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Nutritional Supplements

Young people will understand that eating a variety of healthful foods is almost always the best way to ensure they get the nutrients they need, and that use of nutrition supplements could be harmful to them.


9-14 Years Old


30 Minutes

What You Need

  • Computer or other internet-enabled device
  • Poster Board/Magazines with food pictures/Scissors/Glue
  • Pictures of nutritional supplements such as protein powders/shakes/bars and vitamin/mineral bottles from the internet


Healthy Families Newsletter

English (pdf)

Spanish (pdf)

To find out how this health safety lesson fits Physical Education and Health Education standards click here.

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

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