Tobacco and E-cigarettes

Lesson Overview

Tobacco companies use messaging, advertisements and now different flavors in their tobacco products to try and gain new consumers that could potentially be life-long users. By knowing the dangers, risk factors, and marketing strategies associated with cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, and the relatively new e-cigarettes young people will be aware of and able to discuss reasons not to use any type of tobacco product.

*Note: This lesson can take up to several hours (each activity below can be done separately in less time).


What happens when you use tobacco:

  • It causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase, and your major blood vessels to become smaller, making your heart work harder.
  • It slows your ability to heal.
  • It reduces the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, making you short of breath.
  • It decreases your taste and smell.
  • It causes your blood to clot faster. Smokers have a higher chance of heart attack, stroke and circulatory problems.

Other facts:

  • Tobacco makes your teeth turn yellow or brownish in color.
  • Smoking makes your skin wrinkle more.
  • Your breath, hair, clothing and household furnishings all smell like smoke if you smoke or live with a smoker.
  • Secondhand smoke can have harmful effects on the health of your entire family.
  • Seventy-five percent of smokers have at least one parent who smokes.
  • Restaurants and public places don’t allow smoking.
  • Your furniture, curtains, and carpeting smell like smoke if you smoke in your home, which you don’t notice. (This smell is caused by thirdhand smoke.)
  • Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Many others are known to be toxic.

The human body was not designed to smoke.

Adding Up the Cost – Financial Facts

Smoking one pack each day, at $7.50 per pack costs:

  • $7.50 a day
  • $52.50 a week
  • $210 a month
  • $2,730 a year
  • $13,650 in 5 years
  • $27,300 in 10 years
  • $68,250 in 25 years.

Nationally, the total health care cost of smoking is estimated at more than $167 billion every year.


What is an E-cigarette?

  • An e-cigarette is a device used in place of smoking tobacco. It is also known as an electronic cigarette, e-cig or water vapor cigarette.
  • An e-cigarette is a small tube that is often made to look like a cigarette. However, they do come in many varieties.
  • All major tobacco companies own and make e-cigarettes.

How Do You Use An E-Cigarette?

  • Nicotine liquid or nicotine-free liquid (often called “juice”) is put in the e-cigarette.
  • Each time you take a puff, the liquid moves past a small metal coil.
  • The coil heats up and warms the liquid causing it to come out as steam that looks like cigarette smoke.
  • You breathe in and out the steam, which is usually called “vaping.”

Is The Steam Just Water?

  • The steam you breathe in and out is not just water. It is vaporized chemicals found in the liquid, along with any chemical changes from the heated metal.

Are E-cigarettes Safe?

  • E-cigarettes are not regulated (controlled). They are also not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • The chemicals used in the liquid do not have to be safe or listed on the label.
  • Private testing has found many harmful chemicals in the liquid including:
    • lead
    • arsenic (found in rat poison)
    • formaldehyde (used to preserve dead tissue)
    • glycol (used in antifreeze).

Testing has also found chemicals known to cause cancer in humans.

  • The chemical glycerin (used in soap and beauty products) has also been found in the liquid. At this time, there is no information on how breathing in glycerin will affect your body.
  • It is very common for there to be more or less nicotine that what is listed on the label. It is possible for nicotine-free liquid to still have nicotine in it.
  • The nicotine in e-cigarettes is usually not filtered the same way it is in FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapies (such as patches and gum). This allows harmful chemicals from tobacco to be in e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes have become popular, very quickly. This means there hasn’t been time to get results on long-term studies on the safety or health effects of e-cigarettes.

Activity: Tobacco Quiz

  1. Begin with the interactive quiz about tobacco. Have youth take the quiz individually or work together as a large group and display the quiz on a large screen.

Activity: What’s Actually in a Cigarette?

