Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

What Is the Food Pyramid?
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the USDA Food Pyramid and motivate the students to seek good nutrition.


One Forty-Five Minute Class Period


The learners will:

  • respond to The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food.
  • discuss prior knowledge about good nutrition.
  • identify food groups of the USDA Food Pyramid.
  • work cooperatively with the class to assemble a food pyramid puzzle.


  • The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food (see Bibliographical References), by Jan and Stan Berenstain and/or another book from the bibliographical references
  • Large Food Pyramid Poster or labeled drawing on the chalkboard
  • Access a printable version of the Food Pyramid at http://teamnutrition.usda.gov/Resources/mpk_poster.pdf and print copies to make puzzles. Cut the pyramid into the different food groups. Laminate the puzzles for durability. Optional: Enlarge the pyramid pieces and laminate. Put magnets on the back of each piece to make a large class-size puzzle for the magnetic board.
Handout 1
Making Healthy Food Choices Family Letter

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Show students the book Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food by Stan and Jan Berenstain. Ask them to tell you what junk food is. Find out what they already know about junk food. Ask the students to reflect on the question: “What if you ate too much junk food?” Read the book. After reading, discuss the lesson that the bears learned. Ask the students to raise their hands if they eat well. Ask the students to explain what is wrong with junk food.

  • Put up a poster or drawing of the Food Guide Pyramid and tell the students that this is the daily food guide recommended by the USDA. The guide shows us what foods we need each day and in what proportions.

  • Explain that people, like all animals, need food for energy. We need the right amounts of good food to keep our bodies healthy so we are able to play and work at our best.

  • Explain the different food groups and call attention to the sizes of the sections of the food-guide pyramid. Help the students understand that the recommended amount to eat from each food group is represented by the amount of space it is given on the food pyramid. For example, the grain group takes up the entire bottom portion of the food pyramid because the recommended 6-11 servings is double the amount recommended of any of the other food groups.

  • Ask students to name foods that they enjoy from each of the food groups.

  • Emphasize that the food pyramid is a guide that helps us make choices. Ask the students to recall choices they have made about eating that either had positive or negative consequences.

  • Play a game called “name that food group.” To play, divide the class into two teams. Have one person from each team come to the front of the room at a time. Place a bell between the two players. When you name a food, the first player to ring the bell names the food group to which the food belongs. If he/she cannot name the food group, the second team gets a chance to name the food group. The team whose player correctly names the food group receives a point. Play continues with new players until each child has had a turn. The team with the highest number of points wins the game.

  • Divide the class into small groups and give each group a food pyramid puzzle to put together. As they work, they can talk about the foods on the pyramid. Have each student name at least one nutritious food he or she has eaten today and name the food group from which it comes.

  • Tell the students that tomorrow they will learn how to put together a balanced food menu. Ask them to pay attention to their dinner meal tonight and be ready to discuss it tomorrow.


Observe student participation in the food group game and in the building (and discussion) of the food pyramid puzzle. You should also assess their understanding from their response to the Berenstain Bears book.

School/Home Connection:

Send a note home explaining that the children are learning about nutrition and that their homework is to pay attention to the elements of their evening meal (see Attachment One: Making Healthy Food Choices Family Letter).

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Southwest Educational Development Laboratory has a complete nutrition unit which includes curriculum integration and the use of learning centers. Download the lesson at http://www.sedl.org/scimath/pasopartners/pdfs/health.pdf,  
  • Discuss “opportunity cost” when you talk about making food choices. If you choose junk food over nutritious food, what is the opportunity cost? For the opportunity to eat junk food, your cost is that you may not be as healthy or feel as good.
  • Tie in the science concept of “consumers.” As we purchase and eat foods, we are consumers in the food chain. All animals are dependent upon plants as the producers.
  • Discuss family and family roles in providing food as it relates to the story about the Berenstain Bears.

Bibliographical References:

  • "Great Nutrition Resources for Children." Guide to Nursing Schools. http://www.guidetonursingschools.com/library/childrens-nutrition  This site is full of up-to-date facts, information and activities for different ages, and links to interactive sites.  

  • Berenstain, Jan and Stan. The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food. New York: Random House, 1985. ISBN: 0394872177

  • Leedy, Loreen. The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day. Scott Foresman, 1996. ISBN: 0823412334
  • Riccio, Nina. Five Kids & A Monkey Solve the Great Cupcake Caper: A Learning Adventure about Nutrition and Exercise. Creative Attic, 1997. ISBN: 0965395510 
  • Sharmat, Mitchell. Gregory, the Terrible Eater. New York: Scholastic Trade, 1989. ISBN: 0590433504
  • For other Food Pyramid activies and information: http://www.mypyramid.gov/kids/index.html
  • The National Dairy Council has free nutrition lesson plans and materials for teachers. Call to order at 800-426-8271. You can visit the Website to find the local Dairy Council and see sample lessons and activities at Nutrition Explorations <http://www.nutritionexplorations.org/utility/findDC.asp.>
  • Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 22 July 2002,
    < http://www.sedl.org/scimath/pasopartners/pdfs/health.pdf>

Lesson Developed By:

Mary Petro
Albion Public Schools
Harrington Elementary
Albion, Michigan


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Making Healthy Food Choices Family Letter

Dear Family,

Today we studied the USDA Food Pyramid and learned about the different food groups. At your house, you may find copies of the food pyramid on boxes of crackers or cereal and other packages. Ask your child to tell you what he or she learned about making healthy food choices.

Tonight, as you eat dinner, discuss the foods that you are eating and relate them to the categories on the food pyramid. We will be using the information at school, and the children need to be prepared to discuss the foods from their evening meals.


Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Helping Others to Feed Themselves Summary


What Is the Food Pyramid?
What Is a Balanced Menu?
World Hunger
Read to Feed

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