3 - 5
Students will gain familiarity with the health benefits of foods contained in each group of MyPlate.
- MyPlate Activity Poster
- Pictures of various food items (a Food Models Kit is available for purchase)
- MyPlate Notes activity sheet
- Food Group Puzzle
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
MyPlate Notes Activity Sheet
Food Group Puzzle
MyPlate: a nutrition guide from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that serves as a reminder to eat from all five food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy
Did you know? (Ag Facts)
Food provides your body with all of the materials it needs to grow, and to be healthy and active. These are some of the building blocks in food:
- Carbohydrates are the body's main source of fuel.
- Fats are very concentrated sources of energy, so only a little is needed.
- Proteins are important for growth and repair of the body.
- Minerals and vitamins are found in small amounts in foods, and they are needed for many of the body's functions.
- Water is also a major part of almost all food.1
Background - Agricultural Connections
MyPlate is a nutrition guide from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that serves as a reminder to eat from all five food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy. Eating a variety of foods from all five food groups is suggested.
The MyPlate guide recommends that half of the food on your plate be fruits and vegetables. Include plenty of red, orange, and dark-green vegetables. Fruits should be used as snacks, salads, and desserts. Grains are foods that come from plants like wheat, corn, and oats and include bread, cereal, crackers, rice, and pasta. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains.
Protein foods include seafood, beans, meat, poultry, eggs, and nuts. It is suggested that you eat a variety of protein foods, choose lean meats, and eat seafood twice a week. Milk and yogurt are examples of dairy. It is best to choose skim or 1% milk and water to drink instead of sugary drinks. Limit the consumption of foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, also referred to as “sometimes” foods.
There are six main groups of nutrients that a body needs to stay healthy—carbohydrates, protein, water, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates give you energy. Along with providing energy, protein also builds muscle, skin, and bones. Water helps your body stay cool when it sweats and also helps your body move nutrients to where they need to go. Fats provide you with energy, healthy skin, and an ability to absorb vitamins. Vitamins can help you heal and maintain strong bones, good eyesight, and healthy skin. Minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and iron, build strong bones and teeth, keep your blood healthy, and help your muscles and nervous system function properly. Each food group provides different nutrients, and no single food group can supply all the nutrients our bodies need. Eating from all five food groups helps to ensure that your body is getting necessary nutrients.
A healthy life style also includes physical activity. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Increasing activity increases health benefits.
Good health depends on good nutrition and physical activity. Using MyPlate as a guide to identify healthy food and fitness choices will provide students with an awareness of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Interest Approach – Engagement
- Ask students to name foods that are healthy and nutritious (or that adults say are “good for them”). Discuss why they think certain foods help them grow and stay healthy while other foods should only be eaten sometimes. Talk with students about nutritious foods and non-nutritious foods, making sure they understand that foods that provide vitamins, minerals, and energy are better for developing bodies, helping them grow healthy and strong.
- Show students the MyPlate Activity Poster and introduce them to each food group, noting the colors on the plate and how each one represents a food group. Information about each food group is available at Choosemyplate.gov.
- Distribute the pictures of various food items to students, either individually or in small groups. Allow students to arrange the food pictures on the MyPlate poster according to food groups. Discuss the health benefits of the various foods.
Activity 1: Plate Notes and Puzzles
- Have students visit the website Choosemyplate.gov. Direct students to visit the “Tips and Resources” section of the site. Under “Related topics,” they will be able to access information about the various food groups.
- Give each student a copy of MyPlate Notes. Using the information found in each food group section of the website, direct them to complete MyPlate Notes by filling in the correct food group title and missing food item in each group as indicated by the blank lines.
- To check their comprehension of research done on the MyPlate site, students will complete the Food Group Puzzle. Each puzzle names a food group, farm origins, example foods from the group, and nutrients contained in the group.
- Have students write a short report about one of the food groups found on MyPlate. Tell students to include the name of the food group, the nutrients found in foods in this group, why these foods are good for you, and include examples of foods in the group.
Activity 2: Run the Rainbow Challenge - Rain, Rain, Bow
- Discuss the importance of physical activity. All children need at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Activity levels will directly affect the amount of food needed to maintain a healthy body.
- Play the “Rain, Rain, Bow” game to emphasize the variety of foods needed to support a balanced diet and to help students remember the colors on MyPlate and what they represent.
- The game is played like “Duck, Duck, Goose.” The class sits in a circle and one student is selected to be the “Leprechaun.”
- The leprechaun skips around the circle, lightly tapping classmates on the head. With each tap, the leprechaun says, “Rain.” When the leprechaun taps a head and says, “Bow,” the selected child must chase the leprechaun around the circle. If the leprechaun can take the vacant seat without being caught, the selected student becomes the new leprechaun.
- The new leprechaun names a food group. The former leprechaun must name the color that represents that food group and a food from that group. For example, if the new leprechaun says, “Fruit,” the old leprechaun must say, “Red” and name a fruit such as blueberries. If the old leprechaun is unable to name a food from that group, the class is called upon to give assistance. While the chase is in process, seated students participate in a unison motion directed by the teacher (e.g., clapping hands, stomping the floor, nodding heads, snapping fingers, slapping the floor with alternating hands).
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:
- Some foods are more healthy and nutritious than others. A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from all five food groups.
- Each food group provides different nutrients, and no single food group can supply all of the nutrients our bodies need.
We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!
- Provide information for accessing the website Choosemyplate.gov. Have each student follow the directions on the website to obtain their personalized dietary plan, “MyPlate Daily Checklist.” Visiting the website can be a class activity, or information can be shared with parents to be completed at home. Individual nutrition needs, along with portion sizes, can be obtained for children and adults at this website.
- Read Issue 2 of Ag Today titled Food, Keeping us Fueled for an Active Lifestyle. This reader can be printed or accessed digitally. Learn about the healthy and tasty food that farmers grow to help humans maintain a healthy diet. Follow the process from farm to plate and learn about serving sizes, food safety, and USDA's MyPlate.
- Play the My American Farm interactive game Finders Keepers.
Suggested Companion Resources
Fill MyPlate Game (Activity)
Food Group Puzzle (Activity)
Growing Vegetable Soup (Book)
I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Book)
Food Models (Kit)
MyPlate Activity Poster (Poster, Map, Infographic)
The Power of Choice Bulletin Board (Poster, Map, Infographic)
Eat & Move O-Matic (Multimedia)
Ag Today (Booklets & Readers)
How to Teach Nutrition to Kids (Teacher Reference)
Choose MyPlate (Website)
My American Farm (Website)
This lesson was updated and adapted by Utah Agriculture in the Classroom in 2016.
Louise Lamm and Ellen Gould
North Carolina Agriculture in the Classroom