sometimes the germs are transferred from work surfaces or hands that haven’t be properly cleaned after touching contaminated food. So cleanliness and proper cooking are two of the most important ways to prevent it.

3. Ask how many help their families cook at home. What kind of things do you or your family members do to keep things clean while cooking?  Make sure the following are mentioned:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling food.

  • Don’t use the same cutting board you use for raw meats. It needs to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after each use.
  • Wash counters and food preparation areas with soap and water before cooking.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. For example, was the outside of melon before cutting into it.

4. Imagine that you are looking in the refrigerator for a snack. What kind of things do you do to make sure food is safe before eating it?

  • Only eat foods that are cooked right – if it doesn’t look done, don’t eat it.

  • If a food smells or looks different than it normally would, the food might be spoiled and you shouldn’t eat or drink it.

  • Keep leftovers only 3 to 4 days in the fridge and heat them up well before eating.

  • Check expiration dates and use the food before it expires. Don’t eat if it is after the expiration date.

  • Germs grow best at room temperature, so cover and refrigerate food right away to keep the bacteria from growing out of control.

 Activity: Myth or Fact?

Introduce the Myth or Fact quiz explaining that it focuses on ways we can keep our food safe. Use the interactive whiteboard lesson or the worksheet located in the What You Need section above. Have the youth work in small groups or as a large group to complete the activity and see how “food safety savvy” they are.


Now that you have learned more about the potential causes of food poisoning, ask the youth to revisit the list of things they think could have caused the illness in the half of Ms. Carey’s class. Be sure to include the following:

  • Preparing raw meat (the turkeys) in the same place as the sandwiches were being made could have contaminated the sandwiches.

  • The tuna sandwiches might have contained mayonnaise and both tuna and mayonnaise need to be kept chilled.

  • Suzy’s apples weren’t washed.

  • Tou’s salad may have gone bad even though it smelled okay.

  • Victor’s chicken may have been undercooked since he rushed it.

Answer to the activity: Students may not have cleaned their hands after visiting the petting farm.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing food safety at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Keeping your food safe

Additional Instructor Resources


Quench Your Thirst! The Importance of Water

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand why drinking water is important. An Interactive whiteboard lesson teaches facts about the body’s need for water and offers tips to help the youth to drink more water. Using actual healthy and dehydrated plants reinforces the message that all living things need water!


Here are some facts to share with the youth about the importance of water.

  • Every part of your body needs water. In fact, water makes up 60 percent of body weight.
  • Dehydration happens when there is not enough water in your body.
  • Mild dehydration can cause headaches, nausea and fatigue (tiredness). You may need more water in hot temperatures or if you sweat a lot.
  • If you’re getting enough water you’ll rarely feel thirsty. Your urine will also be clear or slightly yellow. Dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration.
  • There has been a significant rise in the intake of beverages with added sugars and excess calories on the market. Most are geared to entice children to consume. These added calorie beverages are contributing to overweight and obesity in our children.
  • Drinking more water is one of the simplest things you can do to be healthier.

Activity: Plants

  1. Ask the young people if they think it would be a good idea to give small children, animals, or plants pop or a sports/energy drink? What would happen to them if they did? Possible answers include:
    • sick
    •  tired
    •  wouldn’t grow normally
    •  may even die.
  2. Show young people the healthy and unhealthy plant. Point out the differences between the healthy watered plant and the unhealthy plant. Healthy plants are full of color and stand tall and firm. Unhealthy plants sag, lack bright color, look wilted or limp.
  3. What do you think may happen to our bodies if we stopped drinking mostly water and drank pop, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks instead? Or if we simply stopped drinking much at all? The answers are the same as for animals, babies and plants, but may include more diseases, injuries, our organs not working right, headaches, not thinking as clearly, or extra weight. Drinks other than water have added ingredients that can get in the way of the water’s ability to do what it’s supposed to do for us.

Water is what human beings, animals and plants were meant to drink! Drinking water actually helps you stay healthy!

Activity: Getting Enough Water

Use the interactive whiteboard, if available, to guide the youth through the following questions in the lesson (see What You Need).

  1. What percentage of our bodies are made up of water? Correct answer: 60%
  2. Why do you think we need to drink water when our bodies already have so much of it? The answers may include the information listed in the introduction above.
  3. So, we know that water is good for us, but do we know why? Ask the youth what they think water actually does in the body, and which things it doesn’t do.
    • Keeps our body temperatures normal
    • Lubricates and cushions joints
    • Makes your hair grow faster (false)
    • Helps your kidneys work correctly
    • Makes you sleepy (false)
    • Protects your spinal cord
    • Helps digestion
    • Helps your body get rid of waste
    • Helps you float better when you are swimming (false)


Your ideas

Ask young people for ideas or tips they have for drinking more water each day. Possible ideas include:

  • fill a reusable water bottle and take it with you when you go places

  • drink water and milk with every meal

  • drink a glass of water when you wake up in the morning

  • keep cold water in a pitcher in the fridge.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, which also includes these tips, so that families can continue discussing the importance of drinking enough water at home. Find more health lesson plans to encourage healthy habits for kids.

Additional Instructor Resources

There Are Sneaky Sugars! – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)
Water: Meeting Your Daily Fluid Needs
Don’t wait until you are thirsty