Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix
My Healthy Plate
Students will become familiar with the foods they eat and healthy eating habits while learning about the MyPlate food campaign. This lesson introduces students to the concept of MyPlate while placing foods they eat into categories for eating a balanced diet.
Interest Approach – Engagement:
- What's On MyPlate video
- MyPlate Diagram (poster size)
- A MyPlate Activity Poster is available for purchase from agclassroomstore.com.
- MyPlate Diagram (for each student)
- Magazine or Internet pictures of foods for each area of MyPlate diagram
- MyPlate Diagram (2 copies per student)
- Vegetables (optional)
- Tops and Bottoms written by Janet Stevens or Tops and Bottoms Read Aloud
dairy: all milk products, including milk, yogurt, cheese etc
fruit: any product of vegetable growth useful to humans or animals
grain: a small, hard seed, particularly the seed of one of the food plants wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice and millet
meals: one of the regular occasions during the day when food is eaten
menu: a list of the dishes or food available at a restaurant
MyPlate: U.S. Department of Agriculture's color-coded image of a plate that illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image
protein: an important part of a daily diet that helps humans and animals build muscles
vegetables: any herbaceous plant whose fruits, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves or flower parts are used as food
Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
- Children ranging in ages from 4 - 8 years old need 1 to 1 1/2 cups of fruit daily. Fruits can be eaten as fresh, canned, frozen, or dried; if drinking juice it must be 100% fruit juice to count as part of the Fruit Group.1
- The vegetable group contains 5 subgroups to include dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables.1
- Choices made from the dairy group should be fat-free or low fat to reduce calorie intake.1
- The American farmer today provides food for about 165 people in the world.2
Background Agricultural Connections
Is it possible to live one day without utilizing what agriculture has to offer - food, fiber, and energy? Can you think of all the ways you use agriculture from the beginning to the end of your day? Agriculture is everywhere and without it we can't survive. In the morning you wake from sleeping on sheets that were made from cotton and sleep in a bed made from oak or pine wood. The fibers in the rug you step on may have come from the wool of sheep and the soap you use in the shower may consist of cottonseed oil or lanolin. Perhaps, your breakfast consisted of corn or wheat in your cereal and a glass of milk which was produced by a dairy cow. We have farmers to thank for producing these items we need each day.
This small list of items come from the industry of agriculture grown, produced, or raised by farmers to help sustain us all. No one can go about their day without touching or using agriculture. For this lesson student's experience for eating meals would be required for helping them gain an understanding for the decision process in selecting healthy foods to place on their plates. Teachers should be familiar with the MyPlate graphic organizer, including food categories. If not, please review the information at www.choosemyplate.gov.
Agriculture provides us with the foods found in the five food groups of MyPlate. These five food groups include protein, dairy, vegetables, grains, and fruits. The protein group is an important part of our daily diet that helps build muscle. Dairy food items are made from milk such as cheese and yogurt that provide calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein. The dairy group helps build strong bones. The vegetable group come from herbaceous plants whose fruits, seeds, roots, tubers, bulbs, stems, leaves, or flower parts are used as food. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, and breakfast cereals are a few foods found in the grains group made from a small, hard seed of the food plants such as wheat, corn, rye, oats, rice, and millet. The last food group identified as fruits is any product of vegetable growth such as strawberries, bananas, watermelon, or oranges.
MyPlate is a color-coded image of a plate illustrating these five food groups as a place setting for a meal. This graphic organizer can be found on the website www.choosemyplate.gov that was developed and maintained by USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Overweight Americans and the rate of obesity has become an alarming epidemic in the nation. As a resource to help reduce this problem, the MyPlate program offers nutritional information in helping consumers create healthier diets while thinking about what goes on one's plate when food is eaten as a meal. Before sitting down to a meal at home or viewing the menu choices in your favorite restaurant, the MyPlate campaign will help guide students in making better decisions about the foods they eat.
Interest Approach - Engagement
- Begin a discussion with your students and ask, "What did you have for breakfast this morning?"
- Record the student's responses on a flip chart or whiteboard. Ask the following questions.
- Where did these foods come from? (examples; eggs from a chicken, milk from a dairy cow, or grits from corn)
- Who grew the food you ate for breakfast? (farmers)
- Why is eating breakfast so important? (gives you energy to begin your day)
- Next, display a Food Card to the class, and ask the students to select a food category found on the MyPlate Diagram; Fruits, Vegetables, Proteins, Grains, or Dairy.
