What is the Food Pyramid?

Warm-up: What Are Healthy Foods?

1. Ask students what types of food are healthy and visually represent their answers using a graphic organizer such as a web.

a. Are apples healthy? Why or why not?

b. Are French fries healthy? Why or why not?

c. Are potatoes healthy? Why or why not?

2. On a separate piece of chart paper, ask students what they had to eat yesterday.

a. Is this food healthy or unhealthy? Why or why not?


Activity One: What is a food pyramid?

1. Put Reproducible #1 – USDA Food Pyramid on the overhead projector and/or pass out a black-and-white copy to each student or table.

2. Explain to your students that the government was having a tough time deciding how they could distinguish healthy food from non-healthy food too, so they made a food pyramid. The food pyramid is a diagram that represents a healthy diet by placing food groups in a pyramid according to the number of servings from each group to be eaten every day.

3. Each section is color coded for the food group it represents: orange for grains, green for vegetables, red for fruits, yellow for fats and oils, blue for dairy, and purple for proteins like meat and beans.  Refer to the projected color version of Reproducible #1 – USDA Food Pyramid or color in your own black-and-white transparency. Ask students to follow along by coloring their own copies.

4.  Show that certain sections are bigger than others, and explain that it is because one needs more of certain groups per day than others. Show how green (vegetables) is larger than the purple (meat and beans) section and explain that it means you need more servings of vegetables than meat per day.

5. Explain that the amount of food you should eat per day per category is called a serving size. To better illustrate to your students what a proper serving is explain that 1 slice of bread is an ounce, which is the measurement by which grains are counted.  It may be useful to show measures or actual examples of serving sizes to better illustrate these.


Activity Two: Where does it belong?

1. Using a piece of chart paper, recreate the food pyramid on a larger scale. 

2. Pass out a picture card depicting a type of food to each student.  Ask each student to identify his or her food item and determine if the item if it is a grain, vegetable, fruit, dairy, or protein.

3. After the student names and classifies his or her food item, ask them to come up the board and place the item on the food pyramid.


Wrap Up: Healthier Living

1. Have the students brainstorm ways to eat healthier (i.e. bringing lunch from home, choosing the healthier cafeteria options, trying to eat more fruit/vegetables) and explain why that’s a better choice.
Ex: Eating more fruits and vegetables is healthier because they are rich in nutrients that help you grow and stay healthy. They are also a good option to eat when you want a snack, instead of eating an unhealthy snack like chips or candy.

2. Ask the students what they should do if they didn’t get their full serving of fruit at school? Suggest that they tell their parents to have at home more of the food that they typically don’t get a much of at school so they can get their daily requirements.

3. Ask the students if they think the food that’s served in the cafeteria is healthy. How could it be healthier? Steer them towards having fresher foods and not so much of the processed food choices such as pizza or hot dogs.


Extension Activity

1. Ask students to monitor their own food consumption over a period of time.  Give students copies of Reproducible #3 – Daily Food Log and an additional Reproducible #1 – Blank Food Pyramid.  Students should record what they ate over the assigned period of time on the log page as well as classify their foods on the food pyramid by writing, drawing, or pasting pictures of them in the correct category.

2. Have the class come up with a list of healthier items they would like to see in their school lunchroom. Consider more fruits and vegetables, less processed food, fresh food from local farms, “Meat-Free Mondays,” healthier options like pizza with whole wheat crusts, or grilled chicken instead of chicken fingers. Submit this list to the principal, cafeteria staff and/or other administrators for consideration.

3. For ELL students, use picture cards depicting food items, to introduce and review vocabulary.



In this lesson, students learned what the food pyramid is and how it works. Students applied this knowledge to deciding their everyday lunchtime meals and making healthier choices. The lesson is intended to encourage students to take responsibility for what they eat, and explain the benefits of making good choices. Through these activities, students have learned the importance of eating right, and how to do so on a daily basis