Kids' Guide to the Food Groups

All of the foods you eat have different ingredients, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. These different foods fall into different groups. The food groups are grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, proteins and meats, and fats and oils. Scientists have created a food pyramid that includes all of the different food groups. The food groups sit on the pyramid, with the foods you should eat the most of at the bottom and the foods you should eat the least of on the top. Having a healthy body involves eating a healthy, balanced diet and maintaining a weight that matches your height and bone size.


Grains are the food group that people need to eat the most of throughout the day. Grains can include bread, cereal, pasta, tortillas, and crackers. Whenever possible, choose whole grains for the breads, cereals, and pasta that you eat. Whole grains are less refined, which means that they have more vitamins and nutrients.

  • Food Smarts: The Food Pyramid: The food pyramid includes sections for each type of food. Grains are on the bottom of the pyramid because people need the most servings of this food group.
  • Nutrition From the Ground Up (PDF): This lesson plan will teach you about the different food groups. Play games to learn more about healthy eating.
  • Fun Food Games to Guide Kids Toward Better Eating Habits: Eating healthy can be fun. Learn some new jump rope rhymes about healthy eating and say them as you exercise.
  • Nutrition-Related Group Games: Play active games about food to learn and have fun! One game involves kids standing in a circle around one person. The person in the center chooses a food group and then points to people in the circle. The chosen kids have to name foods that belong to that food group.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables often have bright colors. Some doctors tell people to "eat the rainbow." This means that you should try to include as many different fruit and vegetable colors into your meals and snacks as possible. You might eat red strawberries, orange tangerines, yellow bananas, green peppers, blue blueberries, indigo eggplants, and violet grapes to eat a rainbow.

Protein Foods

Protein foods can be both meat- and plant-based foods. Lean meats such as chicken, turkey, and fish are good sources of protein without large amounts of fat. Beef and pork are also proteins, but sometimes these meats can have a lot of fat, so they are not as healthy for you. Eggs are another source of protein. Plant-based proteins include beans, nuts, and seeds. You might add this type of protein to a meal by eating baked beans, peanut butter, or a handful of cashews.

  • 10 Tips to a Great Plate (PDF): Creating a healthy plate involves eating the right amounts of the different food groups. Protein foods should make up a little less than one-quarter of an entire meal.
  • Food Groups Game: Drag foods from the top of the screen down into the correct food groups.
  • Take a Trip: Food Groups: Play this food group game to learn about different healthy foods that are part of the food groups.
  • Blast Off: When you play the Blast Off game, you have to choose the best foods to give you the energy you need.
  • Energy Balance: Jordan and Nicola need to eat a healthy diet to have enough energy for all of their activities. Can you help them?
  • The Fabulous Five Webquest: Your assignment is to figure out where the food groups fit on the food pyramid and what foods you need each day.

Dairy Products

Dairy products include both drinks and foods. Milk is a dairy product with lots of good vitamins and minerals, including calcium. Cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are other types of dairy products. Eating dairy products is important because these foods give you calcium that helps make your bones and teeth strong. Dairy products also contain protein to build your muscles.

  • Dairy Farm: Playing Dairy Farm will teach you all about the process of taking care of cows on a farm to produce milk.
  • The Amazing Food Detective: Learn about all the different foods and nutrients to see how they impact your body.
  • Calcium? Got it? Get it! (PDF): This fun presentation teaches you all about the benefits of calcium and the foods you need to eat and drink to get it.
  • Counting the Calcium (PDF): Use this worksheet to count the calcium you eat or drink in one day to see if you get enough of this nutrient.
  • A Healthier Life: This webquest will help you examine your life to see what changes you might make to become healthier.

Fats and Oils

Fats and oils are in the tiny top of the food pyramid because these are the foods that people need to eat less often. As you choose foods from the food groups, choose foods from all of the other groups first. These are the foods that will give you vitamins and minerals for health. Once in a while, it's OK to eat something sweet. Try not to make it a habit, though, because this could make you gain weight.

  • Food Hero: The Food Hero game will help you learn how to make the healthiest food choices.
  • Food Balance Game: Playing this game will help you learn important tips for choosing the best foods throughout the day for good health and lots of energy.
  • Best Served Cold: Lots of foods might look and taste good, but they don't have healthy ingredients. Play this game to learn how to recognize unhealthy foods.
  • Grab a Grape: This fun quiz game will ask lots of food-related questions that you have to answer correctly.
  • Dining Decision: Sometimes you have to choose between foods to eat, but this game will help you learn the healthiest choices.