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Eating Clean: A Kid’s Guide to the Food Pyramid
Written by: Greg Wiszniewski
To stay healthy, your body needs lots of different kinds of foods. Foods belong to different groups, depending on where they come from and the nutrients they contain. Experts have figured out the number of servings of each type of food you should have each day in order to be healthy. This special “food pyramid” tells you each of the different food groups you need to include in your meals and snacks. The food pyramid includes grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, and fats and sweets. Once you understand the food pyramid, you can pay attention to the foods you eat to make sure you eat the right amounts of each group. You can even begin reading labels on different foods to see how much protein, sugar, and carbohydrates foods contain.
The food pyramid looks like a triangle with sections for each different food group. Grains are on the bottom of the pyramid, taking up the biggest section. You should try to eat six servings of grains every day. Grains include bread, rice, pasta, and cereal. For the best nutrition, try to eat whole grains. Fruits and vegetables sit on top of the grain section of the food pyramid. You should eat three servings of vegetables every day and two servings of fruits. Vegetables can be raw or cooked, and salads count as vegetables, too. Fruits might be fresh, canned, or dried. Some people like to eat their fruits and vegetables each day by drinking smoothies. The protein sections of the pyramid include dairy and meat. You should eat two servings of dairy and two servings of meat each day. Dairy foods include milk, cheese, and yogurt. Meat might include beef, poultry, fish, and eggs. The fats and sweets section sits at the top of the food pyramid and is the smallest part. For the best health, people should try not to eat too many fats and sweets. Foods that make up this group include butter, oils, candy, and desserts.
Once you begin paying attention to the food pyramid and the foods you eat, you might want to start reading food labels. Food labels contain information about the nutrients contained in foods. Some people pay very close attention to food labels because they want to make sure that their diets are as clean as possible without adding too many sugars and fats to their meals and snacks. When you look at a food product, you will probably see a label with the words “Nutrition Facts.” This label gives you information about nutrients contained in the food product. You will see information about the recommended serving size, calories, fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. The food label will also tell you all of the ingredients contained in the product. Some of the nutrients in the food label will be listed in either grams or milligrams. Other listings will show you a percentage for the listed nutrients. If you see a percentage, this is telling you how much of that nutrient the food will give you out of the total you should eat per day. However, it’s important to note that these percentages are based on what an adult would need. As a kid, your nutritional needs will be different.
The body uses all of the different food groups included in the food pyramid for different purposes. Grains contain carbohydrates, which the body uses for fuel and energy. Vegetables and fruits contain important vitamins and minerals, which the body uses for many different things. For example, vitamin A is important for good eyesight and healthy skin. Fiber in fruits and vegetables helps with digestion. Dairy foods contain calcium, protein, and vitamin D. Calcium helps with keeping bones and teeth strong. Meats are full of protein and iron, which help keep body tissues strong and blood healthy. Fats and sweets usually contain lots of calories and sugar. Natural fats and natural sugars can be good for the body in small amounts. However, many sweets don’t contain natural ingredients. Most people get enough fats and sugars in the other foods they eat without adding extra sweets to their diets.
About the Food Pyramid
- Food Pyramid Guide (PDF)
- Snack Tips for Kids (PDF)
- Healthy Snack Suggestions
- How Many Servings Do You Need Each Day?
- Healthy Snacks for Kids (PDF)
- My Pyramid
- Kids Rock Nutrition in the Kitchen (video)
Fruits and Vegetables
- Awesome Applesauce
- Kids: Get Cooking (PDF)
- Savory Black Beans (PDF)
- Freezees Recipes (PDF)
- Crunchy African Bananas (PDF)
- Fairfax Kids Cooking (PDF)
- Healthy Recipes
- Cookbook: Kids’ Winning Recipes (PDF)
- High-Calorie, High-Protein Recipes
- Dinner Recipes (PDF)
- Heart-Healthy Eating for Kids (PDF)
Fats and Sweets
- Nutrition in the Kitchen (PDF)