What’s My Portion Size?

Lesson Overview

Foods commonly eaten by kids are typically served in larger portions than what their bodies really need. This lesson uses MyPlate to help young people recognize how much of a meal should come from each food group. The youth will compare healthy portion sizes to common items.

Instructor Notes

Foods commonly eaten by kids are typically served in larger portions than what their bodies really need. Often it’s the foods high in less desirable nutrients (fat, sugar and sodium) that are served as the largest portion. Fruits and vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber are usually given the least emphasis. The impact of this distortion of portions over time could impact health by contributing to obesity and increased risk for chronic (long-lasting) diseases.


Show the youth the baggie with 1 cup of cereal in it. Then show them the baggie with 2 cups of cereal in it.

Ask the young people which portion looks like the amount they would pour in their bowl. Is it the single serving, double or possibly adding the two baggies together, which would represent three servings.

Display the three different sized bowls and ask the class what size bowl do they use when they eat cereal? It is easier to eat more than we need when we are using large portion bowls.

Pour cereal from box into each bowl and then measure how many servings actually fit into each bowl.

Ask the young people, what are some other foods that they would likely eat more than one serving at a time? Examples: macaroni and cheese, ice cream, chicken nuggets, chips/snack crackers.

Activity: MyPlate

Introduce the youth to MyPlate. Show MyPlate graphic or use our Interactive Whiteboard activity (see What You Need) to talk about MyPlate. Explain to the youth that it is important for our bodies to get the right balance of foods so we can stay strong and healthy as we grow. If we get too much of one kind of food and not enough of another, our bodies could end up getting sick or not growing the right way.

Show them how certain foods have a place on MyPlate.

Ask the youth why they think fruits and vegetables take up 1/2 of the plate.

  • These foods give us lots of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber) for our bodies so we want to make sure we are eating enough of them.

Now, let’s practice and see if we can match the different food group items to their recommended portion size. Ask the youth: What are some of the ways to get just the right portion of a food item the next time we eat a meal or snack?

  • Use the ChooseMyPlate.gov Food Gallery to see portion sizes visualized. (See links below).
  • Use common items such as a DVD/CD or a tennis ball to help us with our portion sizes.
  • Include fruits and vegetables more often because they are the foods we want to eat the most. If time permits, use the ChooseMyPlate.gov Food Gallery to come up with your own comparison of portion size to common objects.


Welcome additional ideas the youth have and encourage them to remember to often include fruits and vegetables with their meals and snacks.

Continuing the Conversation

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

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Portion sizes: What amount is ‘right’?

Additional Instructor Resources

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.


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 ChooseMyPlate.gov

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



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

Smart Snacking

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand how choosing healthful snacks is a habit that can benefit them every day as they grow. The youth will discuss their snacking habits and make a plan to switch out unhealthful snacks with healthful ones.

Instructor Notes

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

  • Snacks are foods we eat between meals to satisfy hunger and supply us with consistent energy. To lots of kids and teens, a snack is a bag of chips, some cookies or other high calorie, low nutrient food. Kids are eating more snacks than ever and their calorie intake from those snacks has nearly doubled over the last 30 years. Unfortunately, the extra snacking has contributed to individuals becoming overweight in our society.
  • Does that mean snacking is bad for kids? Definitely not! Snacking can help them stay focused at school and while doing homework, and give them a nutritious boost for the day.
  • When we think of healthful snack choices we should look to the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein).
  • Healthful snacks are ones that fit into the five food groups. For example, string cheese (dairy) and carrot sticks (vegetable). Potato chips may start out as a healthful vegetable but after processing, it becomes high in calories, fat and sodium.

Activity: Snacking Habits

  1. Ask the youth: What is a habit? A habit is something you do often or regularly, without even thinking about it.
  2. Ask young people to name some habits and write their answers on the board. Habits might include brushing teeth, cracking knuckles, biting nails, smoking or exercise.
  3. Ask young people to circle the habits that are good for you. Are there more unhealthful habits listed than healthful ones? Why? Possible answers might be:
    • easier to do unhealthful habits
    • harder to do healthful ones
    • healthful ones might need reminding or support from family or friends.
  4. Have each young person take out a piece of paper and pencil and ask them to write down up to five things that they eat on a regular basis for snacks. Give the youth time to write their answers. Invite young people to share what they wrote.
  5. Ask the youth, why do we eat snacks? When do we eat snacks? Can the snack choices you make over and over become a habit? How do you know if your snack choice is a healthful habit for you or one that is not healthful? Give them a few minutes to brainstorm and share their answers. Explain how foods that fall into the five food groups are healthful snacks and ones that we should choose regularly over unhealthful snacks.
  6. Ask young people to share what might be some consequences (results) of making unhealthful snack choices a habit over time. Possible answers might be:
    • extra weight
    • blocked arteries
    • heart disease
    • cancer
    • being tired.
  7. Open the Online Interactive Lesson and Activity. This helps you review the benefits of healthy snacking and gives examples of many snack foods from the five food groups. Young people can choose snacks from the food groups to build their own creative snack idea.
  8. Have the youth to create an action plan for choosing healthful snacks instead of unhealthful snacks on the My Pledge to Eat Right and Move More worksheet.


Ask the young people to identify someone (friend, family member, or teacher) to help support or remind them of their action plan to change their snacking habit.

Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can work together to plan smart snacks at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

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)
Check the Nutrition Facts Label! – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)

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

Power-Up With Snacks!

