Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3 rd-5 th grade


45 minutes


Students will examine their current diet and compare it to the USDA MyPlate standards.  Students will become informed of the importance of eating healthy and learn how to select healthy foods.


  • Crayons, colored pencils, or markers
  • Computer with Internet access

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Vocabulary (with definitions)

  • Diet:  the types of food someone eats
  • Food group: a collection of foods that share similar nutritional properties or biological classifications
  • Healthy: eating well, being physically active, and free of sickness
  • Calorie: a unit of energy needed.

Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)

MyPlate- What you eat, and drink is very important to your health. While selecting your food, it is important to focus on variety, amount, and the nutritional component of the food. What food and how much food your body needs are determined by many factors like age, sex, weight, and activity level. You can start making healthy food and beverage choices when you select foods from all five food groups- fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy, to get the nutrients your body needs. My plate serves as a guide for how much of the plate should be allocated to different food groups based on certain needs.

Dairy- The dairy group is composed of all products that are made from milk that have retained their calcium content. The daily amount of dairy that is recommended for each person is dependent on the age of the person. It is recommended that children aged 4-8 eat 2 ½ cups of dairy products a day, and children that are 9-13 years old consume 3 cups of dairy products a day. In general, 1 cup of milk, yogurt, or soymilk, 1 ½ ounce of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese can be considered a 1 cup serving of dairy.

Grains- Any food that is made of wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Common examples of grains foods are bread, pasta, oatmeal, breakfast cereals, tortillas, and grits. There are two groups of grains, Whole and Refined Grains. Whole grains are less processed as they contain the entire grain kernel- bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains have been milled. The milling process removes the bran and germ. It gives the grain a finer texture and improves the shelf life of the product. However, refining the grain also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins from the grain. It is recommended that at least half of all the grains eaten should be whole grain. Children 4-8 years old should consume 5 ounces, girls age 9-13 should consume 5 ounces, and boys age 9-13 should consume 6 ounces. In general, one slice of bread, 1 cup of cereal, and ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, can be considered as a 1 once- equivalent from the grains group.

Protein- All food made from meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, soy products, nuts, and seeds are all considered part of the protein group. The amount of protein that one should consume depends on the age, sex, and level of physical activity of the individual. Children age 4-8 should consume 4 ounces of protein a day and children aged 9-13 should consume 5 ounces a day. 

Vegetables- Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice is considered a member of the vegetable group. Vegetables can be served a variety of ways, raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned or dried/ dehydrated. Their nutrient content causes vegetables to be organized into 5 subgroups: dark-green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, and other vegetables. Like other food groups, the daily amount of vegetables needed is dependent on a person’s age, sex, and level of physical activity. Children age 4-8 should consume 1 ½ cups of vegetables daily. Girls age 9-13 should eat 2 cups of vegetables each day and boys should eat 2 ½ cups. In general, 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of raw leafy greens can be considered a 1 cup serving from the vegetable group.

Fruit- Any fruit or 100% fruit juice is considered part of the fruit group. Fruits can be prepared fresh, canned, frozen, or dried, and can be whole, cut-up, or pureed. Children age 4-8 should consume 1- 1 ½ cups of fruit a day. Girls and boys age 9-13 should eat 1 ½ cups of fruit a day.

Oils- Oils are not a food group, but they do provide essential nutrients. Oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature. Oils can come from plants or animals. Some common oils include canola oil, corn oil, cottonseed oil, olive oil, safflower oil, and soybean oil. Solid fats are solid at room temperature and include butter and shortening. Solid fat comes from animal foods but can be made from vegetable oils through a process called hydrogenation. A person’s daily allowance for oils depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity. Children age 4-8 can consume 4 teaspoons, and children aged 9-13 years old can consume 5 teaspoons a day.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Hold up a package of cookies and ask students if it is okay if I eat a whole package of cookies for supper. Is this a healthy option? Why not?

Ask students if they have heard of food groups. Have them share what they know.


Day 1:

  1. Tell students that we will be learning about the USDA’s MyPlate guide, but first we want to see what each student currently eats. Instruct students to draw a plate on a blank sheet of paper, then draw their favorite meal on it. On their plate they will draw what the actual portion they each eat.
  2. Have students write what food group they think that the food item they eat belongs to.
  3. Introduce the USDA’s MyPlate to the class. Project the MyPlate image on the board if available. Pass out copies of MyPlate worksheet to each student at this time.
  4. Compare the proportions of the food groups on the MyPlate diagram verses the diagrams that the students created with their favorite meal portions on. Did they have an item from each food group on their plate? Did they have the right portion of food on their plate?
  5. Have a conversation about food groups, portion size, and variety of food.
  6. Create a list of each of the food group (fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy) on the board. Brainstorm foods that would fit in each category.
  7. Next have students draw a new meal that fits the MyPlate guide on the MyPlate worksheet provided.

Day 2:

  1. Tell students that they will get to explore how age, sex, height, weight, and activity level determine the caloric needs of an individual.
  2. Students will go to to identify their individual daily food requirements.
    1. First have students plug in information that matches their body type. Instruct them to write down their caloric needs on a sheet of paper.
    2. Next, have students change the age, sex, height, weight, and activity level to see how that changes the caloric needs of an individual.
  3. Students will then complete a meal menu for themselves to satisfy these requirements.

Extension Activity

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Whole grains provide B vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help you feel fuller longer.
  • Calcium, protein, and vitamin D found in milk make strong bones, teeth, and muscles.
  • Iowa leads the nation in both hog and egg production, both of which are great protein sources.


  • Choose My
  • Iowa Ag
  • Iowa Ag Today


Deb Schwickerath

Laura Mincks

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Food, Health and Lifestyle Outcomes:
    • T3.3-5a -  Describe the necessary food components of a healthy diet using the current dietary guidelines
    • T3.3-5g -  Identify food sources of required food nutrients

Iowa Core Standards

  • 21 st Century Skills- Health Literacy:
    • 21.3-5.HL.1   Obtain, interpret, understand and use basic health concepts to enhance personal, family, and community health
    • 21.2-5.HL.2 Utilize interactive literacy and social skills to establish personal family, and community health goals.  
    • 21.2-5.HL.3    Demonstrate critical literacy/thinking skills related to personal, family, and community wellness.
    • 21.2-5.HL.5   Demonstrate behaviors that foster healthy, active lifestyles for individuals and the benefit of society.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.