Authors as Published

Elena Serrano, Associate Professor, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise. (

Age   Children 7-10X Children 11-14 X Mixed AgesVirginia Standards of Learning
English 3.1, 3.2, 3.8, 4.1, 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 6.1, 6.2, 7.1, 8.2, 8.7
Health 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 5.1, 5.2, 6.2, 6.4, 7.2, 7.5, 8.3
Setting   Classroom    CampX     Either
Location   OutsideX Indoors     Either

Project Skill: Learning about the different nutrients found in different foods and food groups of MyPlate.

Success Indicators:  As a result of this activity, children will be able to:

  • Explain why different food groups and nutrients are important
  • Recognize MyPlate
  • List and identify the different food groups of MyPlate
  • Describe foods that belong in each of the food groups

Life Skills: Decision making, Planning, Teamwork, Group Organization

Preparation Time: Time needed to set up stations. For the other ideas, you will need time to collect the props before class.


  • MyPlate:
  • Table tents or 8-1/2” x 11” inch pieces of paper folded in half with the following pictures or words of the body parts, along with examples of foods or food models from the different food groups. Be as creative as possible by choosing a wide variety of foods to illustrate the points.
  • Eyes – Fruits, vegetables (such as broccoli and peaches)
  • Teeth – Milk, other dairy products
  • Intestines – Beans, fruits, vegetables
  • Hair – Meat, beans, nuts (including peanut butter, tuna fish, chicken)
  • Muscles – Meat, beans, nuts
  • Blood – Meat, beans, eggs
  • Gums – Fruits, vegetables (such as carrots, mangoes, bananas)
  • Bones  - Milk, other dairy products
  • Brain – Breads, cereals, rice, pasta (such as corn bread, spaghetti, tortillas)
  • Whole Body – Choose a food from each food group of the MyPlate (this could be a trick question for the students)
  • Skin  - Water


  1. Show MyPlate and distribute handouts of MyPlate to all of the children. Review it by asking them what different food groups are in MyPlate and why different food groups are important.
  2. Assign students to groups and hand out paper to each group. Ask each group to have a recorder, someone to write down their ideas.
  3. Provide the different groups with situations and tasks, like those shown in this lesson.
  4. Allow all groups to explore each of the stations (see Supplies). Provide a set time period for groups to spend at each one.
  5. After they have visited all of the stations, ask each group to try to think of the nutrients that these foods contain and how these nutrients help the different body parts. On their pieces of paper, have the groups write down the reason(s). You can also have them brainstorm out loud with the whole class.
  6. Discuss what food and nutrients they would definitely include in a list of “necessary” foods. Write down the answers on a chalkboard or flipchart.
  7. Once they have completed this, summarize the importance of the different food groups in terms of nutrients and how they help different organs and body parts.
  8. Ask the students to tell their parents about this lesson.


  • This activity should only be taught if the students have already learned about MyPlate and have a general idea of the nutrients found in different foods.
  • Depending on the number of students, you may, also wish to assign students to pairs, rather than groups.
  • You may also choose to have them design their own “situation” and “task” based on their interests.

Situations And Tasks:

Situation:  You have just been asked by NASA to submit a list of foods for space travelers.
Task: When you visit each station, write down the foods and body parts that correspond to each other. Consider what nutrients help each body part. What foods would you suggest to NASA?
Situation: You are going to be on a kids’ version of “The Next Food Network™ Star.” In this variation of the show, you are asked to create different meals that contain all the nutrients you need. Once you submit your meal ideas, you cannot change them.
Task: Which foods would you put on your list? What nutrients go along with the foods and different body parts? Write your ideas down on a piece of paper.
Situation: You will be sailing around the world for one year. While you are preparing for the trip, you are asked to consider what nutrients you will need to stay healthy.
Task: On a piece of paper, write down the foods and the parts of the body shown at each station. Which nutrient corresponds to the body part at each station? How can you make sure you have the foods you need for a year-long sailing trip?

Other Ideas:

  • Use props or pictures to illustrate the nutrient functions of organs. Following are some examples:
  • Spigot or faucet (water)
  • Flashlight or sunglasses (vitamin A that helps with vision)
  • Oxygen tank (iron which builds red blood cells to carry oxygen)
  • Tool box (protein needed to build muscles and tissue)
  • Plastic hose (fiber that helps move food through the intestine.S
  • Shield (vitamin C which shields and protects our bodies from infection)
  • An actual bone (calcium that builds strong bones)


  • What did you like about this activity?
  • What was difficult?


  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • What are the different nutrients that you learned about? Which nutrient functions were you surprised about?
  • What foods and food groups are high in vitamin A? vitamin C? carbohydrates? calcium? iron?
  • What other nutrients are important?
  • What are the different food groups in MyPlate? Why are the different groups important?


Why is it important to learn the different roles of nutrients in your body?
Why is it important to learn about MyPlate?
What foods in the school lunch will help you get some of the nutrients we talked about today?
What are some foods you eat at home that have some of these nutrients?


How could you make different choices to get more nutrients in your diet and help your different body parts?

NutrientFood SourcesFunction
CarbohydrateComplex: Breads, cereals, grains, potatoes, corn
Simple: Fruit
Provide energy to play and think
ProteinMeat, poultry, fish, dry beans, nutsBuild and repair body tissue
FatButter, margarine, oil, lardInsulation and energy storage
Vitamin ALiver, yellow and dark green the vegetables, yellow and orange fruitNight vision and prevention of infections
Vitamin B1, B2, B6Whole grains or enriched foods and cerealsHelp with energy utilization
Vitamin CCitrus fruits, tomatoes, berries, green leafy vegetablesHeal wounds, build tissue, help with iron absorption
Vitamin DSunshine, fortified milkAssist with calcium absorption
Vitamin EVegetable oil, nuts, wheat germProtect tissues from oxidation
Vitamin KLeafy greens, wheat germ, oilClot blood (such as after cuts)
CalciumDairy products, (milk, yogurt, cheese) dry beans, calcium-fortified tofu, soy milk, orange juiceBuild bones and teeth, form blood clots, and help with muscle contraction
IronMeat, poultry, fish, dry beans, enriched breads and cerealsHelps build red blood cells along with protein to carry oxygen throughout the body
ZincRed meats and fishFight infections

This publication was partially funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to people with low incomes. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more, contact your local county or city Department of Social Services (phone listed under city/county government).  For help finding a local number, call toll-free: 1-800-552-3431 (M-F 8:15-5:00, except holidays).  By calling your local DSS office, you can get other useful information about services.  
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religious creed, age, disability, or political beliefs.
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call, toll free, (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202) 720-6382 (TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
This publication was partially funded by the Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program, USDA, CSREES.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

December 14, 2011