Quesadillas: A Nutrient Dense Mixed Food Lesson & Lab

When teaching about the food groups in MyPlate I find it’s also important to explain the concepts of mixed foods, empty calories and nutrient dense foods.  Junior high students are often confused as to what these terms actually mean.  After working with all of these topics, I like to have students prepare a nutrient dense mixed food in the lab that incorporates all of the food groups in MyPlate.  Quesadillas meet those requirements and is a multicultural treat as well as introduces students to stove-top cookery.

Class Time: 4-5 periods (43 minutes)

Class Size:  16

PA Standards

  • 11.3.6 D  Describe a well-balanced daily menu using the dietary guidelines and the food guide pyramid.


  • Begin by having my students review MyPlate and identify foods to specific food groups (see below).  After going over correct answers, I ask students what mixed or combination foods are?  We discuss that they are foods containing two or more different food groups such as lasagna, quiche, and hot-pockets and we practice breaking them down and identifying the actual food groups.


  • Food Models
  • Magazines
  • Laptops (optional)


  • Have students partner up and move through stations identifying the food groups found in the mixed food models placed at each station.  Examples of food models include:  tacos, pizza, Chef’s salad, stir-fry, chicken pot pie, enchilada, hoagie, cheeseburger, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Go over each food model and discuss food groups found in each example.

Day 2

  • Ask students to explain what nutrient dense foods and empty calorie foods are and give examples.  Most don’t know so we read the article “Empty-Calorie Foods vs Nutrient-Dense Foods” together.
  • After reading the article I assign the Visual Representation activity for them to complete by hand (drawing or magazine pictures) or by computer.  This is a teacher call based on access to laptops.  I require them to include 6-12 characteristics for each category….the more they include the better their grade.

Day 3

  • Play a review sorting game between nutrient dense food examples and empty calorie foods on the board.
  • Demonstrate how to cook the quesadillas so they are golden brown.
  • Have students complete their lab sheets for the quesadilla lab.

Day 4

  • Prep Lab:  Students will prepare vegetables using their knife skills, grate the cheese and shred the chicken for the next day.

Day 5

  • Quesadilla Lab:  Cook and eat the quesadillas using the whole wheat flour tortillas, at least one vegetable from options, chicken,  at least one cheese and the guacamole dipping sauce to complete their MyPlate nutrient dense mixed food.



1 comment for “Quesadillas: A Nutrient Dense Mixed Food Lesson & Lab

  1. January 23, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Will enjoy to read more from you in the future, keep the excellent stuff coming.

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