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Frequently Asked Questions and Resources

Responses to some frequently asked questions from educators that help interpret Canada’s food guide.

Is milk still a part of Canada's food guide?

Yes. Foods and beverages that used to be in the “Milk and Alternatives” food group, such as milk, yogurt, cheese and fortified soy beverages, are still a part of Canada’s food guide. These foods are now listed under “protein foods”. These foods and beverages are important sources of calcium and some contain vitamin D—key nutrients that children often do not get enough of. Calcium and vitamin D rich foods (such as milk and fortified soy beverage) are an important part of a balanced diet.

Teaching Tip: Use activities that explore a variety of foods from the protein foods grouping, including milk, other dairy products and fortified soy beverages. For grade-specific lessons and activities related to this topic see the “Water and Other Beverages” and “Protein Foods” lessons.

Canada’s food guide promotes eating more plant-based foods. Does this mean we shouldn’t eat animal-based foods?

Most foods featured in Canada’s food guide come from plants, including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds and contribute to a nutrient-rich eating pattern. However, promoting plant-based foods does not exclude animal-based foods. Canada’s food guide recommendations also include nutrient-rich meat and dairy foods.

Teaching Tip: Many different foods can be an important part of students’ social, family, traditional and cultural experiences and can contribute to their nutritional needs. As students may have different levels of familiarity with plant-based foods, neutral exposure and exploration can be a great place to start building their comforts and skills related to a variety of plant-based foods. For grade-specific lessons and activities related to this topic see the “Vegetables and fruits”, “Whole grains foods” and “Protein foods” lessons.

What happened to serving sizes and number of servings?

Canada’s food guide no longer includes recommendations for serving sizes or number of servings for foods. Instead, Canada’s Food Guide Plate focuses on the inclusion of a variety of foods (using key messages such as have plenty of vegetable and fruits, choose whole grain foods, eat protein foods, and make water your drink of choice) and mindful eating. The amount and type of food eaten will vary from day to day and from person to person.

Teaching Tip: Guiding Principle 2: explores the specific roles adults and children/students have in feeding and eating. You can support students in their roles by:1. Trusting students to listen to their body’s internal hunger cues to determine whether and how much to eat. 2. Offering the opportunity to explore a variety of foods at school in a pressure-free way, without focusing on amounts or eating foods in any particular order. 3. Avoiding using Canada’s Food Guide Plate to tell students how much they should eat of any food at any given meal or snack. For grade-specific lesson plans related to this topic see “Mindful eating” lessons.

Is Canada’s food guide only the plate image?

Canada’s Food Guide Plate is a colourful visual that emphasizes its key messages of having plenty of vegetables and fruits, choosing whole grain foods, eating protein foods and making water your drink of choice.

The plate visual is not meant to be prescriptive and does not show all foods that can contribute to a nutrient-rich eating pattern. In fact, the plate visual is only a small part of Canada’s food guide. There is also an online suite of resources including a website, recipes, and videos to support Canadians in making food choices that meet their individual needs.

A big part of Canada’s food guide focuses on how eating is more than just the foods we eat. It also emphasizes the importance of taking time to eat, using your senses to experience the aromas, textures, flavours and taste of foods, cooking more often, enjoying your food, including culture and tradition, and eating with others.

Teaching Tip: While the Canada’s Food Guide Plate may be a great visual, the food patterns encouraged within the new online guide are flexible and diverse. For grade-specific lesson and activities that explore Canada’s Food guide message of how “eating is more than just the foods you eat” see “More than food”, “Enjoying food”, “Cooking together” and “Eating Together” lesson plans.

How does Canada’s food guide consider different cultures and food traditions?

Culture and tradition, enjoyment of food, and eating with others, are recognized as important parts of eating in Canada’s food guide. Cultural and traditional foods contribute to healthy eating patterns and the enjoyment of eating by creating a sense of community and fostering connections.

Teaching Tip: Explore with students the foods that play an important role in their culture, family traditions and celebrations. There are a number of lessons related to culture and traditions in this toolkit, including Traditional First Nations Foods lesson plans developed in partnership with Indigenous Knowledge Keepers. Consider connecting to your school district’s Indigenous Education team to support further application of BC curriculum’s First Principles of Learning and First Nations Perspective on Health and Wellness in your classroom.

