Food Power – Sugar Detectives

Health Literacy
Time 15 minutes
Age 7 & up
Group Size Less than 10
Tags Consumer, Nutrition

Are YOU an effective food detective?

Most children only have a basic understanding of their own bodies, and they often have little choice about what they are served at meals. At the same time, these children are just becoming acquainted with a variety of foods. The more opportunities children have to think about what they eat, be curious and adventurous in trying new foods and begin to take responsibility for their own lifestyle choices, the more likely they are to make healthful choices when they do get to decide what fuel they are putting into their bodies. In this activity, children will learn how to read about the nutritional information for some of the breakfast cereals they like to eat. Learning to read these labels is one of the most helpful tools we have in gaining control of our eating habits.


It may take some time to gather the breakfast cereal boxes. 5-10 boxes should be enough, and make sure to collect a range of different kinds, from some that are sweet to some that are not. Some suggested brands are “Froot Loops”, “Frosted Mini Wheats”, “Crispix”, “Special K” and “Raisin Bran”.

Food Power – Sugar Detectives

Suggested Materials

  • Several boxes of different kinds of cereal (5–10, empty)
  • Paper and pencils or pens

Make it Matter

Opening Discussion

Ask your students what some of their favorite breakfast foods are. If they mention cereal, ask them to brainstorm a list of the kinds of breakfast cereal they like to eat. Record this list on a chalkboard or a piece of chart paper. Which of these cereals do kids think have lots of sugar and which have only a little? Record the cereals that they guess are in these 2 groups. Finally, show them the boxes of cereal that you have gathered and ask them to write these brand names down on a piece of paper.

The Challenge

Using the boxes of breakfast cereal you’ve been shown, can you guess which cereals have the most sugar in them and which have the least?


Make it Happen

Doing the Activity

  1. Group your students into teams of 2–3 for this activity.
  2. Refer to the list of “sweet” and “not so sweet” cereals that the class made in the opening discussion and the boxes that you gathered to show them. Were these brands all on the list that the students made?
  3. Ask them to write down the names of the cereals you have shown them (the boxes that you gathered) in order, from the cereal brand they think has the least sugar in it to the cereal they think has the most sugar.
  4. Have each team read their list out loud to the rest of the group.

Make it Click

Let’s Talk About It

Did each team agree on which cereals were sweetest and which were the least sweet? How could they find out the answer? Ask for some different ideas. Hopefully, someone suggests reading the nutritional label. If no student suggests this, point out the label on 1 of the boxes and ask if they have ever noticed it before. What does this label tell us?


Make it Better

Build On What They Talked About

Have students look at the labels of the breakfast cereals and try to figure out how much sugar is in a serving of each of the cereals. They should take turns passing the boxes from team to team, each writing down the amount of sugar next to the corresponding cereal name on their piece of paper. Ask each team to rewrite the order on their piece of paper of the cereals with the least sugar to the cereals with the most sugar. Is the order different than they had first guessed? Did any of the results surprise them?


  • Try this activity with other snack groups.
  • We can also learn about the amount of fiber in cereal—something we want more of, because it helps us digest our food.
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