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Servings and Choices

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Sonia Rahmati Clayton, PhD, Paula H. Cutler, BA, Martha S. Young, BFA, and Barbara Z. Tharp, MS.
Servings and Choices

© Cathy Yeulet.

  • Grades:
  • Length: 60 Minutes


Students document their individual eating habits and learn whether these dietary patterns meet their nutritional needs.

This activity is from The Science of Food and Fitness Teacher's Guide, and was designed for students in grades 6–8. Lessons from the guide may be used with other grade levels as deemed appropriate.

Teacher Background

Food provides us with the energy we need for our daily activities. However, to maintain an appropriate weight, we must balance the foods we eat with the energy we spend. In other words, Calorie intake must match Calorie expenditure. Many teenagers and children do not realize the importance of this balance.
As a result, their diets often include too many Calories.

When the body takes in too many Calories, part of the excess is stored as fat. When more Calories are used than are consumed, stored fat is burned to make up the energy difference.

This activity is designed to make students aware of the Calories they consume each day and to give them opportunities to compare their Calorie intakes and expenditures.

Objectives and Standards

Life Science

  • All animals, including humans, are consumers, which obtain food by eating other organisms.

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

  • Food provides energy and nutrients for growth and development. Nutrition requirements vary with body weight, age, sex, activity, and body functioning.

  • Regular exercise is important to the maintenance and improvement of health. The benefits of exercise include maintaining healthy weight.

Science, Health and Math Skills

  • Calculating

  • Comparing

  • Modeling

Materials and Setup

Materials per Student

  • Completed student sheet from “Total Energy Needs”

  • Writing paper and pen or pencil

  • Copies of student sheets (see Lesson pdf)


  • Students will need their estimates of daily Calorie needs. They will work individually on this activity.

Procedure and Extensions

  1. Distribute copies of the “Serving Savvy” student sheet. On a separate sheet of paper have each student list everything he or she would eat in a typical day, using the food items on the chart. OR have students write down everything that they eat in a 24-hour period. This list should designate meals: breakfast, lunch and/or dinner, plus snacks. Students should record both the type and amount of food, based on serving sizes given on the chart.

  2. Once students have listed their food intake for a day, ask them if they think their consumption will meet daily Calorie requirements for a typical boy or girl, as calculated in “Your Energy Needs.”

  3. Distribute copies of the “Serving Sizes and Calories” student sheet. Tell students they will use the chart to estimate how many Calories are in each item on their lists. Point out that the Calories listed are for specific amounts of each food item. If students have recorded more than one serving of an item, they should multiply the Calories for that item by the number of servings.

  4. Finally, have students add all the Calorie values they calculated for the day. Ask, Is this value higher or lower than you expected?

  5. Have students compare the daily Cal­orie needs, obtained from the “Total Energy Needs” sheet, to the total number of Calories calculated from their food lists. Ask, How many of you had the same number of Calories in your food list as the daily Calorie requirement? What food items had the most Calories? Were you surprised at the Calorie contents of any of the foods?

  6. Discuss with students the importance of balancing Calorie intake and expenditure. Ask students to think about how they could achieve this balance. Point out that it is not only what students eat, but also how much they eat, that determines their Calorie intake.

  7. Conclude by asking students, Are there any ways to improve your eating habits? Discuss changes they could make in either their daily activities or daily food intake. Collect or have students save their lists to use with “Your Nutrition Needs."


  • Have students access the “USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference” for Calorie values corresponding to foods not listed in the chart, at

Handouts and Downloads

Download color images from The Science of Food and Fitness Teacher's Guide.

Serving Sizes and Calories

Student sheet from the activity, "Servings and Choices," containing a list of foods with actual serving sizes and calorie counts.

Related Content

  • Food and Fitness

    Food and Fitness Teacher Guide

    Students examine their individual energy and nutritional needs, learn about calories and true portion sizes, and use what they've learned to create special dietary needs menus. (7 activities)


National Space Biomedical Research Institute

National Space Biomedical Research Institute

This work was supported by National Space Biomedical Research Institute through NASA cooperative agreement NCC 9-58.