There are many different types of sugar found in the processed foods we eat, especially packaged cereals. This third-grade lesson plan, from the Food for Thought nutrition curriculum, teaches students that the best choices in foods are those that contain no added sugar and are rich in dietary fiber.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn that many of their favorite brands of cereal have added sugar.
  • learn how to read the nutrition facts label on food packages.
  • learn about carbohydrates/sugars and fiber.
  • learn that when the amount of sugar is higher in a food, the amount of fiber is usually lower.

Teacher planning

Materials/resources

Teacher background information

The following resources are from the NETx — Nutrition Education of Texas website.

Names for sugar in foods
Make into an overhead transparency. Provided by Nutrition Services Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health and published in the Food for Thought curriculum.
Open as PDF (6 KB, 1 page)
Eating healthier and feeling better using the Nutrition Facts Label
Document courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Open as PDF (161 KB, 3 pages)
Food labels: Nutrient content claims
Document courtesy of U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Open as PDF (30 KB, 3 pages)

Materials

  • Nutrition facts labels from various whole-grain cereals, such as Total, Wheaties, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran, Nutri-Grain, Grape Nuts, Multigrain Cheerios, oatmeal, and Wheatena
  • Nutrition facts labels from sweetened and unsweetened varieties of the same type of cereal, such as Wheaties and Frosted Wheaties, Cheerios and Honey-Nut Cheerios, or Shredded Wheat, and Frosted Mini-Wheats

Handouts

Find the sugar
Provided by Nutrition Services Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health and published in the Food for Thought curriculum.
Open as PDF (18 KB, 2 pages)
Fiber in cereal
Provided by Nutrition Services Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health and published in the Food for Thought curriculum.
Open as PDF (15 KB, 2 pages)
Label logic
Provided by Nutrition Services Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health and published in the Food for Thought curriculum.
Open as PDF (20 KB, 1 page)

Pre-activities

A week before this activity, instruct students to bring boxes with nutrition facts labels from common cereals eaten at home.

Activities

  1. Use the overhead transparency of “Names for Sugar in Foods” and instruct students to determine the sugar content of a single serving of one cereal and identify the ingredients that signify the presence of sugar in the cereal. Using several boxes, instruct students to complete the table on the “Find the Sugar” handout and answer the first two questions.
  2. Using the “Eating healthier and feeling better using the Nutrition Facts Label,” “Food labels: Nutrient content claims,” “Carbohydrates,” and “Fiber” teacher resources, discuss how labels can help us choose healthy foods. This lesson focuses on ingredients, carbohydrates/sugars, and fiber.
  3. Discuss the following:
    1. The nutrition facts label lists calories and nutrients (fats, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals). They can be used to compare between foods.
    2. An ingredient is something that goes into a mixture or, in this case, something that goes into a food. The list of ingredients on a food product names all of the things put into a mixture to make the final food. The first ingredient on the label is the ingredient of which there is the most by weight in the product.
    3. Fiber is a plant material that adds structure and form to the plant. In your intestines, fiber absorbs water, adds bulk, and speeds up digestion.
    4. Carbohydrates give the body energy. On the nutrition facts label, carbohydrates include the total amount of natural and added sugars, while sugars are the amount of added sugar.
  4. Instruct students to complete questions three through seven on the “Find the Sugar” and “Fiber in Cereal” handouts. To ensure that whole-grain cereals are included, supplement the cereals brought by students with the nutrition facts labels from various whole-grain cereals, such as Total, Wheaties, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran, Nutri-Grain, Grape Nuts, Multigrain Cheerios, oatmeal, and Wheatena.
  5. Use the nutrition facts labels from sweetened and unsweetened varieties of the same type of cereal, such as Wheaties and Frosted Wheaties, Cheerios and Honey-Nut Cheerios, or Shredded Wheat and Frosted Mini-Wheats. Distribute and instruct students to work in groups to complete the “Label Logic” handout. The purpose of this exercise is to see what happens to the fiber content of breakfast cereal as the sugar content increases.

Assessment

Assessment can be made from the students’ completed handouts.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Healthful Living (2010)
      • Grade 3

        • 3.NPA.1 Apply tools (MyPyramid, Food Facts Label) to plan healthy nutrition and fitness. 3.NPA.1.1 Use MyPyramid to eat a nutritious breakfast each morning. 3.NPA.1.2 Check the Food Facts Label to determine foods that are low in sugar and high in calcium....
        • 3.NPA.2Understand the importance of consuming a variety of nutrient dense foods and beverages in moderation. 3.NPA.2.1 Identify the sources of a variety of foods. 3.NPA.2.2 Categorize beverages that are more nutrient dense. 3.NPA.2.3 Recognize appropriate...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.NPA.2 Understand the importance of consuming a variety of nutrient dense foods and beverages in moderation. 4.NPA.2.1 Compare unhealthy and healthy eating patterns, including eating in moderation. 4.NPA.2.2 Explain the effects of eating healthy and unhealthy...
      • Grade 5

        • 5.NPA.2 Understand the importance of consuming a variety of nutrient dense foods and beverages in moderation. 5.NPA.2.1 Summarize the influences of family, culture, and the media on food choices 5.NPA.2.2 Infer the benefits of limiting the consumption of foods...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Healthful Living Education (2006)

Grade 3

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply knowledge and behavior self management skills to areas of nutrition and physical activity for healthy growth, development, and maintenance.
    • Objective 4.02: Explain and analyze the nutrient and caloric information found on a Nutrition Facts label.