  1. Tobacco is just one of many ingredients in cigarettes. They actually contain over 7,000 chemicals – including at least 69 that are known to cause cancer. Distribute the “Toxic Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke” handout to show youth some of the most prevalent examples.
  2. Have youth work in teams to find images from magazines or the Internet of products that contain some of the same ingredients that are found in cigarettes.
  3. Give each group a poster board and ask them to create a poster that raises awareness of the chemicals found in cigarettes. They may want to title it something like “That’s What’s In a Cigarette?” or put the names of the chemicals at the top and the images below that. Encourage them to be creative and also try to get the message across that there are lots of unhealthy and even dangerous ingredients in cigarettes.
  4. See if you can find a place to display the posters where others will be able to see them and learn from them.

Activity: Why Use Tobacco?

  1. We know a lot about how bad cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes and juices are for our bodies. But we also know that lots of people still choose to use these products. So why is that? Lead a conversation with young people about why they think some people choose to use tobacco. You can use these and other questions as prompts:
  2. Why do you think some people start using tobacco?
    • What’s appealing about it?
    • What do they think will happen because it?
    • What do you think they know about it before they start?
    • How old do you think most people are when they start?
  3. Why do you think people continue using tobacco once they have started?
    • Do most people want to stop?
    • Why or why not?
    • If they do want to stop, why don’t they?

Take notes on a flip chart or white board about the different reasons people give. See if you can agree as a group on at least three reasons people choose to use.

Activity: An Honest Tobacco Advertisement

1. Now that young people have learned about many of the ingredients in tobacco products and what these products can do to the body, it’s their turn to make an ad…a truthful one. Show some sample advertisements for cigarettes from magazines, the Internet or other sources. Talk about the meaning of the ads with the youth – or have them talk about it in small groups.

Here are some questions to use as a guide:

  • How is this company trying to get you to buy or want their cigarettes?
  • Who is the intended audience for this ad? How do you know who the intended audience is?
  • Do you think that having or not having the cigarettes will make a difference in your life?
  • Do you know anything about cigarettes that the advertisement is not telling you?
  • Do you think this ad would make someone want to use their product?

2. Have young people discuss what a truth-telling ad for cigarettes would look like.

3. Decide what format to use – print or video or audio – and have the youth work in teams to create their own honest ads.

4. Share the ads with one another and with others if there is a place to display them.


Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing the negative effects and consequences of using tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Blowing smoke: understanding the effects of tobacco and e-cigarettes

Additional Instructor Resources

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

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:

Get the Facts: Know Your Food Label

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how using the Nutrition Facts label helps them make healthy food choices. They will practice reading food labels, looking for calories, ingredients, and daily value percent’s.


Understanding and using the Nutrition Facts label is an important step in helping young people fight obesity and prevent health problems later in life. By reading labels, young people will become more aware of what’s in the foods they eat. They will also get the information they need to make healthful food choices and establish good eating habits for life.

Show the youth the FDA’s “The Food Label & You” video. (Teacher to select entire video or any of the individual segments to show.)

Activity: Reading Nutrition Labels

Pass out two to three nutrition facts labels to each young person or group.

Ask the youth to take a few minutes to do the following:

Locate the Nutrition Facts label for your food item(s).

  • Find the Serving Size and Servings Per Container. Remember: all of the nutrition information on the label is based on one serving of the food. A package of food often has more than one serving!

  • Find the calories. They are the “fuel” our bodies need for our daily activities.

  • The calories listed are for one serving. Tell the youth that many people don’t even realize how many servings they are eating.  Remind young people that for the most part calories are good.

  • Find the Total Fat grams (g) for one serving. Under Total Fat, find the grams (g) of Saturated Fat. The grams (g) of Saturated Fat are part of the Total Fat grams (g). To keep our hearts healthy, it is important that we are aware of how much Total Fat (especially fats that are not good for our hearts such as Saturated Fats and Trans Fats) we are eating. We want to eat less of these nutrients.

