How Do Plants Eat?

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11022

Surely you have eaten plants before: Lettuce, apples, maybe even broccoli! Have you ever wondered what plants eat? Do you know they help you breathe? Learn about chloroplasts and other go-green stuff!


Life Science

learning style
Auditory, Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


What do the plants pictured above eat?

All living organisms need food and nutrients to survive.

Plants are living organisms, right? Without mouths, teeth, or stomachs, how are they able to eat?

All plants are producers, meaning they do not have to locate and consume food. Instead, through a process called photosynthesis, plants are able to produce their own food.

A plant needs three ingredients for photosynthesis to take place: water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide. The following steps make up photosynthesis process:

  • A plant absorbs water through its roots, and the water is transported to other parts of the plant using the stem.
  • Carbon dioxide is a part of the air because it is the byproduct of humans and animals exhaling oxygen. Plants' systems work oppositely of humans: Rather than breathing out the carbon dioxide, plants breathe carbon dioxide in through tiny pores, and release oxygen into the air.
  • A plant must receive some direct sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. Plant cells contain tiny green parts called chloroplasts. The chloroplast is green because it contains chlorophyll, a green pigment able to absorb sunlight.
  • Plants' cells cover an entire plant, so photosynthesis can take place in any part of a plant that receives sunlight. Which part of the plant do you think receives the most sunlight? If you said the leaves, you are correct! The large surface area of the leaves allows them to receive the most sunlight; therefore, they are the site of most photosynthesis.

plant cell structure

  • When all of these ingredients are present, a chemical reaction occurs that uses light energy from the sun to turn the raw materials (water and carbon dioxide) into glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar. This simple sugar feeds the plant and provides it with energy.
  • Finally, this process creates food and energy for plants, but photosynthesis is also beneficial for humans. As stated earlier, as the plants take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, they release fresh oxygen into the air.

To learn more about photosynthesis and why it is important to you, watch TEDEd's video (below), The simple story of photosynthesis and food - Amanda Ooten:


Look at the plant in the beginning of this lesson.

  • How does that plant eat?
  • How does this process affect you?

Explain your answers to a teacher or parent, then continue on to the Go It? section for some game time!

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