Fruits & Veggies: A Unit Study

On August 8, 2003, the world’s biggest jackfruit was harvested in Hawaii. The fruit weighed 76.4 pounds and had a circumference of 47.75 inches. (The record was broken in 2012 by a nearly 100-lb. fruit in Pangasinan.)

The jackfruit is common in many Asian countries and can frequently be found in Asian markets in the United States. Aficionados claim the jackfruit tastes something like a combination of pineapple and banana. Like nearly all fruits and vegetables, the jackfruit is full of nutrients.

Fruits & Veggies in the Garden

According to the USDA, fruits and vegetables should make up nearly half of our diet! That’s a lot of energy-rich nutrients packed into a day!

Eating fruit provides health benefits. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits provide nutrients vital for health, such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. None have cholesterol.

Fruits & Veggies: A Unit Study

As with most things we invest in, young people will be more likely to enjoy eating a fresh fruit or veggie that they planted, cultivated, and harvested themselves!

Man has been tending a garden since Adam. The Bible mentions figs, date, beans, and lentils, and legumes were grown in the Fertile Crescent. Medieval monasteries grew leeks, cabbages, and onions, along with cherries, strawberries and plums. Corn, squash, and berries fed the Indians in North America. In the 18th century, citrus fruits were employed in the battle to prevent scurvy. And today, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables grow across the world.

The Difference Between a Fruit and a Vegetable

So what is the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? Technically, fruits are the fleshy part of a plant containing the seeds (think apples, plums, or melons). However vegetable is not a technical botanical term. So we have fruits, such as tomatoes, that we refer to as vegetables! Non-technically, a vegetable refers to a plant part that we eat (not to be confused with the fruit part of the plant that we eat!).

USDA Dietary Guidelines

In 1894, the USDA began establishing dietary recommendations to help consumers eat healthy diets before vitamins were discovered in 1910. Food for Young Children was published in 1916, advocating:

A little child who is carefully fed in accordance with his bodily-needs (as these are now understood) receives every day at least one food from each of the following groups:

Milk and dishes made chiefly of milk (most important of the
group as regards children’s diet); meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and meat substitutes.

Bread and other cereal foods.

Butter and other wholesome fats.

Vegetables and fruit.

Simple sweets.

Wouldn’t a child today love THAT diet!

Guidelines for WWI

Fruits & Veggies: A Unit Study

In 1918, they issued a food guide to address the shortage of food due to the war.

To meet all this great food need in Europe—and meeting it is an imperative military necessity—we must be very careful and economical in our food use here at home. We must eat less; we must waste nothing; we must equalize the distribution of what food we may retain for ourselves; we must prevent extortion and profiteering which make prices so high that the poor cannot buy the food they actually need; and we must try to produce more food by planting more wheat and other grain, raising more cattle and swine and sheep, and making gardens everywhere.

Guidelines for the Great Depression

In 1933, nutrition guidelines were issued to meet the needs of the Great Depression featuring “adequate diets at moderate cost.” In 1941, the first set of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were created at the urging of President Franklin Roosevelt. A “Basic Seven Food Guide” was also released, focusing on:

  1. Leafy, green, and yellow vegetables
    One or more servings daily
  2. Citrus fruit, tomatoes, raw cabbage, and other high vitamin C foods
    One or more servings daily
  3. Potatoes and other vegetables and fruit
    Two or more servings daily
  4. Milk, cheese, ice cream
    (Part of milk can be replaced with cheese or ice cream)
    Children through teen age: 3 to 4 cups milk daily
    Adults: 2 or more cups milk daily
    Pregnant women: At least 1 quart milk daily
    Nursing mothers: About 1 1/2 quarts milk daily
  5. Meat, poultry, fish
    One serving daily, if possible
    Eggs: Four or more a week
    Dried beans, peas, nuts, peanut butter: Two or more servings a week
  6. Bread, flour, and cereals (Whole-grain or enriched or restored)
    Every day
  7. Butter and fortified margarine
    Some daily

Likely everyone was thrilled that eating ice cream was something good we could do for ourselves. And pity on the nursing mother trying to get down 1 1/2 quarts of milk daily!

The Basic Four

In 1956 we were down to the Four Basic Food Groups:

  • Milk
  • Meat
  • Vegetable and Fruit
  • Bread and Cereal

(plus other foods as needed to complete meals and to provide additional food energy….)

Then studies concerned with fat and cholesterol consumption and their link to chronic diseases began to gain ground, and a fifth group was added — including fats and sweets — that we should limit.

