MyPlate and kids

Teaching young children about MyPlate and healthy eating.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is teaching Michigan State University Extension nutrition education lessons for preschoolers. Kids ages 3-5 are sponges just waiting to soak up everything we can teach them, show them and tell them. Preschoolers may be young but they are able to start understanding basic concepts about healthy eating. My students love when I bring MyPlate to class each week and we read stories and talk about the different food groups and what foods belong to each group. Take any opportunity you can to talk with your young child about healthy eating, MyPlate, food groups and healthy foods. Encouraging them and exposing them to new foods in each food group is a great way to encourage their eating habits and broaden their experiences with food.

Foods from each of MyPlate’s food groups provide necessary nutrients for the growth and good health of your child. Here are some tips for preschoolers from MyPlate regarding the five food groups: Protein, Vegetables, Fruits, Grains and Dairy:

  • Fruits – Let your preschooler enjoy a variety of whole or bite-sized fruits such as apples, sliced bananas, and mandarin orange pieces. Serve 100 percent fruit juice in small amounts and less often.
  • Vegetables – Prepare red, orange, and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli as part of your child’s meals and snacks.
  • Grains – Make at least half their grains whole grains by offering 100 percent whole-grain cereals, breads, and pasta.
  • Protein Foods – Choose a variety of protein foods such as seafood, beans, and small portions of meat or poultry.
  • Dairy – Give them low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese to provide much needed calcium.    

We know that young children can’t go grocery shopping or prepare meals on their own, so as parents it is our job to make sure to provide healthy foods and involve the kids in meal planning, shopping and food preparation as much as possible.

And don’t forget that they learn by watching you. Be a good role model for your kids and they will follow in your footsteps. MyPlate has a tip sheet to encourage parents to be good role models for their kids.

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