  • Find the % of daily value. The percent of daily value shows how the amount of a nutrient fits into a 2,000 calorie diet.  Individual calorie needs will vary based on age, sex, size and activity level. The 5/20 rule says that if a food has 5% of daily value then it is low in that nutrient. If it has 20% of daily value then it is high in that nutrient. This can be good or bad depending if it is a nutrient that you want to have more of, such as calcium, iron, or less of, such as cholesterol or fat.

  • Ingredients: This shows the order of ingredients found in the food product from the most to least. This is where you will find if a food product is made from whole grains, has added sugars, and/or other ingredients that may have a positive or negative impact on your overall health.

Call on young people or groups and have them share their findings with the others.


Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish so that families can practice reading food labels and discuss good eating habits at home.

Additional Instructor Resources

Create Your Own Healthful Snack

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people think of healthful snacks they can eat. In this two-day activity, youth will use their creativity to invent a healthful snack and market it to their peers.

Instructor Notes

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

  • Kids often view snacks as a bag of chips, cookies or candy. In doing so, they are missing an opportunity to get much needed nutrients through planning ahead for a healthful snack choice.
  • Snacks should be part of a healthy diet that helps kids to refuel between meals and satisfy their hunger.
  • Their snack choices are often influenced by catchy names and marketing strategies geared toward kids.


Display a variety of food packaging for the youth to review. Ask the kids to name some of their favorite snacks. Analyze the snacks they mention, as well as the ones on display, and decide as a group if they are healthful. Do they include the five food groups found on MyPlate? Are they high in sugar, fat or salt?



Activity: Day 1

Tell the youth that they will be inventing their own made-up healthful snack. They will have the opportunity to use their creativity to invent a made-up healthful snack on paper. This will include naming their product, what it looks like and its packaging (including a nutrition facts label). They will decide the pricing and marketing/advertising strategy for their snack. They will then give a brief presentation/commercial promoting their product idea to their classmates.

Provide the youth background knowledge on inventing a healthful snack item. Remind them to consider factors that would make the item healthful or unhealthful. Encourage young people to think about MyPlate as they create their snacks. Does it have ingredients that are part of the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein)? Is it low in fat and added sugars and/or too much salt?

Feel free to share the following made-up snack ideas to help jump start their imaginations.

  • “Merry Cherry Salsa” – Salsa made from a variety of fruits instead of vegetables.
  • “Popping Corn” – Popcorn coated with something healthful and not butter.
  • “Apriana Bars” – Bar made with apricots and bananas.
  • “Blick” – Fruit smoothie drink named after Blake and Nick, “You’ll never get sick with Blick,” was their slogan.

Provide each young person or group with white poster board, blank nutrition facts label, scissors, colored paper, colored markers and/or pencils for drawing.

When their created snack item is complete it should include the following:

  • Attractive packaging
  • Ingredient list
  • Nutrition Facts label
  • Price
  • Marketing slogan and/or advertising campaign

Activity: Day 2

Have the young people present their healthful food product to the class.

Ask the following questions:

  • What is the name of your product?
  • How would you describe it – taste, texture?
  • Which of the food group(s) did you use?
  • Why do you consider it to be a healthful snack?
  • Describe the packaging you created for the product.
  • What are highlights from the Nutrition Facts label?
  • How much does your product cost?
  • What is your marketing pitch or slogan for the product?

Optional: Post creative healthful snack displays in the classroom or school cafeteria.


As a group, reflect back to the creative snacks that the youth invented. Remind young people that they can be creative with their snacks each day to make healthful eating more fun!

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can continue discussing healthful snack ideas at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Healthy snacking: Moving beyond milk and cookies

Snacking made easy!

Looking for a quick and healthy after-school snack?

Additional Instructor Resources

Are You a Smart Snacker? – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)
There Are Sneaky Sugars! – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)
What Kind of Sugar is in Your Food? – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)
Make Your Calories Count

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)