Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Food – What's in It for You?
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Learners will describe what constitutes good nutritional practices, compare their own eating patterns to these practices and encourage others to improve their own eating habits. They will determine the value of acting on behalf of others and decide if their actions can make a difference in the school.


Four Forty-Five Minute Class Periods


The learner will:

  • define and use the vocabulary of nutrition and healthful eating.
  • interpret The USDA My Plate recommendations for healthy eating.
  • describe the role of major nutrients and dietary components in maintaining healthy bodies.
  • estimate what recommended portion sizes look like without being measured.
  • analyze the role of empty calories on body size and health.
  • define philanthropy and determine how students can improve the common good through volunteer action.

    Service Experience:

    Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
    Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

    Learners will make a list of "Ten Tips for Healthy Eating" and share the information with other learners through public address announcements, skits, raps, posters, newspaper articles or other techniques.


    • Learner journals
    • Learner copies of Handout 1: Journal Entry #1
    • Teacher copies of Handouts 3 and 4, optional
    • Projected image of the USDA website
    • Learner copies of Handout 5: Fast Food Nation, optional
    • Learner copies of Handout 6: Kids Gobbling Empty Calories, optional
    Handout 1
    Journal Entry #1
    Handout 3
    Nutrition Information
    Handout 4
    Six Major Nutrients
    Handout 5
    Fast Food Nation
    Handout 6
    Kids Gobbling Empty Calories

    Instructional Procedure(s):

    Anticipatory Set:
    Say, "Let’s think about food. What did you eat and drink yesterday?" Hand the learners a copy of
    Attachment One: Journal Entry #1 and ask the students only to record meals, snacks and beverages they ate yesterday.

    • Once the learners have recorded their food intake, present background information on the USDA My Plate nutrition guidelines. Go to the USDA website http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/. Share the information about food groups, portion sizes and nutrients, and have learners take notes on the information provided there.
    • UsingHandout 1: Journal Entry # 1, have students complete the Food Group Tally at the bottom of the page and compare their totals to the FDA recommendations by placing a + or – after their totals. Explain that combination foods like pizza and macaroni and cheese will have whole or partial servings from more than one food group.

    • Using Handout 4: Six Major Nutrients, or another source, present information on the six major nutrients and their purposes in our bodies. Instruct students to place the first letter of each major nutrient in the food group(s) where those nutrients will be found. This will give the learners information on the nutrients for subsequent lessons. Learners can refer back to USDA's My Plate and see how poorer diets will affect a person’s health.

    • Arrange the learners into teams of three. Direct them to go on-line and complete a search related to the topic "Teens and Empty Calories". (An option, if going on line is not possible, is to distribute copies of Handout 5: Fast Food Nation and Handout 6: Kids Gobbling Empty Calories.) Ask the teams to read an article and come up with three to five major concerns about nutrition that were expressed in their article. After the teams have had enough time to complete the task, return to a whole group and let the teams report. As their concerns are stated, list them on the chalkboard or projector.

    • From the concerns derived from the articles, ask the learners to create a list of "Ten Tips for Healthy Eating."

    • Once the list is complete, ask the learners to make recommendations on how the list could be put to good use to improve the eating habits and health of others in the school. Recommendations may include public address announcements to the student body in the form of a rap or skits, posters each reflecting a tip which could be displayed in the lunchroom, or short speeches or newspaper articles which could be shared with other learners in the school. Discuss whether or not taking such action would be worthwhile, have value to others and be something that learners could do to make a difference.

    • Put the term "philanthropy" on the board. Define philanthropy as "giving and sharing, volunteering and private individual action intended for the common good." Ask the learners to decide if they, as students and as a volunteer group, can act for the common good.

    • Make a plan for carrying out the selected task related to the "Ten Tips for Healthy Eating" and carry through on it. Remind the learners of the importance of acting with sensitivity to their audience in completing their tasks.


    The completed projects can be used as an assessment of learning.

    Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

    Students could continue looking at the quality of their food intake by keeping a record of their food consumed for an entire week. They should check possible nutrient needs and ways to improve their personal diets by consulting their My Plate notes. What food group quantities should be increased or decreased?

    Bibliographical References:

    Lesson Developed By:

    Sherrie Zagorc
    Mentor School
    Mentor High School
    Mentor, OH 44060


    Handout 1Print Handout 1

    Journal Entry #1




    Directions: Record the foods you ate yesterday. Be sure to include beverages consumed.

















    Directions: After the food pyramid class discussion, complete the following:

    Food Tally

    How many foods did you eat from the following food categories? If you were "at or above" the recommended quantities from the group, give yourself a plus (+) after the number recorded. If you were below the recommendation, give yourself a minus (-) after the number recorded. Example: fats, oils, and sweets: 6 +

    fats, oils and sweets ______________

    milk, yogurt and cheese _____________

    meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts group ____________

    vegetables ____________

    fruit group ____________

    bread, cereal, rice and pasta __________

    Handout 3Print Handout 3

    Nutrition Information

    Serving Sizes compared to common objects 

    Visual Cue

    Approx. Size


    Woman’s fist or baseball

    1 cup

    Green salad,

    frozen yogurt,

    med. piece of fruit,

    baked potato

    Tennis ball

    ½ cup




    1 oz

    Cut fruit,



    pasta, rice

    Pretzels or

    snack food

    Golf ball or

    Large egg

    ¼ cup

    Dried fruit,

    like raisins


    3 oz

    Meat, poultry

    Check book

    3 oz

    Grilled fish


    1 oz


    6 dice

    1-1/2 oz


    Thumb tip

    1 tablespoon


    1 dice

    1 tsp





    Handout 4Print Handout 4

    Six Major Nutrients

    To function, the human body must have nutrients. The nutrients known to be essential for human beings are proteins, carbohydrates, fats and oils, minerals, vitamins and water.


    Proteins are made of amino acids, small units necessary for growth and tissue repair. Protein is the body’s most plentiful substance except for water and, possibly, fat. Animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, milk and eggs are rich in protein. Good plant sources of protein are beans, peas, nuts, bread and cereals. Combining plant sources, such as peanut butter with whole-grain bread or rice with beans, provides excellent protein. So does combining plant and animal sources such as cereal and milk or macaroni and cheese.


    Starches and sugars are carbohydrates, the main source of the body’s energy. Carbohydrates account for about half of the calorie intake for most Americans and up to four fifths of the calories in diets of African and Asian peoples. Carbohydrate-rich foods are also the main sources of protein for most of the world. Rice, wheat, corn and potatoes are common rich sources of carbohydrates.

    Sugars are not essential foods. They provide energy (calories) but no nutrients. For that reason sugar is called an "empty calorie" food. Occasional sweets are not harmful to a healthy, active person, but excessive sugar can lead to tooth decay when eaten between meals, especially in sticky snack foods that cling to the teeth.

    Fats and Oils

    Fats and oils (liquid fats) are a concentrated source of energy. Fats in the diet are necessary for good health. They make certain vitamins available for use in the body, they cushion vital organs, they make up part of all body cells and they help to maintain body temperature. Fats also delay pangs of hunger because a food mixture containing fat remains longer in the stomach.

    Nutritionists distinguish between different types of dietary fats, or fats in food. Saturated fats usually are solid in form and of animal origin. In many typical diets, meat fat is the main source. It is known that saturated fats can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a natural waxy substance made by the body. It helps to form digestive juices and does other important work. It is present in the body no matter what is eaten. When the body cells cannot absorb any more cholesterol, any excess begins to accumulate in the walls of the blood vessels and gradually narrows them. This condition may lead to a heart attack or stroke.


    Minerals are neither animal nor vegetable; they are inorganic. Almost all foods contribute to a varied intake of essential minerals. Most minerals are easy to obtain in quantities required by the body. A major exception is iron for children under age four, adolescent girls and women in the childbearing years. These groups need more iron than a normal diet may provide. Iron helps to build red blood cells. It also helps the blood carry oxygen from the lungs to each body cell. Rich sources of iron are meat, especially liver, egg yolks and dark green vegetables.

