You Are What You Eat: Show What You Know

9, 10, 11, 12

Students examine their own eating habits, compare them to national health standards, and develop plans for improving them. Then they share their learning to promote a healthier community. Each student selects a single nutritional aspect to study and then creates an awareness poster about that for their school's cafeteria.

PrintTwo 50-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • analyze his or her eating habits and compare them to the dietary guidelines from one or more government agencies.
  • examine the school's lunch program and snack options in the building to determine if they are healthy.
  • advocate for healthy eating through a poster and/or contacting the school administration about offering healthier choices at school.
  • Internet access and computers for small groups
  • chart paper, markers,
  • writing paper, pencils
  • drawing paper, colored pencils, old magazines for cutting
  • health: the general condition of the mind and body
  • obesity: a medical condition where fat has reached a point of adverse effect on health; connected to poor diet
  • nutrition: process by which we use food to help us grow and maintain healthy bodies and minds
  • diet: food and drink consumed for survival 
  • whole grain: food made from the entire grain seed
  • refined grain: food made from only one of the three parts of a grain seed
  • processed food: food changed from its natural state for convenience or safety
  • portion size: the amount of food you should eat at one time

Ask youth to think about a food that is considered to be a healthy choice that they’d like to eat more often. Then ask them to think about foods that they currently eat that are not considered healthy that they want to eat less of. Have them write a pledge to change one thing in their diet to make it healthier.


Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "Nutrition in Schools Fact Sheets." These tips help youth organize efforts to get healthier snacks in the school: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans."

USDA. "Choose My Plate" Dietary guidelines by food group.


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Explain that the class will be learning about health over the next few meetings (nutrition, sleep, and exercise), and this session focuses on eating habits and diet. Give students copies or project on the board a copy of Handout 1: Good Health and Nutrition. Read through the facts together. Have the students rate their personal eating habits by holding up from one to five fingers (one is not healthy, and five is super healthy). Have the students use the same finger-rating system to show how they feel about the school cafeteria options (one is not healthy, and five is super healthy).

  2. Ask the students to share what they know about nutrition. On chart paper or the board, draw a three-column KWL chart. K (what we know), W (what we want to know), and L (what we learned). Ask students to brainstorm what they already know about healthy eating. Write their facts (or what they think they know) in the K column of the chart.

  3. Then ask the students to ask some questioins about nutrition and healthy eating. Write their questions in the W column of the chart. Some questions may be "How do you know how much to eat from each food group?" "Is it every okay to eat junk food?" or "Are vegetables healthier than fruits?" "What are some healthy snacks?" Ask the students if there are any facts they put in the K column that they are not sure about. If there are some questionable facts, write them in the W column. The W column provides some structure for student research. Assign the questions to students to research and find the answers to. When they have answers, they can write the new facts in the L column of the chart.

  4. Allow students time to do the research in pairs or small groups. The Bibliographical References provide some sites to get started. Tell all the students to explore books and the internet for information about nutritional guidelines: What should I eat each day to be healthy?

  5. After 20-30 minutes of research, bring the group together to share what they have learned. Add facts to the chart. Discuss the food groups and describe a day of balanced nutrition. Have the students tell about the healthy foods that students like.

  6. Have each student write down what they ate over the past 24 hours. Ask them to analyze whether they ate foods from all the food groups, and whether they eat a healthy, balanced diet. Challenge the students to look for places they could add some healthy choices, reduce portion size, or take out some unhealthy choices. Have each student write a reflection that describes how well they think they eat and what choices they can improve. This reflection is for their own benefit, and should not be graded.

  7. Assign students homework of finding the answers to the questions on Handout 2: Got Health?

  8. Day Two:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Using the questions from the homework sheet: Got Health?, play a quiz game like Jeopardy or Got Health Baseball. The students may work in teams and refer to their homework to answer the questions. Or compare student answers while discussing the facts learned.

  9. Tell the students that good health and healthy food choices are important to the whole community. When individuals are healthy, the community is healthy. Ask them what the government does to promote good health.(The government funds research and shares information with everyone through websites in the bibliography.) Ask why the government would do that. Ask what businesses, such as restaurants, stores, and food companies do to promote good health. Ask whether they do anything that promotes bad health. Tell the students that the nonprofit sector (volunteers and nonprofit organizations) also promote good health. Tell the students that they can also volunteer and take action to help others have access to good nutrition and nutritional information.

  10. Ask the students whether they think all the students at their school know how to make good nutritional choices. Discuss what they can do to teach others. They may come up with the idea to create posters that advertise for healthy foods and reasons for good nutrition. Or they may suggest that they could write a letter to the school administration about having healthy snack and lunch choices at school.

  11. Give the students art materials to create posters. Students, or groups of students, may each take a specific theme to emphasize. For example, one group may promote eating balanced nutrition in a poster, while another group promotes healthy dairy choices on a table tent. Another group may write letters asking for soda vending machines to be replaced with juice vending machines. Follow the students interests and enthusiasm to carry out the advocacy for healthy eating at school (or a local daycare or after-school program).

  12. The work time may extend into another class period or homework. When the students are done, have them each share their work with the class and reflecton how they feel about it. Observe the impact of the students' efforts over the next several week and discuss the results as they are observed.

Cross Curriculum 

Students create an informational poster or pamphlet to share with schools, after-school programs,and daycare centers. The goal of the piece is to teach youth about healthy choices and/or to ask the administration to offer youth heathy food options at school. Student work as a team to approach the administration and people responsible for the food program and vending machines at school. They share what they have learned about nutrition and ask the school to provide more healthy options and less junk food.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Explain why needs are met in different ways by government, business, civil society and family.
      2. Benchmark HS.6 Describe how the civil society sector is often the origin of new ideas, projects and innovation and social renewal.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.