How can I explain the USDA MyPlate recommendations to my children?

Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
MyPlate is a great tool for teaching children basic nutrition. The plate clearly shows children what foods build health. The basic points are eat more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and make the protein you eat lean. Using your own plates, have your children find foods that fit into each MyPlate category and then build meals around each food group. Each group can stand alone and be a great opportunity for learning. The possibilities for fun are unlimited.
Sari Greaves
Nutrition & Dietetics
The new USDA MyPlate serves as a visual tool that childen of all ages can easily respond to at meal time. At home, instruct children to create "sectioned plates" (use styrofoam or paper plates to draw and color each food group section illustrated in the My plate icon). The key messages to communicate are to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, half with lean protein and whole grains, balanced with a cup of low fat or fat free milk on the side.

Take advantage of seasonal foods to meet your daily food group goals. For example, in the Summer, decorate your plate with grilled corn on the cob, steamed sugar snap peas drizzled with reduced low sodium soy sauce or a sweet green salad with sliced strawberries. Check out the Interactive Tools link at for a complete meal plan and portion recommendations for different age groups.
The MyPlate icon is easy to explain to children of all ages!

As you can see from the figure, MyPlate is a dinner plate split into multiple sections, each representing each of the five food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. While oils are an important part of a healthy diet, they are not depicted on the plate as they are not considered a food group.

At a blink of an eye, you will now see proportionality in regards to how these food groups should dominate your diet. Half of your plate should be devoted to waist- and heart-friendly vegetables and fruit with a smaller portion for grains, preferably whole grains, and lean protein foods such as fish, skinless poultry, lean meats, dried beans and peas. The circle shape next to the plate is a visual reminder to make sure that fat-free and low-fat dairy foods such as milk should not be forgotten at mealtimes. 

Visit for more kid-friendly information geared towards helping you and your family eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
MyPlate, USDA's food pyramid

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.