Spice My Plate


Improving your eating habits is a lot easier when healthful food tastes great. That’s the thinking behind Spice MyPlate, a program to engage high school students in using spices and herbs to prepare and enjoy nutritious snacks and meals.

The program, which was piloted at Baltimore’s Patterson High School in 2013, emphasizes enjoying good food rather than just improving health. Instead of merely telling students to avoid high levels of sugar, fat, and salt, Spice MyPlate shows them how to make wholesome versions of their favorite dishes every bit as flavorful using spices and herbs.

Participants in the pilot learned the profiles of 12 core spices and herbs, including their origins, health-promoting properties, scientific and historical facts, and common applications in cooking. Then they applied that knowledge—while honing their teamwork and kitchen skills—in making dishes like cozy spiced beef, fruit fondue, and zesty jerk three-bean chili.

The Spice MyPlate curriculum, which uses the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines as a foundation, also teaches students how to read a recipe, plan balanced meals, and estimate appropriate portion sizes.

The program was collaboratively developed, implemented, and evaluated by the Institute for Integrative Health, the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine, and private partners. The McCormick Science Institute provided financial support for research.

A research study of Spice My Plate found that the program improved diet quality and healthy eating attitudes among students who participated compared with a control group of students who did not. Program participants reported increased consumption of whole grain and protein foods and a positive change in attitudes towards consuming vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

A paper on the Spice My Plate research study was published in the May 2016 issue of American Journal of Health Promotion.




Read about the research study of Spice My Plate in the American Journal of Health Promotion


  • » Standard nutrition education programs focus on health. But for most teens, that’s not enough incentive to eat better.
  • » Many spices and herbs have health-promoting properties. Learn more
  • » Knowing how to plan and prepare nutritious meals is a basic skill for healthy living. Learn more
  • » Foods seasoned with spices and herbs are more flavorful, enticing students to make healthier food choices.