The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) created MyPlate, an easy-to-follow food guide, to help parents to figure out how to feed their kids nutritious, balanced meals.

The colorful divided plate includes sections for vegetables, fruits, grains, and foods high in protein. It's an improvement upon the complex and confusing MyPyramid that the USDA once used to explain its dietary guidelines.

The colorful divided plate includes sections for vegetables, fruits, grains, and protein foods. MyPlate's user-friendly, interactive website provides simple messages, such as:

  • choose variety — the best meals have a balance of items from different food groups
  • fill half your child's plate with vegetables and fruits
  • make at least half the grains you serve whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
  • serve fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk and water rather than sugary drinks
  • don't serve oversized portions

How to Make MyPlate Yours

Just by looking at MyPlate, you know right away that vegetables and fruits should take up half the plate and grains and protein foods each take up about a quarter of the plate. And with a side helping of dairy, you're reminded to include milk or another dairy food (like cheese or yogurt) in your daily meal plan.

But you might be wondering: Do I have to serve all the food groups at each meal? Do I really have to give my kids veggies for breakfast? After all, it might be hard enough to get them to eat them at lunch or dinner. If breakfast or lunch doesn't include a veggie or fruit, give them at snack time. Use the plate as a guide to planning and serving a variety of healthy foods.

The goal is to think of the plate as an entire day's worth of eating: So, throughout the day, try to make half of what your kids eat vegetables and fruits, and the other half grains and protein foods. An occasional treat is fine, but be careful to limit foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients.

If you're thinking it might be difficult to get your kids to take a bite off this new plate, practice what you preach. MyPlate is not just for kids, but for adults too. Kids who see their parents eating better are more likely to do so themselves.

Green = Vegetables

The vegetable portion of MyPlate, in green, is one of the largest portions on the plate. That's because, just like grandma said, it's important to "eat your veggies!"

Vegetables have many of the vitamins and minerals kids need for good health, are naturally low in calories, and contain fiber. The vegetable group includes:

  1. dark green vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, and kale)
  2. orange and red vegetables (like squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes)
  3. beans and peas (like kidney beans, lentils, and black-eyed peas — also included in the protein group)
  4. starchy vegetables (like corn, potatoes, and plantains)
  5. other vegetables (those that don't fall into the first four categories, like cauliflower and green beans)

For best nutrition, serve a variety of vegetables to your family each week. You can use fresh, frozen, or canned veggies.

Red = Fruits

Fruits are an important part of a balanced diet. They contain necessary nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. You can use fresh, frozen, or canned fruit.

When buying canned fruit, choose fruit that is packed in juice rather than heavy or light syrup. And it's best to serve whole fruit over 100% fruit juice. Fruit juices have more sugar and calories with less fiber per serving than whole fruit.

Orange = Grains

The grain group includes any food made from wheat, oats, cornmeal, barley, or other grain. Bread, tortillas, cereal, rice, and pasta belong in this group.

At least half of the grains kids eat each day should be whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole wheat bread. Whole grains have dietary fiber that helps you feel full and can prevent and treat constipation. Eating a diet rich in whole grains also might decrease the chances of getting heart disease and diabetes.

Refined grains, like white bread and white rice, are processed, removing many of the nutrients. Most refined grains are enriched, which means that nutrients, except fiber, are added back after processing.

Purple = Protein Foods

Foods that are high in protein help the body build and maintain the tissues of the body. They also have important vitamins and minerals, like iron.

Protein-rich foods include beef, poultry, seafood, dry beans and peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Soy products like tofu and veggie burgers are also good sources of protein. When eating meats, choose lean or low-fat options.

Blue = Dairy

This group includes milk and other dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese. Calcium-fortified soy milk is also included in the dairy group. Besides calcium, dairy products have vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth. Foods made from milk, like butter, cream, and cream cheese, don't have much calcium, and are not part of the dairy group.

Serve low-fat or nonfat milk and dairy products to kids over 2 years old.

Customize Your Plate

MyPlate is as a guide for healthy eating. Talk to your health care provider if you are concerned about your child's eating habits.

The USDA's MyPlate website offers daily checklists, recipes and tips, and interactive tools to help you make MyPlate yours.

Back to Articles


Related Articles

Nutrition & Fitness Center

You know the importance of exercising and eating nutritious foods, but do you know how to raise a healthy and active child? Get practical advice and tips.

Read More

MyPlate Food Guide

MyPlate is designed to help people make smart food choices. Its different food groups are a reminder of what – and how much – we should put on our plates to stay healthy.

Read More

Nutrition & Fitness Center

Visit our nutrition and fitness center for teens to get information and advice on food, exercise, and sports.

Read More

Nutrition & Fitness Center

Want to know more about eating right and being active? This is the place!

Read More

5 Ways to Get Your 5 a Day

You may know that you should eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Here are some tips on making that happen.

Read More

Calcium

Your parents were right to make you drink milk when you were little. It's loaded with calcium, a mineral vital for building strong bones and teeth.

Read More

Cholesterol

Most parents probably don't think about what cholesterol means for their kids. But high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, which has its roots in childhood.

Read More

Fiber

Some of the best and most delicious foods have loads of fiber. Find out how to get your fill of fiber!

Read More

Go, Slow, and Whoa! A Kid's Guide to Eating Right

Want to eat healthier? It's easy when you learn the difference between Go, Slow, and Whoa foods!

Read More

MyPlate Food Guide

MyPlate is designed to make it easier to understand healthy eating.

Read More

Fiber

Many appetizing foods are also good sources of fiber - from fruits to whole-grain cereals. Here are ways to help kids get more fiber in their everyday diets.

Read More

Healthy Food Shopping

What you put in the grocery cart can affect your child's health and attitude toward nutritious food.

Read More

Carbohydrates and Sugar

Carbs are the body's most important and readily available source of energy. The key is to eat healthy ones, like whole grains, and avoid foods with added sugar.

Read More

Fats

Some fats are good for kids and an important part of a healthy diet. Here's what parents should know.

Read More

Smart Snacking

Healthy snacks are essential for busy teens. Find out how eating nutritious snacks throughout the day can keep your energy level high and your mind alert.

Read More

Healthy Eating

Good nutrition and a balanced diet help kids grow up healthy. Here's how to improve nutrition and encourage smart eating habits.

Read More

Keeping Portions Under Control

Waistlines have been expanding over the last few decades. Part of the problem is what we eat, but another is quantity. Are our plates simply piled too high?

Read More

Learning About Calories

You've probably heard about calories. Are they good or bad for you? Find out in this article for kids.

Read More

Figuring Out Fat and Calories

From all you hear, you'd think fat and calories are really bad for you, but we all need a certain amount of them in our diets. Find out the truth about fat and calories.

Read More

Figuring Out Food Labels

Find out how to make healthy food choices for your family by reading food labels.

Read More

Figuring Out Food Labels

The food label on a food package is a lot like the table of contents in a book - it tells you exactly what the food contains. Read our article for kids for more about food labels.

Read More

Food Labels

Look at any packaged food and you'll see the food label. This nutrition facts label gives the lowdown on everything from calories to cholesterol. Read more about food labels.

Read More

A Guide to Eating for Sports

You've prepared for the game in almost every way possible: but now what should you eat? Read about performance foods, nutritional supplements, and more.

Read More

How Much Food Should I Eat?

Lots of us don't realize we're eating too much because we've become so used to large portions. This article for teens helps you take control of your plate.

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

Search our entire site.