Energy Balance in Your Life

Students will examine the role that Energy Balance can play in their lives.


Students will

  • Examine and compare calories per serving and nutrient content in foods or beverages they recently consumed.
  • Compare calories consumed from foods or beverages consumed to calories burned from favorite activities.


  • One Nutrition Facts panel (per student) for a food or drink they consumed in the previous week
  • Post-it notes

Instant Expert

As students learned in Lesson 1.1, Energy Balance is the balance of the calories we consume through food and beverages (Energy In) with the energy we use through physical activities and daily body processes (Energy Out). In this activity, students look at Energy Balance as it relates to their own lives.

For the Energy In part of the lesson, students examine calories per serving and nutrients from foods or beverages they consumed in the previous week. As students examine their Nutrition Facts panels, they may realize that some foods and beverages give them a lot of energy but not as many nutrients. Or other foods don't provide as much energy but give them a significant percentage of the nutrients they need. This can lead to a discussion about the concept of balance in general. There are no good or bad foods! All foods can fit into a sensible, balanced diet. Knowing how much energy and what nutrients foods and beverages provide can help us make choices that lead to a sensible, balanced diet that's right for us!

For the Energy Out part of the activity, students are given a list of 5 activities and the number of calories burned when a 65- pound person does that activity for 30 minutes. If you want the class to research additional activities, you can go online to a calorie calculator. The one that is recommended is the MyPlate tracker at While registration is required to have full and ongoing use of the Tracker, students can bypass the registration requirement by clicking, "Check It Out no registration" at the lower left corner of the site. Students will need to enter their age, gender, height, and weight to get accurate calculations but they do not need to register. Another calorie burn calculator can be found at the Discovery Health site at On this site, students need to enter their weight and the duration of the activity to get accurate calculations. It is important to note that most calorie burning calculators will ask for weight in order to get an accurate calculation. If you have students who are sensitive about their weight, you may want to ask all students to enter the same average weight. For example, they could all enter 65 pounds rather than entering their own weight.


Note: Before the lesson, ask each student to bring in a Nutrition Facts panel from a food or beverage they ate or drank in the last week. If possible, have them bring the container or box the food came in.

  1. Ask student volunteers to review definitions for the following terms
    • Energy In
    • Energy Out
    • Energy Balance
  2. Ask each student to share what food or beverage they brought in. Have them share the food group and whether they ate the food/drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack.
  3. Direct students to the "calories" section of their food or beverages' Nutrition Facts Panel. Remind students that calories in foods and beverages tell us how much energy we can get when we eat or drink it. Ask them to identify the number of calories per serving in their food or beverage. Write down this number on a Post It note.
  4. In addition to energy from calories, many foods also give us nutrients that help us grow and contribute to our health. Direct students to read the Nutrition Facts Panel to see if their item also has
    • Vitamin A
    • Vitamin C
    • Iron
    • Calcium
    • Fiber
  5. Remind students that, even if their food/beverage does not have these nutrients, it can still be part of a balanced, sensible diet!
  6. Ask students if they remember what is on the other side of the Energy Balance Scale (Energy Out). List the names of the activities below on the board. Poll students to see which ones they like to do. Which one do they think takes the most energy? Write the numbers listed beside each activity. Explain to students that this number shows how many calories someone their age would use when doing this activity for 30 minutes (the length of most television shows!)
    • Jumping rope- 178
    • Soccer- 119
    • Riding a bike- 99
    • Dancing- 69
    • Arts and Crafts- 20
  7. Which is the highest energy activity? The lowest? Were they surprised?
  8. Remind students that we want to try to balance our Energy In (from foods and beverages) with our Energy Out (from activities). Refer back to the Post It note with the number of calories they consumed on it. This is their Energy In. Challenge each student to place his or her Energy In Post It note next to the activity (and related calories burned) that comes closest to the number on their Post It. For example, if they brought in cheese crackers that have 120 calories per serving, they would place their Post It Note next to "soccer" since they would burn 119 calories by playing soccer for 30 minutes.
  9. After all Notes have been placed, have students use tally marks or graphing to show a mathematical representation of their "scale." Which activity most closely balances the foods the class selected? How can students use this information as they make their diet and activity choices?


  • If students are able, add combinations of foods/calories together and have them repeat the game.

Family Connection

Sometimes we have family dinners, vacations or events where we consume more Energy In than we typically do. Have students talk with family members about how they can balance out these high Energy In days with fun family-friendly Energy Out activities!

Community Connection

Have students research community activities that relate to Energy In and Energy Out. These could include ethnic celebrations, festivals, races, community facilities, etc. Challenge students to come up with ideas for combining Energy In and Energy Out community events to help residents see the importance of balancing their energy.

Standards Connections

National Health Education Standards

  • Standard 4: Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health and avoid or reduce health risks.
  • Standard 5: Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.

National Reading/Language Arts Standards

  • Standard 5: Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • Standard 12: Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

National Physical Education Standards

  • Standard 3: Participates regularly in physical activity.
  • Standard 4: Achieves and maintains a health-enhancing level of physical fitness.
  • Standard 6: Values physical activity for health, enjoyment, challenge, self-expression, and/or social interaction.

National Science Standards

  • Life Science
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives