Healthy Food and Exercise

6, 7, 8

Students examine elements of healthy living, including a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Sessions

Learners will:

  • list healthy foods for each letter of the alphabet.
  • list the five categories of food listed on the USDA's My Plate
  • record and analyze their own eating and exercise for 24 hours.
  • count their heart rate before and after exercise.
  • practice and perform a simple dance routine.
  • teach the dance routine to others to promote healthy behaviors in the community.
  • copy of the My Plate(
  • 25 pieces of writing paper posted on classroom walls, each with a different letter on it (no X)
  • stopwatch or clock with second hand
  • student copies of My Healthy Eating Worksheet(Handout 1)
  • student copies of Food and Exercise Log (Handout 2)
  • recipe for Monkeysicles (Handout 3) plus ingredients: bananas, popsicle sticks, peanut butter (or soy butter if there are allergy issues), granola
  • paper plate, butter knife for spreading, napkins
  • Internet access (optional)
  • music (optional)
  • YouTube video of a dance routine(NOTE: There are other YouTube videos in this location that may be more appropriate for your class)
Teacher Preparation 
Session One:
The teacher will need to obtain the ingredients for the Monkeysicles in advance
Session Two:

Preview the dance video prior to the lesson to ensure that it is appropriate for your students.

  • calorie: a measurement used by nutritionists to define the energy-producing potential in food
  • food guide pyramid: a guide published by the USDA to help people understand the components of a healthy diet
  • health: the state of being in sound body, mind, and spirit
  • nutrition: the process of nourishing to maintain health and growth
  • exercise: planned physical activity for the purpose of conditioning the body, improving health, and maintaining fitness.
  • heart rate: the number of heart beats in 60 seconds

Students maintain a journal to reflect after each session.

Journal Questions 3: What foods do you like to eat? Are your food choices usually healthy? How do you feel when you eat foods that are good for you? How do you feel when you eat unhealthy food?

Journal Question 4: What is your favorite form of exercise? Explain why you like it.

Discussion: Remind students that the purpose of the program is the build healthy communities. After sharing the dance routine with others in the school, ask students to brainstorm ways to share their knowledge about health with the community. (Record their ideas for later reference when designing service projects.)


  1. Session One:

    Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10 minutes) Play A Is for Apple. In this game, students list as many healthy foods as possible by initial letter. Post 25 letter pages (A-Z, no X) around the room. Students with pencils or pens stand in the middle of the room. When the facilitator says, “go,” students run to any letter page and list healthy foods that begin with that letter. At the end of 30 seconds, the facilitator calls, “Change!” Students run to another letter, read the foods already on the list, and then add to the list. Students have 40 seconds for this round so they have time to read the lists. Repeat several more times, adding 10-15 seconds for list reading. Stop after 10 minutes. Read the lists together, crossing out duplications and unhealthy foods. Discuss whether some questionable foods listed are really healthy. For example, Is lasagna healthy? (Yes). Draw a line under the last entry. Then total the number of healthy foods students recorded. For reflection, ask, "How did you think of healthy foods when you got stuck for ideas?" (Possible answers: I pictured a green grocer’s vegetable display; I thought about the farmer’s market I went to over the weekend.) Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes) In this session, students assess how eating habits factor into health.

  2. On notebook paper, or in their journals, have students list everything they ate for dinner last night (including snacks after dinner) and for breakfast and lunch today. Also list all drinks, including water.

  3. Introduce students to the USDA Choose MyPlate published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The plate contains five food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy and Protein Foods. Talk about the foods in each food group and the size of the plate section for that food group. Explain that the bigger the portion of the plate, the more foods from that food group should be in their diet.

  4. Have students mark each item on their dinner list with the name of the food group(s) represented by the food. Some foods represent more than one group. For example, lasagna has items from the Protein, Dairy, Grain, and Vegetable groups. (Junk foods, such as soda, candy, and other desserts can be classified as "extras.")

