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.
  • Calculate calories burned from physical activities they recently did.
  • Make a Human Energy Balance Scale.


  • One Nutrition Facts panel (per student) for a food or drink they consumed in the previous week
  • "My Energy In and Energy Out" student activity sheet- one per student
  • Two index cards for each student (each card should be a different color)
  • Computer(s) with access to the Internet
  • Calculator- optional

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 go online to calculate the number of calories burned for physical activities they did the previous week. There are many Internet sites that include calorie calculators, but 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.

At the end of the lesson, students create a Human Energy Balance Scale using energy-related information about their own foods and beverages, and physical activities. The goal here is not for students to create exact balance but rather for them to see examples of Energy In and Energy Out in their own lives and how they can balance the calories they consume by burning calories through physical activity.


Note: Before the lesson, ask each student to bring in a Nutrition Facts panel from a food or beverage they consumed 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
    1. Energy In
    2. Energy Out
    3. Energy Balance
  2. Divide students into groups of five. In their groups, have students report which food or beverage item they selected.
  3. Distribute the "My Energy In and Energy Out" activity sheet.
  4. Have students guess which group member's food or beverage item contains the most Energy In (calories) per serving. Have them write their guesses on the activity sheet. Then have each group member report the actual number of calories per serving on his or her Nutrition Facts panel. How many guessed correctly?
  5. Remind students that, in addition to energy, many foods also give us nutrients that help us grow and contribute to our health. You may want to refer back to Lesson 2.2 for a list of nutrients that we want to "get plenty of" in our diet. Challenge each group to review the labels from all 10 foods and beverages to determine which of the foods also provides these nutrients.
  6. Are any foods high in both energy and the nutrients we need? How can students use this information as they make decisions about their diet?
  7. Ask students what is on the other side of the Energy Balance Scale (Energy Out). On the activity sheet, have each student list two physical activities they did in the previous week and the approximate number of minutes they did each one. Have students circle the activity they think used the most energy (burned the most calories) and present their choices to the rest of their group members. Once all group members have presented, challenge the group to guess which activity from all 10 burned the most calories. (You may want to refer back to information in Module 3 about vigorous and moderate activity).
  8. Direct students to an online calorie burning calculator such as the ones suggested in the Instant Expert section. Ask them to research and record the number of calories burned for the activities they listed. Which group members' activity burned the most calories? The least? What conclusions can students draw about the activity type or duration that burns the most calories? (You may want to point out differences between aerobic activities and other activities; between vigorous and moderate intensity aerobic; and between being active for 15 minutes vs. being active for 60.) How can they use this information as they are thinking about their Energy Out each day?
  9. Distribute the two different colored index cards to students. On one color card, ask students to write the name of their food or beverage and the Energy In (calories) per serving. (Make sure all students use the same color card for Energy In!). Then on the second card, have students write one of the physical activities they did, the number of minutes they did it, and its corresponding Energy Out (calories burned).
  10. Designate one side of the room Energy In and have half of the students stand on that side of the room holding up their Energy In cards. Designate the other side of the room Energy Out and ask remaining students to stand on that side of the room holding up their Energy Out cards.
  11. Tell students that their goal is to make a Human Energy Balance Scale in the middle of the room using themselves and the cards they're holding paired with one or more students from the other side of the room! Challenge them to come up with several ways to balance foods from the Energy In cards with physical activities from the Energy Out cards. They don't need to balance exactly, but they do want to try to be as close as possible. They can use as many or as few cards as they want. Once they have come up with several closely balanced models, have them switch cards. Students who were originally Energy Out should now hold up their Energy In cards, and vice versa. Try to get all students to be part of at least one Energy Balance model.
  12. Once students begin to see how Energy In and Energy Out balance work, add in your own "twists" to the Human Energy Balance Scale. Examples include
    1. What if you and your family are going on a big hike this weekend that will increase your Energy Out? You need more Energy In! Which foods or beverages could help you balance your scale?
    2. What if your soccer season ends and you aren't practicing for an hour a day anymore but you have the same Energy In that you did during the season? You will need extra Energy Out! What could you do to help you balance your scale?
    3. What if you skip breakfast and feel really tired when you are playing jump rope with your friends. You need more Energy In! Which foods or beverages could help you balance your scale?
    4. What if you break your arm and aren't able to do the same physical activities you usually do to get Energy Out. What can you do to help maintain Energy Balance?
  13. Finally, ask students how they can use the information from this lesson to help them maintain Energy Balance.


  • Have students design another game using the Energy In and Energy Out cards.

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