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Teach Your Child About the New Food Pyramid

Teaching your child about the New Food Pyramid can be fun and easy. The whole family will benefit from using this sensible and flexible guide to good nutrition.

The New Food Pyramid, introduced in 2005, is organized around different principles than the original food pyramid. It recognizes that people vary in their nutritional needs depending on their age, level of activity and health. For example, an active 12 year old may eat more of certain foods than an elderly diabetic who is sedentary.

The pyramid also allows for cultural differences that may dictate food preferences and availability.

What does the pyramid look like? You can view it at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website listed below in the Resource section. The concept is fully explained there. Briefly, the pyramid is organized this way:

  • Orange = grains
  • Green = vegetables
  • Red = fruits
  • Yellow = fats and oils
  • Blue = milk and dairy products
  • Purple = meat, beans, fish, nuts

You will notice the pyramid’s sections are now vertical and thinner at the top than on the bottom. That is because not all foods in a category are created equal. For example, cherry pie would be on the top of the fruit strip as it has less nutrition than fresh cherries, which would be on the bottom of the fruit strip. In terms of volume, you can eat more fresh fruit than its cooked and sweetened form.

There is a children’s version of the pyramid featuring a girl climbing up the side of the pyramid, representing the need for exercise and play- the complements to healthy eating habits.


Preschoolers love to be in the kitchen with you. Take these opportunities to teach them about nutrient dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables. By preparing and serving balanced, colorful meals together, your young child will become accustomed to eating that way.

One way to get your older baby or toddler to eat from all food groups in the pyramid is to serve “finger foods” from each group throughout the day as snacks. When you travel with your child, take along bite size pieces of cheese, fruit and vegetables, and some whole grain crackers.

As your child grows, reinforce the idea that all foods can be eaten, but some foods are better at building health and helping them grow strong.

Main points to address:

  • Serve a variety of nutritious and colorful foods.
  • Let your preschooler help with food preparation. Teach as you go!
  • Travel with healthy finger foods.

Grades K-3rd

Young school age children have already developed preferences for certain foods. As long as they are getting a variety from each food group, it is best not to force any one food item on them. If your child does not like milk, they may like yogurt.

Early elementary children are actively learning things that will prove useful as they continue to grow. Most schools teach basic nutrition which will back up your efforts to teach your child about healthy eating. The visual representation of the food groups as a pyramid will appeal to your child and bring home the intended message.

If your child’s school provides lunch, they will most likely be using the New Food Pyramid as a guideline for preparing and serving food. Most schools post the pyramid in their cafeterias.

If your child takes a bagged lunch, let them help you pack it. This is a good time to check which food groups you have included and which ones you may need to add.

Main points to address:

  • Children this age are enthusiastic learners and will understand the visual representation of food groups in the pyramid.
  • Don’t worry if your child refuses specific foods. Make substitutions from the same food group.
  • Packing a healthy lunch together can be a learning experience.

Grade 4-6th

The New Food Pyramid is designed to guide people of all ages and differing nutritional needs. The built-in flexibility will appeal to this age group. Older children may have a better understanding of the adaptability of the food pyramid for special needs.

If your child likes to cook and bake, you may have fun adapting recipes to make them more nutritious. Substituting whole wheat flour for half of the flour in a cookie recipe will make a healthier cookie. Using half a cup of applesauce in a muffin recipe to replace half the oil or butter will lower the fat content.

As your child grows, they will be eating a greater volume of food. Have healthy snacks ready to eat so they will not be tempted to choose foods that are not as healthy. Celery and peanut butter, berries, nuts, cheese sticks and whole grain bread sticks will hold them over until mealtime.

If your child has been taught that their body requires high quality foods to look and feel their best, they will save foods on the top of the pyramid meant to be eaten rarely or in small amounts for holidays and parties.

Helping your child to eat what will keep them healthy may have just gotten easier!

Main Points to Address:

  • The New Food Pyramid addresses special needs.
  • Have fun substituting healthy ingredients for less healthy ones.
  • Keep healthy snacks ready to prevent unhealthy food choices.
  • Save high calorie and high fat foods for rare occasions.

Resources that can help you in your venture include:

Posted in Health.

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