  5. Have students compare their marked dinner lists to the Plate recommendations. Ask students to raise their hands if their dinner contained foods in each food group you name (name the five main groups one by one). Ask students whether they are eating a balanced diet (containing foods from all the good groups)and meeting their nutritional needs? Have students identify a food group they think they need to eat more from and a food group they need to eat less from.

  6. Refer to the USDA's My Plate and My Healthy Eating Worksheet to discuss the recommended daily servings and examples of each food group.

  7. Discuss portions, or serving sizes, for each food group. Examples: grains = one slice of bread or 1/2 cup of rice; fruit = one medium sized apple or ¾ cup of juice

  8. Tell the students that calories are units of energy and are found in our food and drinks. It’s important to consume enough calories so that our bodies have the energy they need to grow and function. But when we consume more calories than we burn, they are stored in our bodies as fat—and this can lead to a variety of health problems. The number of calories that each person needs varies based on factors like age, height, weight, and how much we exercise.

  9. Point out that exercise is an important component of healthy living. Tell students that exercise burns the calories in the food we eat.

  10. Distribute copies of Food and Exercise Log. Have students fill in the date (or dates) and list the foods they ate at each meal under the correct food group heading. You may want to have students begin with last night’s dinner and today’s breakfast and lunch to get one full day of meals in the log. Have students also record their physical activity and the time spend on that activity as well as the time spent watching TV or using the computer. Have students keep the logs in their journals or in special Healthy Communitiesfolders.

  11. Set up a station for making Monkeysicles (recipe on Handout 3) while they work on their logs. Allow students to make their own (1/2 a banana per student). As students enjoy the snack, discuss the food groups represented in the snack and whether it is a healthy snack (Fruit, Grain, Protein).

  12. Session Two:

    Anticipatory Set: (Estimated Time: 10 minutes)

  13. Ask students to take their pulse by placing the tips of their index and middle fingers on their opposite wrist. Tell them to count the number of heartbeats in 60 seconds (or count for six seconds and multiply the number by 10). Explain that this number is called our resting heart rate. Have students record the number.

  14. Next, have students stand on tiptoes with their hands on the backs of their chairs. Facilitator says, “Go!” and students run in place as fast as they can for 60 seconds. After running, students take their pulse again for 60 seconds. They record pulse rates.

  15. Ask the following reflection questions:

    • Whose resting heart rate was between 60 and 100? Explain that this is average.
    • What happened to your heart rate after one minute of running? (It went up.)
    • What other physical differences do you notice? (Students should also observe heavier breathing.)
  16. Explain that the heart is a strong muscle that pumps blood throughout the body. The harder the body works, the faster the heart pumps. Ask, “Do you think the heart works harder or not as hard if your body is physically fit? Why?” (Explain that the heart muscle works more efficiently when your body is physically fit. A strong and fit heart requires less energy and fewer beats per minute to pump blood throughout our bodies. A slower resting heart rate is an indication of a fit and healthy heart.)

  17. Focus Activity (Estimated Time: 35 minutes)

  18. Ask students why exercise is part of healthy living. (Answers may include physical activity strengthens our muscles, burns calories, and gives us energy.)

  19. Have the students wear good shoes or take off their shoes. Clear the desks so they have room to move. Play the video through once, and then pause the video after each section to give students time to practice the steps. Repeat until the class knows the whole routine. Practice the routine as a group.

  20. Tell students they will perform and teach the routine to other classes/groups in the school. Have students work in small groups to create raps to introduce the dance. Their raps should include information about healthy eating and the importance of exercise.

  21. Have groups perform their raps for the class. Work together to combine the raps to make one the whole class can perform. Rehearse the rap and dance.

  22. Arrange for students to perform their healthy-living rap and dance for other classes in the school.

  23. Have students add to their Food and Exercise Log. They fill in the date (or dates) and list the foods they ate at each meal under the correct food group heading. Have students also record their physical activity and time (including the half hour spent dancing during this session), and time spent watching TV or using the computer. Keep logs in journals or special Healthy Community folders.

Cross Curriculum 

Students share their exercise routine and healthy-eating tips with another classroom or group in their community.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.