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Basic Concepts: Energy Balance - It's Good to Be in Balance (3-5)



Theme: Basic Concepts
Sub-Theme: Energy Balance


Teacher Note

The three sub-themes in the Basic Concept theme should be taught in the following sequence:

  1. Physical Activity
  2. GO, SLOW, and WHOA Foods
  3. Energy Balance


Learner Objectives

Participants will:
  • Relate the concept of energy balance to their food consumption and physical activity levels






1. Discussion

  1. Ask participants to raise their hand if they’ve done a GO activity lately. Reinforce participants for a positive response. Ask participants to raise their hand if they’ve eaten a GO food lately. Reinforce participants for a positive response.

  2. Explain the idea of energy balance by saying or paraphrasing the following:

    Let’s think about balance. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen a see-saw in a playground.[As needed, describe a see-saw.] When two girls the same size are on the see-saw, what happens? (The board goes straight across.) The see-saw is balanced. What happens if one girl gets off and her big, tall brother takes her place on the see-saw? (That end of the see-saw goes down to the ground.) Now the see-saw is out of balance.

    Your body can be in balance or out of balance—but in a little different way than a see-saw is.

    What does your body need so it can grow, move, and do all the other things it does?(Food) Raise your hand if you’ve heard the word calories before. Food contains energy your body uses, and a calorie is a unit of food energy.

    Different foods contain different amounts of calories. For example, a small apple contains about 60 calories. So you take in about 60 calories’ worth of energy from eating it.

    Most GO foods contain fewer calories than SLOW and WHOA foods. That’s because GO foods usually contain less fat and added sugars—and fat and added sugars supply a lot more calories.

    Kids your age need from around 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day. When your body uses up all the calories in the foods you eat each day, it’s in energy balance. Doing lots of GO activities and eating mostly GO foods help your body stay in energy balance.

    What do you think happens if you take in fewer calories than your body needs? (Your body will get out of energy balance, and over time you may lose weight.)

    What do you think happens if you take in a lot more calories than your body needs and can use? (Your body will get out of energy balance, and over time you may gain weight.) You’re even more likely to gain too much weight if you don’t do enough GO activities or if you eat a lot of WHOA foods.


2. Game

  1. Tell participants they’re going to play a game to help them understand what can make their body get out of energy balance. Tell them that first they’re going to practice the exercises they’ll do during the game. Have them quickly practice each of the following:

    • Knee lifts
    • Jumping jacks
    • Arm circles
    • Invisible jump-rope
    • Toe touches


  1. Hold up one of the Food Cards, and say or paraphrase the following directions:

    I’ll call on kids one at a time to turn over one of these Food Cards.

    They’ll read the four things on it: a food, whether it’s a GO, SLOW, or WHOA food; an exercise; and the number of times everyone will do that exercise. Then we’ll all do the exercise together.

    Pay close attention to the foods and the number of times you do the exercises. See if you can figure out a pattern.

    When you do the exercises, be careful not to bump into other kids. Also, stay on your feet and don’t lose your balance.


  1. Play the game until all the cards have been turned over, or as time allows. Then say or paraphrase the following:

    What was the pattern between the kinds of foods and the number of times you did the exercises? (You did an exercise only 5 times for a GO food, but 10 times for a SLOW food and 15 times for a WHOA food.)

    Why did you have to do the exercises the greatest number of times for WHOA foods?(When you eat a lot of WHOA foods, you need to do more exercise for your body to use up the calories in them.) WHOA foods usually contain more unhealthy kinds of fat and added sugars.

    What did we say can happen if you eat a lot of WHOA foods—especially if you don’t do enough GO activities? (Over time you might gain too much weight.)

    If you eat GO foods more than SLOW foods, and SLOW foods more than WHOA foods—and if you do GO activities just about every day— you’ll help your body stay in energy balance. You’ll also have lots of energy to do all the things you want to do.


Additional Activities

  1. Have participants illustrate their own message of being in energy balance from eating healthy foods and doing GO activities. Tell them to draw something related to healthy foods on one half of a page, and something related to GO activities on the other half.

  2. Have participants set a two-part goal:

    • To eat at least two more GO foods than they usually do, and to do this each day for the next three days
    • To do one more GO activity than they usually do, and to do this each day for the next three days

    Give participants the due date for reaching their goal. (A handout titled Goal Setting: More GO Foods, More GO Activities is available for this activity.) [Alternatives: (1) Have participants verbally set this goal. (2) Dictate the goal for participants to write down (3) Write the goal statement on poster board or chart tablet paper and have participants sign their name.]

    After the due date, do a goal-check. Have peers give positive feedback to participants who achieved their goal. Ask a few participants to name a GO food they ate and a GO activity they did. Encourage the others to keep working to achieve their goal. 

    You may want to give participants occasional reminders throughout the year about the importance of eating mostly GO and SLOW foods and doing GO activities. 



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