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Bright Papers: MyPyramid for Kids! The Food Group Grand Tour

March 08, 2010

Fasten your safety belts—and get ready for the grand tour of MyPyramid's food groups!

MyPyramid is made up of five food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk and Meat & Beans plus Oils. Each group has a color and a special saying to help you make great choices.

The Grains Group is orange and says, "Make half your grains whole."

MyPyramid says many kids your age should eat 6 ounces of foods from the Grains group every day. At least half the foods you eat from the Grains group should be whole grains such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, some breakfast cereals (check the label for the words "whole grain"), brown rice and popcorn.

Foods from the Grains group give us vitamins and minerals we need for good health and many grains give us fiber. Foods from the Grains group also contain carbohydrates, which give our bodies energy.

Some foods found in the Grains group are bread, buns, rolls, bagels, ready-to-eat cereal, oatmeal, pasta, rice, corn bread, grits, pizza crust, crackers, tortillas, pretzels, popcorn, biscuits, sweet rolls, donuts, cookies and cake.

Smart Tips for the Grains Group:

  • Eat a bowl of oatmeal. Or eat a bowl of cold cereal—try mixing up two or three of your favorite kinds. Make sure at least one says "whole grain" on the box.
  • Try a sandwich on "whole wheat" bread.
  • Try whole wheat pasta, whole wheat tortillas or brown rice at dinnertime.
  • Snack on popcorn, baked tortilla chips or a bowl of cereal.
  • Have sweet rolls or donuts for breakfast only once in awhile. Try cereal, toast, a bagel or an English muffin instead.

The Vegetables Group is green and says, "Vary your veggies."

MyPyramid says many kids your age should eat 2 ½ cups of veggies every day. That much equals three broccoli spears plus about 12 baby carrots plus one small ear of corn. So, you can see, it's not hard to get enough.

Foods from the Vegetables group give us important nutrients we need for good health such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate (a really important "B" vitamin), potassium and fiber.

Some foods found in the Vegetables group are broccoli, greens, lettuce, spinach, corn, peas, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, turnips, zucchini, and dry beans and peas (for example, black eyed peas, pinto beans, kidney beans, chick peas, split peas, lentils and foods made from soybeans such as veggie burgers and tofu), French fries, potato chips and onion rings.

Veggies come in different forms. There are fresh, frozen, canned and dried veggies and 100% vegetable juice, and they're all great to eat and drink.

Vary your veggies—and eat lots of different colors! Eat more dark green veggies like broccoli, spinach and greens and orange ones like carrots and sweet potatoes. Choose dry beans and peas like kidney beans, black beans, split peas and lentils, too. These foods give you vitamins, minerals and fiber, but not a lot of extra fats.

Smart Tips for the Vegetables Group:

  • Have a bowl of vegetable soup with lunch or dinner.
  • Put lots of lettuce and tomato or other veggies on a sandwich.
  • Try carrot sticks, salad or a baked potato with your sandwich.
  • Have a great big salad with lots of different veggies in it at dinnertime.
  • Take an extra helping of veggies at dinner.
  • Snack on carrot sticks, celery sticks or cherry tomatoes.
  • Order a small serving of French fries or onion rings instead of a big one.
  • Buy a smaller bag of potato chips or put a serving of chips from a big bag into a small bowl.

The Fruits Group is red and says, "Focus on fruits."

MyPyramid says many kids your age should eat 1 ½ cups of fruits every day. That much equals one small apple plus one small orange. So, you can see, it's not hard to get enough. It's OK to eat more if you want, too.

Foods from the Fruits group give us important nutrients we need for good health such as Vitamin C, folate (a really important "B" vitamin), potassium and fiber.

Some foods found in the Fruits group are apples, bananas, strawberries, grapes, watermelon, oranges, peaches, pears, raisins, dried apricots, applesauce, fruit cocktail, canned peaches, orange juice and apple juice.

Fruits come in different forms. There are fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit and 100% fruit juice, and they're all great to eat and drink.

Eat a big variety of fruits. This helps make sure you get a big variety of vitamins and minerals. A good way to do this is to choose lots of different color fruits. For example, you might have a green apple, yellow banana, red strawberries and purple grapes.

