Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Food Guide Pyramid

Christy Carpenter
Bay District Schools


This lesson introduces the Food Guide Pyramid and Daily Guidelines for Americans and allows students to evaluate their current nutritional habits and to create a plan for developing healthy habits to last their lifetime.


The student understands how nutrient and energy needs vary in relation to gender, activity level, and stage of life

The student knows how to implement a plan for attaining personal health goals for the school year and knows methods for evaluating progress.

The student knows how to make positive decisions related to injury, tobacco, nutrition, physical activity, sexuality, and alcohol and other drugs.

The student knows various strategies to use when applying the decision-making process regarding healthy habits (eg., ways to avoid junk foods).


-Copy of the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and copy of the Daily Guidelines for Americans. (Copyright-free images available from; Food Guide Pyramid Information at
- Overhead projector
- Overhead transparency of Calorie Chart
- Calculator
- Listing of the fat and calories found in most foods (This can usually be found in the appendices of nutrition texts or from your school's library.)
- Handouts of Dietary Plan Rubric for each student (see attached file)


1. Be familiar with nutrition terms such as USDA, Daily Guidelines for Americans, and Food Guide Pyramid.
2. The teacher needs to know that fat has 9 calories per gram.
3. The teacher should obtain nutrition guides from area fast food restaurants for the food diary activity because many students eat at fast food restaurants almost every day.


1. Before introducing the lesson, have students write down everything they ate the day before. Tell them to include water, candy, and everything else they put in their mouths and swallowed. Students should list the food and the portion size eaten (1 cup, 1 piece, 8 oz., etc.). (10 mins.)

2. Introduce the Food Guide Pyramid (FGP) and the Daily Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Explain that although there are seven DGA, you will only be discussing six since alcohol consumption is illegal for anyone under the age of twenty-one. Explain what the USDA is and why they are interested in our health. (5 mins.)

3. Draw a chart on the overhead, listing each of the food groups on the FGP. As you discuss food groups, ask students to name their favorite foods and put them in the correct category. (10 mins.)

4. Ask students to tell you why they think the USDA created the FGP and DGA. (To help us choose healthy food.) Ask students to tell you why it is important to eat healthy food. (So that we have a better quality of life as we get older.) Ask students to name some of the diseases that are caused by eating unhealthy foods. (Arteriosclerosis, diabetes, heart problems, stroke, etc.) Explain that lifestyle choices about what we eat affect our lives many years down the road. (15 mins.)

5. Go over the information on the FGP in detail. Discuss servings and portion sizes. Explain that although the amounts recommended by the USDA may seem like a lot, because portion sizes are small, you may be eating more than you think. ( You may be able to borrow plastic food from the Health Dept. or a dietitian to demonstrate this point. If not, use a measuring cup to demonstrate.) For example, if you eat the school lunch on spaghetti day, you are eating at least two servings of pasta, since a serving of pasta is one cup. (20 mins.)

6. Ask students to look over their food diaries. Read each of the Dietary Guidlines and have students mentally evaluate their diet. ( At this point you may need to define some terms such as cholesterol and fiber.) Have students determine the daily amount of calories they need by referring to the transparency titled Recommended Fat Intake. Explain that active people need more calories than sedentary people. Ask students to tell you why this is so. (Because they burn more calories.) Explain that in order to lose weight, they must decrease the number of calories they consume and in order to gain weight they must increase the number of calories they consume. Also, explain that as they grow older, their calorie needs will decrease because they will no longer be growing, and their metabolism will slow down. Explain that fats should make up less than 30% of their daily intake. (This is a good opportunity for a cross-curricular math lesson!) (15 mins.)

7. Assist students in evaluating their food diaries. Use an example on the overhead to demonstrate how to determine the calories and fat grams they ate yesterday. At this point, there will be many questions that will require your own judgment, such as -How do I look up calories for a taco casserole?- Some calorie lists will have this information. If not, students should record the foods separately (i.e., 4 oz. ground beef, 1 oz. cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup kidney beans). Remind students that sauces and condiments have calories and fat, too, and should be included in their food diary. This analysis will take a great deal of time. When students have their fat and calorie information, have them figure the percentage of fat in their diets. (Multiply the total fat grams times 9, then divide this number by their total calories.) Ask students to raise their hands if they got a number larger than 30%. Ask them to look around at how many hands are raised. Ask them what this tells us about the diets of Americans (or teens)? (30 mins.)

8. Hand out assessment rubric and give the following assignment: You will write an essay evaluating your present diet and will present a plan for change. Include your calorie requirements and your activity level (sedentary, average, or active). You must evaluate your diet using the FGP and the DGA as guidelines. Determine which of your eating habits are healthy as well as which are not healthy. For those unhealthy habits, explain what you plan to do to change them. Explain why it is important to make these changes and what might happen if you fail to follow through. Give specific examples of ways that you plan to record your progress over a period of time.

9. Allow students to finish their essays during the remaining class time and for homework. When they are finished, allow students to peer edit essays before turning in.


The teacher should keep a checklist of students to evaluate student understanding as he/she moves around the room helping the students with thieir food diary. Students that do not exhibit comprehension of the lesson should be remediated on a one-to-one basis with the teacher or with students who demonstrate understanding of the lesson. The Dietary Plan will be assessed using the rubric attached to this lesson.


ESE Modification: You may have students list the unhealthy foods that they recorded in their food diaries and list three healthier alternatives to each. You may also have students create a menu for a 24-hour period that adheres to the Daily Guidelines for Americans.

Web Links

Web supplement for The Food Guide Pyramid
U.S. Department of Agriculture

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