Food and Energy

Students will learn how food and beverages give them the energy they need to work and play.


Students will

  • Be introduced to the role of calories in giving us energy.
  • Rank several foods and beverages by the amount of energy we could get from them.
  • Give reasons why one person might need more energy than another.


Instant Expert

This lesson introduces students to the first part of the Energy Balance equation Energy In! Humans need energy to survive -- to breathe, move, pump blood, and think -- and they get this energy from what they eat and what they drink. The energy in food and beverages comes from their calories. When we hear that something has 100 calories, that is a way of describing how much energy our body could get from eating or drinking it. Scientifically, a food Calorie (capital C) is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a liter of water 1 degree Celsius.

How many calories (energy) we need each day depends on several things: our gender, height, weight, age, and activity level. The recommended range for most school-aged kids is between 1600 and 2500 calories a day. (Source: School-aged children should not be counting calories. Instead they should understand that their bodies need calories for energy and that not eating enough calories may make them feel tired or even sick. They also need to be active every day so that "Energy In" from calories is balanced by "Energy Out" from activity. We call this "Energy Balance." Being in Energy Balance promotes normal growth and development. Eating more calories than they burn over time puts them out of Energy Balance. Eating fewer calories than they burn over time also puts them out of Energy Balance.


  1. As students enter the room, ask them to raise their hands if they think they have enough energy to dance for one minute. Enough energy to do 10 jumping jacks? Enough energy to take a math test? (To demonstrate the point, you may want to have students perform these or other tasks that require energy!)
  2. Ask students to think about the word "energy." What does it mean to them? Have each student name or show one thing they like to do that requires energy. In addition to being able to walk and run and jump, do students know what else we need energy for? Explain that humans need energy to survive. We need it to breathe, move, think, and pump our blood.
  3. Do they know where our energy comes from? (Hint: Ask students how they feel when they don't eat breakfast before a big game or long day of school? Why do they think that their parents or caregivers tell them to eat before they need energy?) That's because food and beverages give them the energy they need for everything they have to do. Without energy from food and beverages, they could not do all the things they love to do!
  4. Put the three foods/beverages at the front of the room (see materials list). Challenge students to guess which one would give them the most energy.
  5. Put the word, "calorie" on the board. What do students know about this word? Explain that a calorie is a unit of energy in food. The number of calories in a food or beverage tells us how much energy we get by eating or drinking it. When we eat or drink something, the calories change in our bodies to energy. Calories are important. They give us the energy we need to function each day.
  6. Refer back to the three foods. Using measuring cups and spoons, show students how much of each food or beverage they would consume to get the same amount of energy. For example, 100 calories of iceberg lettuce would be approx. 8 cups. 100 calories of raw peanuts would be approx. 1/8 of a cup. 100 calories of unsweetened apple juice would be approximately 1 cup. In this example, students would get the most energy from the peanuts. Then the apple juice. And finally the lettuce. You can even have students make guesses before showing them the measurements.
  7. Ask students if they know the number of calories they should eat or drink each day to get the energy they need. Explain that we all come in different shapes and sizes and the number of calories we need each day depends on our age, our weight, our height, our gender and how active we are each day. The average school age child needs anywhere from 1600 to 2500 calories per day. That range is pretty big! What might be the characteristics of a school-age child who needs 1,600? (Maybe someone younger, smaller or not very physically active). What would be the characteristics of someone who needs 2,500? (Maybe someone older, bigger or very physically active).
  8. Put the following pairs on the board and challenge students to guess which in the pair would need more calories (energy) each day, based only on gender, age and activity level.
    1. A two-year-old or a twelve-year-old.
    2. Someone who does less than 30 minutes of physical activity each day (sedentary) or someone who does at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day (active).
    3. An active nine-year-old boy or an active nine-year-old girl.
  9. Then have students go online to to find out the answers, or print out the worksheet ahead of time. Have students provide possible reasons for each answer.
  10. Finally, ask students again if they have the energy to dance for one minute, do 25 jumping jacks or take a math test. For those who do, ask them to name one food or beverage they consumed today that gave them this energy!


Family Connection

Have students go to and enter information into the calculator to see how many calories each family member needs in a day. Then talk about strategies to make sure most of those calories come from nutrient-rich foods.

Community Connection

Chain restaurants will soon have to feature calorie content about food selections on the menu. Have students look at the menus (found on the internet) from favorite restaurants to see if they include the calories of the items on the menu.

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.
  • Standard 6: Students will demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting 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 Science Education Standards

  • Science as Inquiry: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal health.

Additional Information

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