Key messages for educators for teaching food & nutrition
Teaching about food and nutrition is another aspect of food literacy. It is helpful to consider in advance strategies for addressing topics that may arise when teaching healthy eating that need to be handled with sensitivity. Refer to our Top Questions about Canada's Food Guide in the school setting for responses to eight popular topics related to the most recent food guide.
The following are some key messages and tips:
Encouraging students to talk about and ask questions regarding healthy eating
Dispelling assumptions based on stereotypes (e.g., thin students eat healthy, overweight students do not)
Modelling healthy eating behaviours (e.g. bring in lunches/snacks prepared at home that reflect comfort with a variety of foods)
Speaking positively about food and eating habits without expressing personal food preferences
Consider that growing children have different nutritional needs (including requirements for calories, calcium and dietary fat), compared to adults
Include weight and size discrimination when talking about bullying.
Emphasize that students can be healthy at a variety of body sizes and shapes (e.g., display images and use resources that show individuals with different body types). Students who feel positive about their bodies find it easier to make decisions that promote good health.
Avoid making assumptions that an underweight or overweight student is not eating healthy food and requires an intervention or that an average weight child is necessarily eating healthy food.
Focus on health rather than weight, acknowledging that natural body development includes increases in weight and body fat.
Watch for, discuss and address issues related to weight-based teasing/bullying or weight bias.
Focus on teaching decision-making skills that can optimize healthy behaviours (e.g., media literacy, challenging peer norms about weight and shape, stress management).
Consider curriculum links with school nutrition programs such as Farm to School BC, or take a trip to a local farm, forest, or shore.
Connect students with an Elder through your school district’s Indigenous Education team or with a farmer to learn about growing, harvesting, and preparing local or traditional foods.
Consider all the above strategies to encourage children to feel positive about eating and develop skills to enjoy a variety of foods. Refrain from classifying foods as “healthy” and “unhealthy”, learning about food labelling, and nutrients (calories, fat, vitamins, etc.) as it can produce the opposite effect and encourage black-and-white thinking.