Food and Nutrition

The Food Guide Pyramid

Our ideas of good nutrition have changed over the years. At one time, the United States recommended the healthiest meals according to the four food groups: the meat group (which eventually became the protein group), the breads and cereals group, the fruits and vegetables group, and the milk group. However, as we learned more about the body and its needs, our ideas shifted about what foods we should eat and in what proportions.

A few years ago, the United States Department of Agriculture released updated guidelines for proper daily nutrition. The Food Guide Pyramid is based on recent research and helps to clarify food choices for a healthy lifestyle. It is divided into 6 sections, each representing a particular type of food. Those sections closest to the bottom of the pyramid are the foods which should be the foundation of our daily diet. These are the foods which the average person should consume most often.

The section on the very bottom is the bread, cereal, rice, and pasta group. Most people should eat 6 to 11 servings from this group each day. The next two sections are the vegetable group and the fruit group. Most people should eat 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day and 2 to 4 servings of fruit.

The next two sections of the pyramid are the milk, yogurt, and cheese group, which should supply 3 to 5 servings of the average person’s diet each day and the meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts group, which should also supply 2 to 3 servings. The last section, at the top of the pyramid, should be used as little as possible, or "sparingly". This group consists of the fats, oil, and sweets. Items such as butter, sugar, candy, cakes, and dressings fit into this group.

An important thing to remember is that the Food Guide Pyramid it is just that, a guide. It helps the average person older than 2 years of age, who is in basically good health, to select the foods which will keep them healthy. If an individual is younger than 2, overweight, has diabetes, allergies, or other health problems it would be important for them to follow the recommendation of their own physician concerning what should be their regular eating and dietary habits.

Check out the Food Guide Pyramid for adults as well as a simplified approach for kids at USDA For Kids.

A Soup Story

A traditional story about soup that has been told in so many different ways for so many years is Stone Soup. In this story there is always a clever character who is very hungry, but who has no food to eat. After asking for food from others and receiving none, this person we will call "Clever Clara", comes up with a plan to fill her stomach.

She first takes a large pot, fills it with water, and places it over a fire. Then when she is certain that everyone is watching, Clever Clara places a large rock into the pot and sits down to wait. Of course this curious sight brings everyone out in turn to ask questions.

As one townsfolk approaches Clara to ask what she is doing, she informs them that she is making stone soup. "But what a shame," she adds, "that I have no onions, for onions are what really make the best stone soup." This person then volunteers to add some onions in return for a taste of the soup.

Curiosity eventually gets the best of each character in the story. But to each curious onlooker, Clara comments that some new item, potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc. would make the soup just a bit better. And as each item is added to the pot the soup becomes a real hearty meal.

A Soup Activity

Children enjoy the simple and harmless trick Clara plays on the townsfolk in the story Stone Soup and many well illustrated and well told versions of this tale can be found. After reading one or more of these books, take some time to make your own stone soup.

Let children help wash and prepare the vegetables for the soup including the ones they like best. Be sure to include a large round smooth stone that you have washed well. Avoid using a pot that has a nonstick coating, as the rock may scratch the surface. Once the vegetables have been added and it has simmered for a while, remove the stone and serve it up.

Try tossing a handful of popcorn on each bowl of soup as a garnish. It’s tasty and takes the place of crackers or a roll very well. For other fun ways to eat popcorn and to learn the history of this favorite food, take a look at our Popcorn page.

Books for Children

Recipes To Try

Playful Peanut Butter

This makes a wonderful dough to play with or you shape it into little balls and roll the balls in any of the listed coatings.

What you need:

Measure one cup each of the peanut butter, honey, and dry milk into the large bowl. Stir them with the wooden spoon until a dough forms. If the ingredients are not mixed thoroughly you can finish mixing the dough with your hands. If the mixture is too sticky to shape easily, knead in more dry milk, a little at a time, until it can be handled.

Now serve everybody a lump of dough (not more than should be eaten at one time). Encourage each person to squeeze and shape the dough creatively before eating it.

If you don’t want to play with the dough, shape it into small balls. Pick a coating from the list below and put some into a small bowl. Roll each ball in the selected coating. Place the coated balls on the wax paper and refrigerate for one half hour or more.


Cream Cheese Stuffers

You will need:

Open a date, place a blob of cream cheese inside, push in a walnut, then close the date.

Spread the cream cheese inside the cut celery pieces and top with raisins if you wish.

Cut the crust off a slice of bread. Spread the slice with a thin layer of cream cheese and a thin layer of jam. Roll the bread slice to make a “log”. Then start at one end of the rolled log and cut it into “pinwheels”.

Spread one cucumber slice with cream cheese and top with a second cucumber slice.

Fruit Juice Shake

This serves two people approximately 1 cup of shake. Serve it without the ice cream with a graham cracker and it makes a nice breakfast.

You will need:

Place all the ingredients (including one of the three scoops of ice cream, if you are using it) in a blender. Mix on medium until the consistency is smooth. Pour into 2 glasses (if you are using the ice cream, float one scoop in each glass). Enjoy.

Books for Children


Related Subjects

To find out more about various foods try our Dairy Foods, Eggs, Popcorn, and Peanuts pages.

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