    Everyone at every age needs calcium. This mineral builds bones and teeth, and it is necessary for blood clotting. The best sources are milk and hard cheese. Others are leafy greens, nuts and small fishes--such as sardines--with bones that can be eaten.

    Phosphorus works with calcium to make strong bones and teeth. A diet that furnishes enough protein and calcium also provides enough phosphorus. Other important minerals are sodium, potassium, iodine, magnesium, zinc and copper.


    All living things need vitamins for growth and health. The body either cannot manufacture them at all or cannot normally manufacture them in sufficient amounts, and so must absorb them from food. Each vitamin has specific roles to play. Many reactions in the body require several vitamins, and the lack or excess of any one can interfere with the function of another.

    Fat-soluble vitamins

    Four vitamins--A, D, E and K--are known as the fat-soluble vitamins. They are digested and absorbed with the help of fats that are in the diet.

    • Vitamin A is needed for strong bones, good vision and healthy skin. It is found both in dark green and yellow fruits and vegetables.
    • Vitamin D is essential for children because it helps calcium and phosphorus to form straight, strong bones and teeth. With direct sunlight on the skin, the body can manufacture its own vitamin D. Infants and young children often need a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is added routinely to most milk during processing.
    • Vitamin E helps to protect Vitamin A and red blood cells. It is found in a wide variety of foods, and almost everyone gets enough.
    • Vitamin K is one vitamin that is made within the human body--by bacteria that live in the intestinal tract. Small amounts are found as well in the green leaves of spinach, kale, cabbage and cauliflower and also in pork liver.

    Fat-soluble vitamins can be stored in the body for long periods. They are stored mostly in the fatty tissue and in the liver.

    Water-soluble vitamins

      • The vitamin B group of several vitamins helps to maintain healthy skin and a well-functioning nervous system. B vitamins also help to convert carbohydrates into energy.
      • Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is needed for building the connective tissue that holds body cells together. Vitamin C is essential for healthy teeth, gums and blood vessels. It also helps the body to absorb iron. These water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body for long. Good sources should be eaten every day.


    In order to live, every cell in the body must be bathed in water. Water takes an active part in many chemical reactions and is needed to carry other nutrients, to regulate body temperature, and to help eliminate wastes. Water makes up about 60 percent of an adult’s body weight. Requirements for water are met in many ways. Most fruits are more than 90 percent water.



    Simple Classification of Dietary Components




    To provide body fluid and to help regulate body temperature


    As fuel for energy for body heat and work


    As fuel for energy and essential fatty acids


    For growth and repair


    For developing body tissues and for metabolic processes and protection


    For metabolic processes and protection

    Indigestible and unabsorbable particles, including fiber

    To form a vehicle for other nutrients, add bulk to the diet, provide a habitat for bacterial flora and assist proper elimination of refuse



    Handout 5Print Handout 5

    Fast Food Nation

    Life is more hectic than ever -- between school, sports, clubs and friends, who has time to think about what to eat? Time for plan B: fast food. "Fast food is easy," said Sarah Hudson, a 14-year-old from Portland, Maine, enjoying a snack at McDonald’s. "It’s quick and it tastes good." She figures she eats fast food about twice a week. "As long at it tastes good and it fills you up then that’s all I care about," said her friend Ryan Bell, 13. "We buy it because it tastes good. If they made healthy food I doubt we would buy it."

    The average American now consumes about three hamburgers and four orders of french fries every week. That’s 90 grams of fat and 2,520 calories. The average person needs about 2,000 calories for a whole day. Most Americans know that fast food isn’t exactly good for them, but can’t quite seem to break the habit. In fact, consumption of high-fat fast food is increasing, in part because fast food restaurants are an inescapable part of American life.


