My 7th grader has Health class this marking period. They’re being taught nutrition, and last night’s homework was on the now-discarded food pyramid from a 2005 textbook. I'm sure that my town's school system isn't the only one that hasn't ditched the food pyramid education yet.
I’m well aware that our schools don't have the money to run out and purchase all new textbooks for Health class every time the government makes new recommendations. The fact that the food pyramid is still in textbook doesn’t bother me. The fact that it’s being taught as a guideline for proper nutrition does bother me.
In June 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture did away with the food pyramid that had become so convoluted it was difficult to figure out which foods to embrace and which foods to limit. They replaced it with MyPlate, a simpler (but not perfect) visual of what a nutritional meal should look like.
Instead of teaching from the textbook, I would liked to have seen my son bring home a photocopy of MyPlate (or even a drawing in his notebook of the icon – it’s easy enough to draw), and a worksheet that helps students identify the healthiest foods in each of the food groups from MyPlate – vegetables, fruits, proteins, grains, and dairy.
I would like to have seen information about the difference between foods made with whole grains and processed white flour. Information about the dairy category should have also been included so that students know that the nutrition found in cows’ milk products can also be found in many non-dairy foods and those foods would satisfy the dairy requirements. Milk is not a nutritional requirement. Calcium is.
The USDA’s new dietary guidelines are much better than their old ones, and schools need to make the changes to their nutrition curriculum now rather than wait for the information to be in the next round of textbooks purchased.
The ChooseMyPlate.gov website has free resources that schools can draw from, print, reproduce, or have students copy in their notes. They have free materials like wall posters and brochures that anyone can order. Schools that participate in the Federal Child Nutrition Programs have an even greater variety of free material that can be ordered.
Adding MyPlate information to the nutrition curriculum in any school doesn’t need to be an added expense. It’s so important that students are getting the right nutritional information in school. Many of them aren’t getting it at home, often because their parents are still going by what they were taught in school. It’s changed for the better, and schools need to make sure students are getting the best information.