A healthy balanced diet

I was going to call this post 'food groups' but my son decided that it was all about a healthy balanced diet (a phase I think I can attribute to an episode of Maddie's Do You Know on CBeebies) and he wasn't wrong.  We did this activity because I'd been trying to encourage him to eat all the types of food on his plate at a mealtime and we started talking about which things he needed for which purpose e.g. carbohydrates to give him energy and protein so he could grow.  He asked if we could do something about carbohydrates (an odd request I know!) so I had a think and this is what I came up with...

Starting 'plate' and play food

I drew a giant plate and split it into sections to roughly represent the proportion of different food groups that we need in our diet.  It's effectively a pie chart but disguised as a plate!  Having done a bit of research after I started drawing the plate, it doesn't quite match the food groups that are taught in the UK in key stage 1, but you could argue it makes more logical sense as there's a bit less overlap between the groups.  If I did it again with my boys I'd match what they will be taught at school i.e having dairy as a separate food group.  However, we had carbohydrates, fat, protein plus fruit and vegetables.

Placing fruit and vegetables

When we looked at the parts of plants that we eat a few months ago, we used real food (and ate it afterwards).  However for this activity we used play food as we didn't have a great variety of food in the house because we're not shopping very often due to Covid-19 and we were running low on fresh food.

I gave my son a basket of his play food and explained what the different coloured parts of the giant plate represented.  We talked about the foods that give him energy (carbohydrates), those that help him grow and help his body repair itself (protein), fats which also give him energy and fruit and vegetables which contain lots of vitamins and minerals that he needs to stay healthy.  It's a pretty simplified explanation, but I asked him to try and place the foods in the groups he thought best described them.

He squeezed the fruit and vegetables on!

He started in an unexpected way, by spreading all the play food items around the edge of the plate to see what was there! Then he started with fruit and vegetables, placing a few confidently then checking with me about the rest.  Then he moved onto carbohydrates, identifying toast and pasta and then asking me if cake should be there too (it should, but we talked about how sugar in cake gives you energy very quickly but starch in bread and pasta give you energy for longer).

All the play food added

He struggled with fats and protein (and if I'm honest, cheese doesn't fit neatly into either), so we talked about each item in turn.  And if you're wondering what that zig-zag foodstuff in the picture is meant to be, apparently it's bacon.  He got a bit bored around this point and I can see that it's conceptually pretty hard plus he'd spent quite a long time carefully placing fruit and vegetables before we got to that point.  So we went and did something else instead, but left it out.

With some real carbohydrates added too!

He wandered back past it on his way to get a snack later, he asked about where the cereal he was eating should be.  I explained that it was full of carbohydrate and that's why it's a good food to eat in the morning (and when he's hungry during the day) to give him lots of energy.  He wanted to put some on the plate, so he duly added a few oat cheerios!  He thought we were missing some other carbohydrates too as we didn't have any chips (we do eat potato in other forms...!) so I found him a potato and I foolishly also mentioned rice, so I had to find a few grains to put on the giant plate.  He was quite proud of his additions so we left it out for his Dad to see after work.

We definitely need to come back to this as it was a first introduction and I'm pretty sure he didn't take it all in.  However he's told me which food groups various things on his actual plates belong to since (mostly the carbohydrates...) and has also reprimanded his little brother for not eating a healthy balanced diet when he refuses to eat various things!