Count It Up


Children (individually or in pairs or small groups) will learn that there are different amounts of sugar in different products.

Materials and Preparation:

  • Print the Count It Up worksheets
  • Copy one Calculation worksheet for each child
    • Note: There are 4 page options that compare different beverages and foods
    • Tip: Give one page to each child, pair or small group to calculate and pour out teaspoons of sugar and allow time to look at the results of the others
    • Write the name of each food to be counted and place this next to the plates for measuring sugar
  • Sugar packets or cubes (1 packet or 1 cube = 1 teaspoon), or bowl of sugar and teaspoons
  • 8 small paper plates (one for each food/beverage counted)
  • Optional: Set an empty food container out in place of the food/drink name tag for a more complete visual and informative nutrition facts label.


  1. Distribute "Count It Up" worksheets to the children.
  2. Review the instructions for calculating teaspoons of sugar from grams (4 grams = 1 teaspoon). To do this, they will color in one section of the pie for each gram, so that there will be one circle (or teaspoon) colored for every 4 grams of sugar.
  3. Children may work in pairs to complete the worksheet by coloring in circles to determine teaspoons of sugar in various foods.
  4. Once they have calculated the teaspoons of sugar, they will use the worksheet to measure out the actual teaspoons for each food item (children will either pour out 1 packet of sugar per teaspoon, stack 1 sugar cube per teaspoon, or measure teaspoons directly from a bowl of sugar onto the plate). Note: using a bowl of sugar allows children to measure half teaspoons.
  5. Look at the piles of sugar on the different plates. Ask: What do you think about all of the sugar in the different foods? Does anything surprise you?
Note: Since the calculation worksheet may feel academic to some children, you may choose to use this on days when you have more time to spend on an activity (such as during a vacation week or half day of school).

Extension Activities

  • If you have a younger group you may want to skip the worksheet calculation and instead distribute the answer sheet which shows the colored-in circles and amount of teaspoons of sugar in the various foods/beverages. Assign one food or beverage to each pair or small group and have the children measure out the correct amount of sugar for their item. As in the above instructions, allow children the opportunity to look at the sugar in all of the food/beverage items and talk about anything that may have surprised them.
  • Ask kids to list some of their favorite drinks and snacks. Encourage them to include more multi-cultural foods like arroz con leche or licuados. Invite children to bring in empty containers of their favorite snacks, treats, cereals, or drinks. Have children measure the teaspoons of sugar from the grams of sugar listed on the food labels (including several of the "healthy snack" options) and pour the sugar into small plastic bags. Attach the plastic bags to a large piece of poster board and label the snack or drink above the bag. This can serve as a reminder as well as a tool powerful visual tool for interacting with parents.
  • Collect and/or have children bring in the labels from some of their favorite drinks and snacks. Show children how they can use food labels to identify foods that are high in sugar:
    • Foods with sugar in the top 3 ingredients are likely to be high in sugar.
    • Foods may list other forms of sugar in the ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, honey, and molasses.
  • Then have children see if they can "find the sugar" in their labels. Have them sort the labels into groups with "High Sugar" and "Low Sugar" snacks.
  • Connect to the whole grain unit (Unit 5) by reviewing cereal labels. Identify low-sugar (5 grams or less for sugar), moderate sugar (6-10 grams of sugar), or high sugar (10 grams or more of sugar) cereals. Children who are used to eating sugary cereals can try mixing cereals together as they begin to cut back on the high sugar cereals and get used to breakfast with less sugar.