    According to Fast Food Nation, a book by Eric Schlosser, 96 percent of American schoolchildren can identify Ronald McDonald. The only fictional character with a higher degree of recognition is Santa Claus. Schlosser says it’s nearly impossible to overstate the impact of the fast food industry on the nation’s culture, economy and diet. "McDonald’s Golden Arches," he writes, "are now more widely recognized than the Christian cross."


    Considering America’s love of the french fry, it’s no surprise that kids are getting bigger. The percentage of children and teenagers who are overweight has tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One-third of overweight students are so heavy they will probably have serious health problems later in life.

    Of course it’s not just young people who are getting heavier – it’s all Americans. U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, is so concerned about childhood obesity that he has declared it an "epidemic." "We see a nation of young people seriously at risk of starting out obese and dooming themselves to the difficult task of overcoming a tough illness," he said.

    He’s not talking abut kids who are chubby or a little plump. These are kids who are more than 20 percent above their ideal weight – kids whose weight makes it hard for them to move around, get up stairs and even breathe.

    Doctors are finding that more and more severely overweight children have medical problems such as a fatty liver, a precursor to liver disease, high blood pressure, and an increasing likelihood of Type 2 diabetes. In addition, obese children are becoming prime candidates for heart attacks and strokes even while in their teens.

    Researchers say it’s important to realize that obesity is a health problem -- not a judgment about how people’s bodies should look. Everyone has their own idea about how they like to look, but

    nobody wants to have a heart attack. How can you tell if you are overweight, obese or just about right? Doctors usually calculate your body mass index (BMI), a number based on height and weight. Ideal weight is usually given in a range of at least 15 pounds. If you have a small frame, you should probably be toward the bottom of the range, and, logically, the opposite for bigger people. If you are more than a few pounds above your ideal weight, you are overweight. But if you are more than 20 percent above your ideal weight, you are obese. That means your weight could start to endanger your health.

    The Corporate Effect

    Weight is strongly influenced by genes -- you are more likely to be heavy if your parents are heavy. But, there is something you can do. Doctors say the most important way for kids and adults to lose weight is to change their eating habits. That means finding an alternative to all-night pizza delivery, convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

    Sometimes it’s even hard to find nutritious food in school, where many cafeterias have been replaced with mall-style food courts. Many schools across the country have also signed contracts with soft drink companies like Coke and Pepsi. The schools agree to install soda machines and usually guarantee a set number of sales. In return, the soda companies give the schools some of the money that collects in the machines. Schools often use the money from these contracts for teacher salaries and special programs, but such contracts often require schools to sell as many as 50 sodas per student per school year.

    Recent studies by the US Agriculture Department now link obesity to soft drink consumption for the first time. The studies show that students drink soda instead of eating healthy meals, and then eat more food later because they are not filled up. So students are drinking more sugar and syrup and eating more food than they would if they just ate a regular lunch.

    The critics’ voices have been heard. In the past few weeks Coca-Cola announced they will add water and juice to their school soda machines and will discourage exclusive contracts. Pepsi executives said they plan similar changes.

    Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced legislation that will allow the federal government to more tightly restrict school soft drink sales. "Taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars for a federal school lunch program, but many kids are filling up on empty calories," said Senator Leahy. "That’s what has to change."

    Physical Education

    And if that wasn’t enough, there’s one more thing nudging kids toward the top of the scale: the extinction of gym class. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that from 1991-1997 daily participation in physical education dropped from 42 percent to 29 percent, and that almost half of all teens ages 12-21 get no vigorous exercise on a regular basis.

    Schools across the country are trying to make gym class more fun by adding activities like rollerblading, rock climbing or treadmill running. Only Illinois requires daily gym class for grades K-12 but many health groups are pushing for more required P.E.

    As doctors, teachers, parents and kids try to work on developing healthy eating and exercise habits, there’s also the danger that some kids will go too far. Many kids of normal weight seem to think they’re fat -- and can develop eating disorders that are just as dangerous to their health as diabetes and stroke.

