Activity Overview: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses a recommended daily value of 2000 Calories (kcal) across all food labels. From this number and some handy math, manufacturers print the percentage of the daily value of each nutrient provided by the food. However, the 2000 Calorie diet is only a simple benchmark for food standards and labeling, and not always appropriate for every lifestyle, health condition, and individual.
Ask students to create a menu for a single day based on the 2000 Calorie diet benchmarked by the FDA. You can provide guidelines however you see appropriate, but the following is a list of some requirements you might consider for a formal assignment. Otherwise, feel free to work as a class or divide students into small groups to produce their work.
Allow students to get creative with their menus, but you may consider encouraging them to make a menu that they themselves would enjoy. In other words, a whole day of carrots will fall below 2000 Calories, but would they or their family enjoy this?
Other than looking at food labels from lunch boxes or school's canteen or cafeteria, you may be able to speak with your lunchroom staff to get a list of the nutritional facts for hot food served at your school during meal times. Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) publishes a searchable database of nutrients for standard reference. You or your students can search this database to query the caloric content of many different branded and whole foods.
As discussed above, the FDA benchmark for a daily recommended amount of Calories is 2000. However, the use of this benchmark is exclusively for ease of use and does not align well with Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) for most individuals.
As time allows, consider repeating this activity based on the recommended energy intake values published by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Ask students to create a new menu for a single day based on the recommended Calorie needs according to their age, sex, and a moderately active lifestyle.
Depending on their age, the new amount of daily Calories may be the same or different. Ask students how the two menus differ. Which one allows for more consumption? Which one is closer to the amount of food they actually eat?