The Food Plate

The food pyramid is now the food plate. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/

Every year, I’d go into my kids’ classrooms and teach the kids about the food pyramid. I’d bring in posters I’d ordered free from mypyramid.gov. I had a whole spiel, talking with them about good eating habits.

The year they added the stairs to the side of the pyramid, I understood and ageed with the rationale — yes, of course, we should exercise — but felt the message was confusing. Does chasing a ball really have to do with eating healthy foods? (Maybe it does.) But the food pyramid, I thought, should be about eating the right foods.

There were and maybe still are very little discussions about how to eat healthily in public school classrooms — even though it’s something we do several times a day and kids enjoy sharing practical ideas about eating.

While the food pyramid required interpretation, the food plate is pretty obvious. Make your plate look like the one in the picture. Kids get that. I like that.

But even better than showing kids what to eat was letting them try it. I’d set up little plates for each kid with samples of each category of food — a spoonful of yogurt, broccoli, garbanzo beans, grapes, and popcorn. Kids loved it.

I’d also do some exercises on media literacy and food. I’d ask the kids, “What commercials have you seen for food lately?”

“Fruit gushers.”  “Big Macs.”  “Reese’s Puff cereal.”

“Right,” I said. “What about broccoli? Or grapes? Or chickpeas? Let’s make up our own commercials about vegetables, fruits, and beans.”

I assigned small groups to create commercials that included 1) some music 2) some tag line 3) some movement 4) some conflict. (Because, you know, conflict is the essence of drama. And we wanted the commercials to be dramatic.)

The commercials were very funny.

Invariably, one of the kids would ask, “Is it all right to eat candy?” “Yes,” I would say, “A tiny little bit is okay. Just not too much.”

One of the teachers suggested that I take my curriculum on the road to talk to more public school kids about healthy eating. I’d like to, but Michelle Obama seems to have that job. And she’s doing a pretty good job of it too.

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