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National Agriculture in the Classroom

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

Lesson Plan

The Farmer Grows a Rainbow: Second Servings

Grade Levels

K - 2


Students determine that appropriate portions of foods from each food group should be included in a daily diet. Grades K-2

Estimated Time

1 hour

Materials Needed

Interest Approach — Engagement

Activity 1: Portion Size Guide

  • Portion Size Guide
  • Items for grab bag (computer mouse, 7 cotton balls, baseball, cupcake liner, tube of chapstick, 9-volt battery, deck of playing cards, ping pong ball, postage stamp, 1 cup measurer, 1/2 cup measurer, 1 tablespoon measurer, 1 teaspoon measurer)

Activity 2: Run the Rainbow Challenge: Hot Potato and More

  • A food item from each of the five food groups (e.g., sweet potato for the vegetable group, apple for the fruit group, a bag of dried beans for the protein group, and empty yogurt or milk container for the dairy group, and a mini box of cereal for the grains group)
Essential File (map, chart, picture, or document)
Vocabulary Words

MyPlate: nutritional guide published by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); icon depicting a place setting with a plate and glass divided into five food groups

portion size: the amount of a particular food eaten during a meal or snack

serving size: the amount of a particular food listed on that food's Nutrition Facts label along with the calorie and nutrient content

Did You Know? (Ag Facts)
  • One serving of chopped vegetables is 1/2 cup, which is about the same size as a computer mouse.
  • One serving of string cheese is 2 ounces, which is about the size of a tube of chapstick.
  • One serving of meat is 2-3 ounces, which is about the same size a as a deck of playing cards.
Background Agricultural Connections

MyPlate is a nutritional guide from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that serves as a reminder to eat from all five food groups—fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy. Eating a variety of foods from all five food groups is suggested.

The MyPlate guide recommends that half of the food on your plate are fruits and vegetables. Include plenty of red, orange, and dark-green vegetables. Fruits should be used as snacks, salads, and desserts. Grains are foods that come from plants like wheat, corn, and oats and include bread, cereal, crackers, rice, and pasta. At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains. Protein foods include seafood, beans, meat, poultry, eggs, and nuts. It is suggested that you eat a variety of protein foods, choose lean meats, and eat seafood twice a week. Milk and yogurt are examples of dairy. It is best to choose skim or 1% milk and water to drink instead of sugary drinks. Limit the consumption of foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, also referred to as “sometimes” foods.

There are six main groups of nutrients that a body needs to stay healthy—carbohydrates, protein, water, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Carbohydrates give you energy. Along with providing energy, protein also builds muscle, skin, and bones. Water helps your body stay cool when it sweats and also helps your body move nutrients to where they need to go. Fats provide you with energy, healthy skin, and an ability to absorb vitamins. Vitamins can help you heal and maintain strong bones, good eyesight, and healthy skin. Minerals, such as potassium, calcium, and iron, build strong bones and teeth, keep your blood healthy, and help your muscles and nervous system function properly. Each food group provides different nutrients, and no single food group can supply all the nutrients our bodies need. Eating from all five food groups helps to ensure that your body is getting necessary nutrients.

Though “portion size” and “serving size” are terms that are often used interchangeably, there is a difference. Knowing the difference makes it easier to compare what you eat to MyPlate’s daily recommendations. Portion size is the amount we eat during a meal or snack. Portion sizes can be bigger or smaller than MyPlate serving size equivalents. Serving sizes are listed on the Nutrition Facts panel of food nutrition labels, along with the calorie and nutrient content for a serving. Serving sizes may be, and often are, different from MyPlate recommendations. While a nutrition label tells us what people might typically eat, it is not a recommendation for how much we should eat. The number of servings in a package is also listed on the nutrition label. It is important to keep in mind that many packages look like single servings but contain two or more servings.

A healthy lifestyle also includes physical activity. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Increasing activity increases health benefits.

Good health depends on good nutrition and physical activity. Using MyPlate as a guide to identify healthy food and fitness choices will provide students with an awareness of how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Interest Approach - Engagement
  1. Ask students to name foods that are healthy and nutritious (or that adults say are “good for them”). Discuss why they think certain foods help them grow and stay healthy while other foods should only be eaten sometimes. Talk with students about nutritious foods and non-nutritious foods, making sure they understand that foods that provide vitamins, minerals, and energy are better for developing bodies, helping them grow healthy and strong.
  2. Show students the MyPlate Activity Poster and introduce them to each food group, noting the colors on the plate and how each one represents a food group. Information about each food group is available at
  3. Distribute the pictures of various food items to students, either individually or in small groups. Allow students to arrange the food pictures on the MyPlate poster according to food groups. Discuss the health benefits of the various foods.

Activity 1: Portion Size Guide

  1. Discuss appropriate serving sizes and how portions can be measured by comparison with common items. Distribute copies of the Portion Size Guide to the students. As a class, discuss the information on the chart. 
  2. Using the grab bag objects, have students pull one item at a time from the bag. Challenge the class to locate the grab bag item on their Portion Size Guide. Then name the food item and the portion size unit of measurement represented by the object pulled form the grab bag.
  3. Have students fill in the “Food Group” column with the name of the correct food group. Encourage students to monitor serving sizes in accordance with their findings in this activity.
  4. Note that serving sizes are measured using standard units of measurement for volume (e.g., cups, tablespoons, ounces, etc.). Introduce the idea that when farmers grow and sell their products, they measure using different standards of measurement. For example, we purchase milk by the pint, quart, or gallon. Farmers sell milk by the pound. The comparison of these measurements is that there are 8.6 pounds of milk in one gallon. If you live in an area with a dairy farm, arrange a farm tour with a dairy farmer. If not, take students on a virtual tour of a dairy farm via the internet.
  5. Have the students write about a time when they ate too much or put too much food on their plate. Ask them to conclude with some healthy ways to make sure they are eating the right amount of food.

Activity 2: Run the Rainbow Challenge: Hot Potato and More

  1. Discuss the importance of physical activity. All children need at least 60 minutes of exercise each day. Activity levels will directly affect the amount of food needed to maintain a healthy body.
  2. Explain to the students that a single baked potato contains many nutrients needed to sustain good health and support growth. Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin E. They are virtually fat-free. A medium baked sweet potato contains four times the recommended daily allowance of beta-carotene when eaten with the skin on.
  3. Pass or toss a sweet potato around the circle using a timer. The student holding the sweet potato when the timer sounds must name a health benefit of eating foods from the vegetable group. 
  4. Select a food item from each of the food groups (e.g., an apple for the fruit group, a bag of dried beans for the protein group, an empty yogurt or milk container for the dairy group, and a mini box of cereal for the grains group). Follow the same procedure for each food group.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:

  • Some foods are more healthy and nutritious than others. A healthy diet includes a variety of foods from all five food groups.
  • A food's serving size is listed on the Nutrition Facts label, but this quantity is not necessarily equal to the recommended portion size that should be eaten in a healthy diet. 
Enriching Activities
  • Challenge the students to keep a journal of all food they eat for one week. Have them compare their food list to their “My Daily Food Plan.” Using their list, ask them to first highlight the fruits and vegetables and then underline foods produced by farmers in your state. Please note: Because diets could potentially be a sensitive issue for some children, food journals should remain private and students should not be asked to share with the class.


This lesson was updated and adapted by Utah Agriculture in the Classroom in 2016.


Louise Lamm and Ellen Gould

Organization Affiliation

North Carolina Agriculture in the Classroom

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