The Food Pyramid

Fruits & Veggies: A Unit Study

In 1993, we were presented with the Food Pyramid and went back up to six groups:

  1. Bread, cereal, rice, and pasta
  2. Vegetable
  3. Fruit
  4. Milk, yogurt, and cheese
  5. Meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts
  6. Fats, oils and sweets — to be used sparingly

Modern Guidelines

In 2005, we weren’t sure what we were presented with, but it included:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Milk
  • Meat & Beans
Fruits & Veggies: A Unit Study

And currently we have MyPlate, which includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins — and some milk.

Do you see the common element? Since the beginning we have known that fruits and vegetables — and in large relative portions — are foundational for a good diet!

  • Introduce a new fruit or veggie each week. Young palates are typically not ready for strong flavors. So many doctors suggest simply introducing a new fruit or veggie by having a child take one bite. That’s it! Eventually his taste buds will develop and he’ll enjoy a wider variety.
  • Have your child point out the various fruits and vegetables the next time you visit the grocer.
  • Start a garden. There are several fun ideas below for encouraging children to eat their fruits and veggies!
  • Just for fun, try growing the world’s largest…. You decide!
  • Use a nutrition guide to determine the nutrient value for common fruits and vegetables. Can you see why they make up an important part of the diet? (You’ll find helpful charts below.)
  • Keep track of a few meals at your house. Determine their nutrient value. How do they compare to the current USDA guidelines?
  • Older students can choose one of the earlier food guidelines put out by the USDA and compare it to that which is recommended today. How do the recommended diets differ? Which would be considered healthier today? Why?

Further Investigation

World’s Biggest Jackfruit
Info and photos of the world’s biggest jackfruit in Hawaii in 2003.

Fruit facts including nutritional value at Purdue.

How to Eat a 20 Pound Jackfruit and Other Jackfruit Information
(You may want to install an ad blocker before viewing.)

A Brief History of USDA Food Guides
Interesting graphical look at the changes over the years at

What Counts as a Cup?
Helpful charts from the USDA on determining how many fruits and veggies to have at a meal.

Fruit Nutrition Chart
Nutritional analysis of a variety of fruits.

Vegetable Nutrition Chart
Nutritional analysis of a variety of vegetables.


Dietary Guidelines
See how many fruits and vegetables you should consume each day.

Supermarket Scavenger Hunt
Each child picks a card and has to find the five fruits and veggies at the store.

Fruit & Veggie Guessing Game
Rather like 20 questions, only fewer….

Coloring Pages
Fruit and veggie coloring pages.

Fruit & Veggie Rubbings
Craft idea from Crayola.

Build a Butterfly Salad
Recipe for kids from the Dannon Institute using mostly fruits and vegetables.

Instructions for Starting a Pizza Garden
Lots of ideas for growing (and eating) veggies.

Vegetable Gardening
4-H guide sheet from the University of Minnesota Extension to help you grow your own!

Harvesting and Preparing Vegetables for Exhibit
Ready to grow that LARGE fruit or veggie? Help from the Iowa State University Extension.


“Jack Fruit”
A brief chapter from Fruits of the Hawaiian Islands by Gerrit Parmile Wilder. The fruit is shown 1/4 the actual size. Measure the actual size out on a large piece of paper to get an idea of how large this fruit really is!

Growing Vegetables in the Home Garden
51-page download from the USDA.

America’s Eating Habits: Changes and Consequences
Nearly 500-page look at the history of nutrition in the U.S. from the USDA. Chapter 2 provides an interesting look at the changes in dietary guidelines over the years.

Eating the Alphabet {Free to Read — Time Limited}

Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert
Beautiful picture book that may just have youngsters clambering to try those things! A glossary in the back provides pronunciation guide and additional information on the 76 fruits & veggies mentioned. Have your child try each — apple to zucchini!

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Fruit or Veggie?
Research-oriented 4-H lesson plan from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

What Color is Your Food?
8-page download from North Dakota State University with a focus on fruits and veggies.

Fruit & Vegetable Curriculum Teacher’s Guide
Over 100 pages for the older student from the Washington State Department of Health covering selection, storing, safe handling, and healthy cooking with suggested “demonstrations,” recipes, fruit/veggie information and recipe cards. Wonderful!

62-Page Nutrition & Cookbook Download {Free}
Helpful addition that includes recipes and lessons for fruits and veggies.

Gardening: A Unit Study

Gardening: A Unit Study
One of our own with gardening ideas, activities, book recommendations, lesson plans, and notebooking helps.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

10 Tips To Help You Eat More Vegetables
Illustrated from USDA and perfect for notebook.

10 Tips to Help You Eat More Fruits
Illustrated tip sheet from the USDA, and perfect for notebook.

10 Tips to Improve Your Meals With Fruits & Veggies
Another illustrated tip sheet from the USDA.

MyPlate Coloring Page
Great addition to notebook. Also available in a blank version that the student completes.

Fruits & Veggies Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.

You may also be interested in the plant portion of our free nature studies:
Free Nature Studies: Our Wonderful World

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