    -Contributed by Jan Simmonds,






    The Obesity Epidemic

    Fast Food Nation

    Handout 6Print Handout 6

    Kids Gobbling Empty Calories

    Teens are eating 150 more calories a day in snacks than they did two decades ago. And kids of all ages are munching on more of the richer goodies between meals than children did in the past. These latest findings have national nutritionists, weight-control experts and concerned parents wondering whether snacking has run amok in the USA, contributing to the rising obesity rates of children. Researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill analyzed government data on the eating habits of more than 21,000 children, ages 2 to 18, from 1977 to the mid-1990s and found:

    • Kids are consuming 25% of their daily calories between meals, compared with 18% in 1977. That means kids are eating about a meal’s worth of calories from snacks.
    • Teens have increased their munching from 1-1/2 snacks a day in 1977 to almost 2.
    • Teens are getting about 610 calories a day from snacks, compared with about 460 calories a day in 1977.
    • The snacks that kids are eating are more energy-dense — that is, richer foods packed with more sugar, fat and calories an ounce than snacks that kids ate 20 years ago. Kids today might be more likely to have French fries and a Coke for a snack, for instance, instead of a cookie and a glass of milk.

    All of this is a "potential trigger for obesity," says Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition at the School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. In fact, childhood obesity is skyrocketing. About 20% to 25% are either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, the government says.

    Snacks can be an important part of a balanced diet, especially for young children, nutritionists say. But for many families, snacks have replaced the three square meals a day because of hectic after-school schedules, early school lunch hours and unpredictable dinner times, experts say.

    People snack when they’re rushed, bored, anxious. They nibble when they’re watching TV and on the computer, while they’re sitting at their desk, when they arrive home from school and have nothing to do. "Snacking has become an ingrained part of American culture," says Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientist for Weight Watchers International. Snacking has become such a habit that some kids nibble around the clock. "Kids go to a soccer game for an hour, and someone brings a snack. They go to preschool for two hours, and 15 minutes of that is having a snack. We’ve ingrained the snacking habit into our children from a very, very young age. And in some ways, I think, we are doing them a disservice," Miller-Kovach says.

    For many kids, "snacking has become a leisure activity," says Keith Ayoob, a pediatric nutritionist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "They are eating because it’s there. "Snacking per se is fine," he says. "Unfortunately, the foods kids are eating today aren’t delivering as much nutrition as they should, but they are packing a big punch when it comes to calories."

    A 9-year-old patient recently told Ayoob that when he comes home from school, he eats a smorgasbord of snacks: chips, cookies, snack cakes, sodas. Another female patient told him she buys tasty treats on the walk home from school, and several teens told him they grab fast-food meals as snacks.

    Portion distortion is a problem, says Ayoob, a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. "A serving of soda used to be considered 6 ounces at 85 calories. Now it’s 16 or 20 ounces at 250 calories. "I see teens who can polish off several of these sodas every day, and they are getting a lot of wasted calories with no real nutrition."

    Miller-Kovach says young people today don’t have an idea of portion sizes because they’ve only lived in the era of supersizing. "Kids used to eat a small bowl of cereal. Now it’s a mixing bowl," she says. "As meals get bigger, so do snacks. What was previously considered a meal is now consumed as a snack."

    None of this surprises teens, who say their peers are piling on the calories between meals.

    Joel Holland, 16, of McLean, Va., says, "Teens are constantly snacking. I have one friend that every time I see him he’s eating. His locker is loaded with soda, chips, cookies. I can’t think of any guys who eat fruit — apples or oranges. They eat bags of chips."


    By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY


    Philanthropy Framework:


    Jo Ann, Teacher – Santa Ana, CA9/2/2007 1:06:06 PM

    This sounds like a wonderful lesson. I have been looking for something like this for a while.

    Michele, Educator – San Francisco, CA2/12/2008 11:55:51 PM

    This is an awesome lesson plan! I've looked at several plans online, and nothing really jumped out at me. I love this one! Thanks!

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