Using the Pyramid and Food Label to
Build Healthful Eating Patterns for Kids

Healthful eating patterns and active lifestyles begun in childhood and continued through adult years may help prevent or postpone the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Parents can help children establish healthful eating habits by offering a variety of foods and creating balance in their own healthful eating patterns. Meal planning and food shopping are opportunities to share positive ideas with children. The Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list on food packages and the Food Guide Pyramid are practical tools parents and children can use together to build healthful eating patterns.

The Food Guide Pyramid

Parents and children should remember that no individual food is good or bad. All foods can fit into a healthy eating style. Help children learn how foods fit into the Food Guide Pyramid and how each food group can help them grow. Even young children can identify foods from the Food Guide Pyramid's five food groups and understand how their bodies use the nutrients provided by the foods they eat.

The foundation of a healthful eating pattern includes 6 to 11 servings of grains at the base of the Pyramid each day: bread, cereal, rice and pasta. Grain products contain carbohydrates, vitamins, iron and fiber. Children need grains as sources of energy to grow, develop, learn and keep physically active. Complex carbohydrates and sugars are valuable energy sources for children. Remember, the more vitamins and minerals in a serving of food, the more nutrients are available for a child's growth and development.

The middle section of the Pyramid shows fruits and vegetables, which provide carbohydrates, vitamins A and C, and folic acid to keep eyes, skin and blood healthy. Enjoy 2 to 4 servings daily of fruits, such as strawberries, oranges, and peaches, and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables, such as carrots, winter squash and broccoli. Include 2 to 3 servings of milk, yogurt and cheese for protein, calcium, and vitamin D to build strong bones and teeth. Eat two to three servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans and eggs to provide protein and iron for muscle formation.

The Food Label

Show Children the food label and explain how to use the information to help them build a healthful eating pattern. The Nutrition Facts information and the ingredient list are found on most food packages.

Reading the Nutrition Facts panel tells you the nutrient content per serving of a food. Look for information on total fat, saturated fat, total carbohydrate and sugars, dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, such as A and C, and minerals such as calcium and iron.

The ingredient list tells what ingredients are used to make the food and is particularly helpful if you or your children have an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods. Remember, the ingredient list does not provide nutrient content information.

Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. For example, a fortified breakfast cereal such as corn, wheat, rice and oats may list sugar as the first ingredients even though the weight of all the grams combined is more than the sugar.

Building a healthful eating pattern

As children grow they watch for clues from parents, siblings, teachers, and friends about making food choices. Parents and other role models can set good examples by enjoying a variety of foods and balancing their food selections throughout the day and week. Involving children in preparing the family shopping list reinforces the idea of planning a varied, healthful eating pattern.


Welcome to Duke Catering's Newsletter for Parochial Schools. We will introduce nutrition facts and ideas for children in each issue.
Duke Catering has a Registered Dietitian, Leslie Grant RD, LDN who serves as their specialist for nutrition information guidance and support. We hope you will visit our website in the future where more information will be offered.

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