Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Investigating the Food Pyramid

Cathy Burgess
Bay District Schools


Students learn that the food pyramid is an important nutritional tool. They classify foods and compare the number of servings per group that are necessary for maintaining good health by placing empty food containers in grocery bags.


The student understands positive health behaviors that enhance wellness.

The student classifies food and food combinations according to the Food Guide Pyramid.

The student uses simple graphs, pictures, written statements, and numbers to observe, describe, record, and compare data.


-Empty food containers with labels (several from each food group)
-Six brown grocery bags labeled for the six food groups
-Poster of THE FOOD PYRAMID, Frank Schaffer, 1998
-Book, WHAT FOOD IS THIS? Hausherr, Scholastic, 1994
-Charts of -Easy as 1, 2, 3!- and -Everybody Needs A Heart- (HEART POWER, AHA, 1996)
-A Shopping Song, SONGS, POEMS, AND FINGERPLAYS, BEST OF MAILBOX MAGAZINE, The Education Center, 1998 (associated file)
-Food Pyramid sheet (associated file)
-Chart paper
-Pencils-one per student
-Crayons-one pack per student
-Happy, Healthy Me Science journal
-Paper plate with pictures of your favorite meal cut from magazines or store ads
-11 x 13 Construction paper (1 sheet any color for each child)
-Primary writing paper (10 sheets per child)
-Food Pyramid checklist
-Happy, Healthy Me Portfolios
-Food Pyramid sheet


1. Collect many different empty food containers like cereal boxes, rice, pasta, tuna, ravioli, green beans, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, KFC chicken container, Hamburger Helper, Lean Cuisine dinners, broccoli, soup, bread bag, actual fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen vegetable bags, canned corn, cake mix, Little Debbie Oatmeal pies etc.

2. Cut out pictures of a healthy meal from magazines and tape loosely onto a plate. (An example would be, chicken, black-eyed peas, squash, potato salad, tea, cornbread, and coconut pie.)

3. Label the brown paper grocery bags with each of the food groups. Put some pictures that go with each food group on the bag for a visual clue.

4. Make sure the food pyramid poster is posted where students can see and refer to it.

5. Have the book WHAT FOOD IS THIS? ready to read.

6. Have -Easy as 1, 2, 3!- and -Everybody Needs A Heart- charts out.

7. Write -The Shopping Song- on chart paper and duplicate copies for students.

8. Make copies of Food Pyramid sheet for students to keep in their portfolios. (See attached file.)

9. Make Happy Healthy Me science journals out of 11x13 construction paper folded in half like a book with 10 sheets of primary writing paper stapled inside.

10. Happy Healthy Me portfolios - A Message from Your Heart.

11. Send home the Sleep Data Collection sheet today. The students have a full week to complete it. It must be returned to school by lesson eight on day ten in order to complete the activity for that day.


*This is the second lesson, 2nd day in the Happy, Healthy Me unit.

Only part of the science standard GLE is being assessed in this lesson. The student uses pictures and written statements to observe, describe, and record data.

1. As a review, sing and read the song -Everybody Needs A Heart-. Also recite and do the motions for -Easy as 1, 2, 3!- Review the day one lesson by asking questions about the heart. Then point to the 4th verse in Everybody Needs a Heart and ask what nutrient means.
Tell students: Nutrients are ingredients in the food we eat. Your heart needs different kinds of foods to keep it healthy. In fact, there is a something called the Food Pyramid. Introduce students to the Food Pyramid poster. Point out the food pyramid shows six food groups. It also gives the number of helpings of food adults should eat everyday. Point out children need fewer servings than adults do. The Food Guide Pyramid was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services as a guideline to help Americans choose a healthy diet.

2. Ask students to name their favorite meals. Have them name different foods that make up that meal. (As an example, I always tell them my favorite meal.) Pictures of my meal are loosely taped to a plate. There are smoked chicken, black-eyed peas, squash, potato salad, corn bread, ice tea, and coconut pie for dessert.

3. Read the book WHAT FOOD IS THIS? Discuss each food group and talk about how students can identify the food group it belongs to in the Food Pyramid poster. Relate the foods from the book to the pyramid. Putting foods into the correct place on the food pyramid is called classifying. Tell students they need to know how to classify foods to see if they are eating a healthy diet. There are certain amounts from each group that they should eat every day. Show the brown grocery bags that are labeled with each food group. Pick up the plate from step 2 (your favorite meal) and classify each of the foods onto the correct bag. Tape the pictures to the outside of the bag under the label so students have a visual aid to help in classifying.

4. Now display the empty food containers and ask what food each held. Decide which group it belongs to and place the container into the correct bag. (Example: Cornflakes cereal goes into the bread and cereal) Make sure they know that some containers show food combinations and belong to more than one group. It is ok for students to put food combinations in more than one bag. Continue classifying until all the containers are gone.

An example of positive feedback might be: “Good answer! Yes, that does belong in the ______ group. Wow, I can tell you have been listening to the lesson by the way you classify the food containers.” Corrective feedback may be “Where else could you put that? Think hard about where you are placing that. Is meat loaf really a fruit? Look up at the food pyramid and find the place where that belongs.”

5. After the students have classified all the containers into the correct bags, directly relate it back to the poster of the food pyramid. This is a good time to orally practice classifying.

6. Say something like, “I had a hamburger for dinner last night. How would I classify my hamburger?” Call on different students to give you a name of a food and decide as a group where it belongs on the food pyramid (bread, meat, vegetables).

7. Introduce -A Shopping Song-. Sing the song to help students practice classifying foods. Do this several times until students become familiar with it.

8. Hand out the Happy, Healthy Me science journals.
A. Have students write their names on the front of the journals.
B. Then have students title the first page The Food Pyramid.
C. Next have students draw the Food Pyramid in their journals (do this together.)
D. Then students draw a picture of a food they placed in each group from the grocery bag activity.
E. Also on the bottom of the page, have them make an entry that answers this question: Why is it important to learn about the food pyramid and the food groups?

Depending on the time of year and the writing ability of your students, you may want to put a sentence starter up on the board:
It is important to know about the different food groups because:______________________________________________________________.

9. Students can share and compare their journal entries with the person sitting next to them. Keep science journals in the portfolio.

10. Hand out copies of -A Shopping Song-. If time allows, students can illustrate the song. This is to be kept in their portfolios.


Formatively assesses students’ ability to correctly classify food and food combinations according to the Food Guide Pyramid through observation on activities # 4 and #5 in the procedure section.

The teacher formatively assesses students' ability to use pictures to observe, describe, record data in their science journals. Criteria is that the Food Pyramid is drawn and correctly labeled, one picture is drawn correctly in each of the groups, and one sentence about why it is important to learn about the Food Pyramid is included. See attached checklist for criteria.


1. An extension to this lesson would be to classify any snacks the students have brought to class for snack time, or open lunch boxes before going to lunch and classify the food inside.

2. Computer center activity: Science Blaster Jr. CD, Shopping in the Cupboard, level l. Students place foods from the cupboard in the food pyramid.

3. After this lesson put all containers and bags in the science center for students to continue classifying.

4. Later, move the empty containers to the math center. Put price tags on the containers. Students can practice counting money by buying food with pretend money. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link below. Scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section -Files to be downloaded.- This section contains links to the Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, Instructional Plan Overview, and other associated files (if any). See the unit plan: Happy Healthy Me.

Web Links

Get information about fruits and vegetables from.
Dole 5 a Day

See a web page designed by students on Nutrition and the Food Pyramid (if available take students to website live and project over TV).
Nutrition Web Page

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