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Essential Nutrients and the 5 Food Groups

Lesson Plans by Oliver Smith

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Food Groups Lesson Plans


A healthy diet is essential to a long and happy life, but what makes a diet healthy? It is recommended that we have a varied diet made up of food from each of the food groups because all the different types of foods give us essential nutrients. Students should be introduced to nutrition and healthy eating so that they are able to make sensible and informed choices about their diet. The activities in this lesson will help students recognize the importance of a varied diet and why they can't just have cake for every meal!

Student Activities for Food Groups Include:



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Nutrition and Food Science

It is important that your students have the knowledge to make healthy and informed decisions about their personal nutrition. A varied and balanced diet involves students understanding a wide range of concepts in nutrition. But a varied diet isn't one size fits all. The amount of food needed from each nutrient group is based on many different factors, such as sex, age, height, metabolic rate, and the amount of physical activity.

There are five different food groups: vegetables, fruit, grains, protein, and dairy. We should aim to eat food from all of these food groups because our bodies need a wide range of different macro and micro nutrients. Some food groups are broken into sub categories. For example, vegetables are split into five sub categories: dark green vegetables, starchy vegetables, red and orange vegetables, beans and peas, and other vegetables. Many of the daily vitamins and minerals our bodies need come from fruits and veggies, and grains contain good sources of carbohydrates. We can get protein from many different sources such as meat, fish, and nuts. Protein is also found in a lot of dairy products, like cheese, milk, and yogurt.

The nutrients in food are very important, and each one has a different purpose and use that is essential for good health. The main nutrient groups are carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water.

Carbohydrates are molecules that consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. There are two types: starches and sugars. Starch is found in foods such as flour, potatoes, pasta, rice, and cereals. Sugar is found in fruits, vegetables, honey, and milk. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is used in respiration for energy for the body.

Proteins are used by the body for growth and repair of all cells in our bodies. They are not only found in foods like meat and fish, but can also be found in soybean products and nuts. Proteins are broken down into amino acids.

Fats are important part of a healthy diet; they can provide the body with a lot of energy. Fats can also be stored in the body to insulate us. There are two main types of fat: saturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats are normally solid at room temperature, while unsaturated fats are liquid. Saturated fats normally come from animal sources, such as butter, but there are some plant based sources like palm oil. Polyunsaturated fats are found mainly in plant sources like olive oil. While fats are an important part of a healthy diet, too much fatty food can be bad for your health.

Vitamins are needed only in small amounts and keep our bodies healthy. Vitamin A is used by the body to maintain the immune system and good eyesight. Vitamin A can be found in many sources such as eggs, cod liver oil, and pumpkin. If we don’t get enough vitamin C, we can develop a disease called scurvy, something that is commonly associated with early sailors travelling on long voyages. Other vitamins include B, D, E, and K.

Minerals are also needed in small amounts to keep the body healthy. Minerals include calcium, iron, and potassium. Calcium is needed for the production of healthy bones, iron is needed to produce red blood cells, and potassium is needed for heart function. Too little iron can cause anemia.

Fiber is not actually digested by the body, but it provides roughage to aid digestion. It is found in many fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Water is essential for the production of many body fluid and cells. A high percentage of the body is water. We don’t just get water from drinking water; water can be found in many different drinks and even food like cucumbers and lettuce.


Essential Questions for Food Groups

  1. Why do we need to eat?
  2. What is a balanced diet?
  3. How can we improve our diet?

Additional Food Activity Ideas

  1. Students make visual recipes of their favorite healthy meals.
  2. Students create a narrative storyboard of someone making unhealthy food choices and suggest ways for that student to improve their diet.
  3. Students research food from all over the world and make a T-Chart to highlight the differences between two countries' cuisines.

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Prefer a different language?

•   (English) Food Groups   •   (Español) Grupos de Comida   •   (Français) Groupes D'aliments   •   (Deutsch) Lebensmittelgruppen   •   (Italiana) Gruppi Alimentari   •   (Nederlands) Voedselgroepen   •   (Português) Grupos de Comida   •   (עברית) קבוצות מזון   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مجموعات الأطعمة   •   (हिन्दी) खाने के समूह   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Группы Продуктов Питания   •   (Dansk) Fødevaregrupper   •   (Svenska) Matgrupper   •   (Suomi) Ruokaryhmät   •   (Norsk) Mat Grupper   •   (Türkçe) Besin Grupları   •   (Polski) Grupy Żywnościowe   •   (Româna) Grupuri Alimentare   •   (Ceština) Skupiny Potravin   •   (Slovenský) Skupiny Potravín   •   (Magyar) Élelmiszercsoportok   •   (Hrvatski) Grupe Hrane   •   (български) Хранителни Групи   •   (Lietuvos) Maisto Grupės   •   (Slovenščina) Food Groups   •   (Latvijas) Pārtikas Grupas   •   (eesti) Toidugrupid