Children & Nutrition: Understanding Energy Balance

Posted In: Physical, Well Being

Children & Nutrition: Understanding Energy Balance


We all want our children to make healthy choices when it comes to taking care of themselves. I have always found that when they understand the reasons behind the choices we want them to make, they are more enthusiastic and empowered to do the right thing.

It is for this reason that I am thrilled to team up with Together Counts, which is a nationwide program inspiring active and healthy living. They have incredible resources, activities, and printables for helping to teach children about developing healthy habits.

Sometimes we assume that children understand the basic concepts of nutrition. Although we talk about healthy eating all the time at home, I realized that the girls didn’t have a solid grasp of the concept that the food we eat  gives us energy that we use to live active lives.


Understanding Energy Balance...


So when I found the lesson on Energy Balance over at Together Counts, we dove right in. They provide a great printable that lists different types of foods and how many calories they contain, as well as a list of activities and how many calories our bodies burn—energy in, energy out.

The girls created a table on our chalkboard and started matching foods to how many activities one would have to do to create an energy balance. Once we got past bananas and carrots, they were surprised to find our that in order to balance out the energy they take in from eating a hot dog, they would need to walk, ride a bike, and ice skate for thirty minutes each!


Understanding Energy Balance...


They were so excited about the concept of energy balance that they started to read the labels on the back of their favorite snacks to see how many calories they contained. They discovered that to balance out the dried mango they were munching on during the activity, they would need to swim for 30 minutes and play the piano for 30 more—sounds like a lovely way to spend the afternoon…

I love that we now have a common language to refer back to when discussing the food choices that we make on a daily basis.

You can stay up to date on the great work that Together Counts is doing  on Facebook , Twitter, Pinterest and their blog.




With over 10 years of EDU experience and a growing family, Mariah started Playful Learning in 2008 as a resource for parents and teachers. In 2010 Playful Learning received the Parent’s Choice Gold Medal, and in August of 2011, Shambhala Publications released her first book, Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder. Mariah has an M.S. Ed in Elementary Education and was that girl sitting in the back of class thinking about what she would do differently if she was the teacher. Now she is happily working with a team of gifted educators to bring life-changing lessons to children, families, and schools around the world. In her free time she can be found taking long walks, enjoying a cup of tea, or swimming in the Atlantic with her husband and two daughters.



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  1. Thank you for the resource. Are you still thinking of doing a nutrition e-class? I’m sure it would be a great resource! Your classes are awesome:)!

  2. I love this activity, but I was struck by what seemed to me like language rooted in an adult dieting perspective. Couldn’t a hot dog could GIVE them the energy to walk, ride a bike, and ice skate for thirty minutes each, rather than framing it as though they “need” to do those things, with the implication that the calories are something to get rid of, rather than simply fuel?
    I know that even young children can struggle with weight, but calories aren’t enemies – and won’t our kids be more likely to make healthy choices when their food, activities, and bodies are presented in a positive light?

    1. Hi Caitlin – You bring up a very good point! Throughout the activity we did switch back and forth between those two perspectives. I completely agree…

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