- Banana (fruits)
- Eggs (protein)
- Milk (dairy)
- Apple juice (fruits)
- Granola bar (grain)
- Breakfast burrito (combination food - protein, dairy, grain)
- Some students may have eaten 'combination' foods for breakfast and therefore can become confused on how to categorize these items.
- Combination foods are a single serving of a dish that contains two or more of the required meal components, such as a breakfast burrito that may have eggs (meat/meat alternative component), cheese (dairy, dairy alternate component) and wheat (grain/grain alternate component) in the tortilla.
- Tell students when categorizing combination foods to dissect the components and place them into the different areas of MyPlate. If desired, use this website to help students learn about combination foods.
- Show students the MyPlate Diagram and tell them they will be using this to place foods into the correct categories to help them make good food choices for a healthier diet.
- Print out or obtain a poster-sized MyPlate to post in the classroom.
- Print out copies of MyPlate Diagram for each student.
- Gather magazines, grocery store advertisement, or Internet pictures for student use.
- Gather materials for students to color their own foods.
- Read one of the books about nutrition listed in the resource section or have students watch the What's on MyPlate video to begin a discussion about healthy eating.
- Post a poster size MyPlate diagram on the wall or board to help students determine where foods would be placed on this chart. On the MyPlate diagram show students how you would place their lunch food onto the correct areas of the poster.
- Place students in groups of two. Have partners engage in a think-pair-share about their lunch food items. They think about one of their lunch foods and what part of the plate it would go in (10 seconds). They share with a partner for one minute about where their food would go on the MyPlate diagram. Have each partner draw their lunch item.
- Have each group place their food drawing on the class MyPlate poster for discussion. During the class discussion, move any incorrect foods into the correct category.
- According to the foods placed on the MyPlate poster, ask the following questions.
- Are these food selections good, healthy choices? (answers will vary)
- Where did these foods come from? (give the direct source for each food - ex. hamburger, beef cattle)
- Who grew these foods? (farmers)
- How can I make good food choices? (selecting foods from the 5 food categories found on MyPlate)
- Next, ask students to work in pairs, and give each pair its own MyPlate diagram. Have students look for photos in magazines and sort into each category on the MyPlate diagram for a healthy meal.
- Once each student group is done, display the posters around the classroom. Have students engage in a museum tour walking silently and looking at other students’ work. Engage in a follow-up discussion about foods and food groups related to healthy eating.
- Have students review the MyPlate diagram made from the previous day.
- Visit the school garden and identify what is growing there. If more than one grade gardens, visit their areas and learn what they are growing. If a school garden is not available, bring in food items grown in a garden such as tomatoes, green peppers, green beans, corn, and cucumbers.
- Return to the classroom and make a list or drawing of the foods grown in the garden.
- Have students place the pictures on the poster-size MyPlate diagram in the classroom.
- Next, create a “before” and “after” MyPlate diagram from the items you ate for lunch. Before showing the healthier MyPlate diagram, discuss with the students better options. Ask the following questions.
- Which lunch foods are unhealthy? (answers will vary depending upon food selection)
- What types of foods would be better options? (answers will vary)
- Where can these healthy foods be purchased? (grocery stores or a farmer's market)
- Ask the students to think of one item to change from their lunch today and share with their shoulder partner.
- Have students draw their “before” and “after” MyPlates for their lunch.
- Read the book, Tops and Bottoms written by Janet Stevens and point out the healthy foods grown in the garden. If you can not acquire a book copy, view the Tops and Bottoms Read Aloud.
Concept Elaboration and Evaluation
At the conclusion of this activity, review and summarize the following key concepts:
Healthy foods are grown in gardens or on farms by farmers.
- There are five food categories on the MyPlate diagram for healthy eating.
- Healthy foods can be purchased at a farmer's market or in a grocery store.
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Visit the Eat Right website and utilize the student games and information.
Suggested Companion Resources
- Fill MyPlate Game
- Food Group Puzzle
- Portion Size Comparison
- The Healthy Hop 'n Shop
- Growing Vegetable Soup
- How Food gets from Farms to Store Shelves
- I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato
- Jack & the Hungry Giant Eat Right with MyPlate
- Plants Feed Me
- The Fruits We Eat
- Tops & Bottoms
- Food Models
- MyPlate Activity Poster
- Eat & Move O-Matic
- School Gardens: A Guide for Gardening and Plant Science
- Choose MyPlate