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people choose healthy snacks. The youth will color a worksheet and decide which foods are healthful choices.


Introduce the lesson by discussing the following questions with young people:

Why do we eat snacks?

  • Stop our stomachs from being hungry

When do we eat snacks?  

  • Between mealtimes

How do we know if a snack is healthful?

  • When we think of “Power-Up” snack choices we should think of how they might fit into the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy and protein). Snacks that keep our bodies strong and healthy can be tied to the five food groups.

Show food models or pictures as you explain the food groups. You may want to reference the MyPlate graphic as a guide. For example – baby carrots (vegetable), berries (fruit), pita bread (grains), string cheese (dairy), and hard-boiled egg (protein). As for potato chips and cheese balls, they maybe started out as a healthy vegetable or grain, but through processing, more than half of a serving becomes extra calories from added fats and sugars. Processing often adds extra salt to the food item too.

Ask the youth to share some examples of healthful snack choices versus unhealthful snack choices. Reinforce that we need to feed our bodies with healthful “Power-Up” snacks from the five food groups instead of snacks that won’t help to keep our bodies healthy and strong.

Open the Online Interactive Lesson and Activity. This helps you review the benefits of healthy snacking and gives examples of many snack foods from the five food groups. Young people can choose snacks from the food groups to build their own creative snack idea.

Activity: Healthful Snacks Coloring Sheet

Hand out the Healthful Snacks Worksheet. Give the young people a few minutes to color (or circle if time is limited) the healthful snacks on the worksheet. Take a couple of minutes to explain why the individual items are considered either healthful or unhealthful.


Continuing the Conversation

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

Health Powered Kids Blog(s)

Healthy snacking: Moving beyond milk and cookies

Snacking made easy!

Additional Instructor Resources

Sneaky Sugars Handout – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)
What Kind of Sugar is in Your Food? Handout – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)
Are You a Smart Snacker? Handout – (Russian) – (Somali) – (Spanish)

Portion Distortion

Lesson Overview

This lesson helps young people understand the importance of accurately estimating how much of a food they should eat. The youth will estimate portion sizes of snacks and compare to the actual serving size. To make estimating easier, they will compare portion sizes to common items.


To introduce this topic, share the following information with the youth. If desired, you can reference the Nutrition Facts label on this handout.

  • Average portion sizes of food and beverages in America have significantly increased over the past 20 years. Often the portion size of food and/or drink we have is enough for two or three people. This increase in portion size is changing what we think of as a “normal” portion.
  • A portion is the amount of food that you choose to eat for a meal or snack.
  • A serving is a measured amount of food or drink, such as one slice of bread or 1 cup (eight ounces) of milk.
  • Many foods that come as a single portion actually have multiple servings. The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods—found on the backs of cans, sides of boxes, etc. — tells you the number of servings in the container.
  • It is important for young people to understand that this distortion of portion sizes is causing us to think we can eat more of certain foods than our bodies truly need which can lead to being overweight or obese and an increased risk for chronic (long-lasting) disease.

Activity: What’s your portion size?

For this activity you will need a full bag of chips or box of snack crackers and two paper plates.

Any young person or instructor handling food should wash their hands prior to handling the food.

  1. On one plate, ask a volunteer to pour out the amount of snack they think one serving would be.
  2. Next, have him or her look at the Nutrition Facts label on the package. It tells you how many servings are in the package and what amount equals one serving size. Have the volunteer take out one serving size and put it on the other plate next to the plate with the serving size he or she thought might be one serving.
  3. Ask the youth to compare the two, and let them share their thoughts about it.
  4. What happens if we are always eating portions that are more than one serving and we start to think that a bigger portion of food is “normal?” Give the group time to answer. If we eat portions on a regular basis that are larger than our body requires we may gain excess weight or become unhealthy.
  5. Give a few examples of portion distortion:
    • A single serving of pretzels is 10 pieces, however many people will eat twice as many without realizing they’re eating a double portion.
    • Many brand name cereals list a portion as ¾ or 1 cup. If you were to pour out ¾ cup of cereal it would look rather small, especially if you use a typical cereal bowl.

Understanding portion sizes is an important component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Activity: Estimating Accurate Portions

  1. Show young people the Portion Distortion Slides/Quiz-Interactive Web Application.
  2. Ask them, what are some ways we can keep our portions within a single serving size? Possible answers might be:
    • Don’t eat snacks like chips or cookies right from the bag. Instead, put one serving size on our plate, close the bag, and put it away.
    • Look at the Nutrition Facts labels on foods more often so we know the actual serving size.
  3. Review the importance of understanding what is an acceptable portion size of the food they are eating.

Serving sizes are listed on the labels of most foods, so use the Nutrition Facts label to decide the amount that is right for you. For foods that don’t have a label, common items can be your guide to help you decide the right portion.

  • Deck of cards = 3 ounce serving of meat/protein
  • Tennis ball = serving of fruit or 1/2 cup ice cream
  • Fist = 1 cup serving vegetables and grains
  • Tip of thumb = dressings, butter or cream cheese
  • 4 dice = 1 ounce of cheese

If time permits, use the ChooseMyPlate.gov Food Gallery to come up with your own comparison of portion size to common objects.


Have young people write down the most surprising thing they learned about portion sizes today and post it on a visible area in the classroom or take home to post on their refrigerator.

 Continuing the Conversation

Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that young people can continue discussing healthy portion sizes with their families at home.

Related Health Powered Kids Blog

Portion sizes: What amount is ‘right’?

Additional Instructor Resources: