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.
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
- Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert - This book helps children ages 2-7 understand the origin of a familiar food in their bowls. (amazon.com has it)
- Soup For Supper by Phyllis Root - This book for children 4-8 includes "The Soup Song" on the last page.
- Uncle Willie And The Soup Kitchen by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan (amazon.com has it)
- Stone Soup Many good variations of this old folk tale are available. (amazon.com has it)
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:
- 1 cup measure
- large bowl
- wooden spoon
- 1 cup peanut butter
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup dry milk
- one or more of the coatings listed below (optional)
- small bowl (optional)
- waxed paper (optional)
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.
- chopped peanuts
- coconut flakes
- crushed graham crackers
- crushed cereal
- chocolate jimmies
- cinnamon sugar mix
Cream Cheese Stuffers
You will need:
- 1 package softened cream cheese
- a table knife
- and one of the following -
- pitted dates and walnut halves
- cleaned and cut celery stalks and raisins
- whole wheat or pumpernickel bread and jam
- cucumber slices
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:
- liquid measurer
- 1 cup measure
- 1 cup orange or pineapple juice
- ˝ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
- 1 cup dry milk
- 1 banana
- 3 scoops vanilla ice cream (optional)
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
- What Food Is This? by Rosmarie Hausherr - A wonderfully adaptive book for ages 3-8. This is a guessing book which helps children grasp the concepts of nutrition and food groups, as well as supplying lots of interesting information. (amazon.com has it)
- Tony’s Bread by Tomie dePaola - A fun story about how one type of Italian sweet bread might have originated. (amazon.com has it)
- Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb - Filled with some great activities and basic scientific principles. Best for ages 9 and older. (amazon.com has it)
- More Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb (amazon.com has it)
- Food Guide Pyramid - Has a picture of the pyramid as well as an explanation of a serving for each food section.
- USDA for Kids has a different approach designed for children.