Smart Tips for the Fruits Group: 

  • Slice up a banana on your cereal.
  • Put some raisins in your oatmeal.
  • Drink a small glass of orange juice.
  • Pack an apple, banana or orange in your lunch.
  • Order a fruit cup or bag of sliced apples when you go out for fast food.
  • Put some dried apricots or a juice box in your backpack for an after-school snack.
  • Have applesauce, fruit cocktail or canned peaches for dessert after dinner. Go for canned fruits that are packed in water or juice, instead of syrup.

The Milk Group is blue and says, "Get your calcium-rich foods."

MyPyramid says kids your age should get 3 cups of foods from the Milk Group every day (2 cups for kids ages 2 to 8). Most foods from this group should be low-fat or fat-free varieties.

Foods from the Milk Group give us important nutrients we need for good health such as calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein. They also help keep our bones and teeth strong and healthy.

Some foods found in the Milk group are milk, yogurt, cheese, pudding made with milk, ice cream and frozen yogurt.

Smart Tips for the Milk Group:

  • Drink a glass or container of low-fat or fat-free milk with your meals. Chocolate milk or other flavored low-fat milk is OK sometimes, too.
  • Put a slice of low-fat or reduced-fat cheese on your sandwich.
  • Snack on yogurt or a cheese stick.
  • Sprinkle some cheese on top of your veggies at dinner.
  • Have a small bowl of pudding, ice cream or frozen yogurt.
  • If you're used to whole milk at school or at home, try slowly switching to 2% milk. Then once you get used to it, see about making the next step to 1% or fat-free milk.

The Meat & Beans Group is purple and says, "Go lean with protein."

MyPyramid says many kids your age should eat 5 ounces of foods from the Meat & Beans Group every day.

Foods from the Meat & Beans group can give us important vitamins and minerals we need for good health such as B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. They also contain protein, which helps build, repair and maintain our body tissues, like your muscles, brain, kidneys, and lungs.

Some foods found in the Meat & Beans group are beef, lamb, ham, chicken, turkey, fish, dry beans and peas (for example, black eyed peas, pinto beans, kidney beans, chick peas, split peas, lentils and foods made from soybeans such as veggie burgers and tofu), peanut butter, nuts and seeds, sausage, bologna and hot dogs.

Smart Tips for the Meat & Beans Group:

  • Have lean ham instead of sausage or bacon at breakfast.
  • Eat soup or chili with beans, lentils or split peas in it.
  • Have a turkey or ham sandwich at lunch.
  • Order a grilled chicken sandwich when you go out for fast food.
  • Snack on a handful of nuts or some peanut butter and crackers.
  • Eat baked chicken instead of fried chicken, and make sure to take off the skin before you eat it.
  • Eat baked fish instead of fried fish.
  • Cut the fat off meat before you eat it.

What About Oils?

The thin yellow stripe on MyPyramid stands for Oils. This isn't a food group, but you need some oils to be healthy.

Some examples of oils are vegetable oils such as canola oil, corn oil, olive oil, soybean oil and foods naturally high in oils such as nuts, olives, some fish (for example, salmon) and avocados.

Foods Without A Group

Some things we eat and drink don't fit into one of MyPyramid's food groups. Some examples are foods that contain extra fats such as butter, margarine, sauces and salad dressings. Other examples are foods and drinks that contain extra sugars such as syrup, honey, jelly, jam, sugar, candy, fruit drinks, fruit punch and sweetened soft drinks. These foods and drinks give us calories, but few or no vitamins and minerals.

You can think of these foods and drinks as "extras" to have in small amounts once you get the foods you need from MyPyramid's food groups. If you have too many foods or drinks with extra fats and sugars, you might get too many calories and not enough of the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Many foods that contain extra fats and sugars also come in "light," "fat-free," "low-calorie" or "no-calorie" varieties, such as light or fat-free salad dressings, and low-calorie or no-calorie sports drinks and soft drinks. These versions are a lot lower in extra fats and sugars—or may have none at all, so they're usually a lot lower in calories, too.

Learn lots more about MyPyramid for Kids!  Go to http://www.mypyramid.gov/.

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