Is Canada’s food guide affordable for students and their families?

Students and their families have diverse circumstances and experiences so availability and access to food may look different to each of your students. Household food insecurity, the insufficient access to food due to financial reasons, is a serious problem across Canada. In BC, 12.4% of households experienced household food insecurity in 2017-2018. Food insecurity is more likely to occur in households with children, with low incomes, single-parent families, those who rent rather than own their housing, and those who identify as Indigenous or Black. Read more about work being done to address the social and economic circumstances that contribute to household food insecurity at What We Heard About Poverty in BC and Food Policy for Canada.

Teaching Tip: Include frozen, canned, dried, and in season foods as examples of (often lower cost and/or more accessible) food you explore with students in the classroom. Meal planning is a skill that can be taught to older students, but ultimately adults are mostly responsible for grocery shopping and feeding at home. There are many factors, including food insecurity, that impact the food choices families are making. To learn more about roles of adults and children/students in feeding and eating see Guiding Principle 2.

 

How can I support my students to eat fewer foods that are high in sugar, saturated fat and sodium?

Telling students to eat less of certain foods or using labels such as “treats” or “junk” can increase students’ interest and intake of these foods when they become available. It also communicates to students that some foods are “good” and some are “bad” which can lead to feelings of shame or guilt.

Additionally, there are many factors that play a role in what students eat at school and at home, most of which are not in their control, including accessibility, affordability, family contexts and supports, and cultural background. A more useful approach to food and nutrition education is to focus on exploring and providing exposure to different types of foods and ways of eating. In addition, schools can be important role models by aiming to offer nutritious options in the classroom, school food programs, vending machines, and at special events.

Teaching Tip: Instead of teaching “limit” or “avoid” messages to students focus on food exploration and exposure to different types of foods promoted in Canada’s food guide. All foods can be described using their real names (e.g., cookies, chips, cake) instead of “treats” or “junk”. If using rewards, aim for non-food rewards in your classroom – this prevents sending the message that some foods are more desirable than others. If you are concerned about omitting messages about limiting certain foods or nutrients, know that helping children feel more comfortable with identifying and preparing a variety of foods will have the biggest impact on eating patterns overtime.

To learn more: Talking and Teaching about Food and Nutrition with Students and Is Sugar Unhealthy for Children? (VCH)

How can I help my students understand food labels?

Canada’s food guide suggests using food labels to compare and make choices between two similar food or beverages options. Food labels are also important for ensuring foods are safe for people with allergies. However, using food labels to make food choices when grocery shopping and preparing meals is typically a parent or caregiver role.

Teaching Tip: Based on the stages of development, it is not recommended to teach food labels to students until at least grade 6. With older students, explore labels and create opportunities to neutrally discuss what they know about food labels. For example, Do all foods have labels? Does having a label make a food more nutrient-rich? How do food labels help people with food allergies?

To learn more: See the following resources

Additional resources and websites to support educators as well as food-related activities for the classroom.

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Resource Group
Grade Levels
Viewing 30 resources
Unsplash image

Unsplash

Searchable, free usable images
Website Grade Level: all
Vancouver Coastal Health Supporting Healthy Eating at School page image

Vancouver Coastal Health Supporting Healthy Eating at School page

Resources for educators and parents.
Webpage Grade Level: all
Trauma-Informed Nutrition image

Trauma-Informed Nutrition

Describes how trauma can adversely affect health and well-being, including an individual’s relationship with food and eating.
Two Sided PDF Grade Level: all
Supporting Healthy Eating at School image

Supporting Healthy Eating at School

Reflects on what makes a child a “good eater”, describes roles of adults and children with respect to feeding and eating, explores how our language around food can impact children’s eating habits, identifies resources designed to support eating well.
Webinar Grade Level: all
Promoting Positive Body Image Through Comprehensive School Health image

Promoting Positive Body Image Through Comprehensive School Health

Resource supporting a whole-school approach to supporting positive body image amongst all students.
Two Sided PDF Grade Level: all
Northern Health Healthy Eating at School page image

Northern Health Healthy Eating at School page

Provides a variety of information for supporting healthy eating and positive relationships with food in the school setting for individuals or groups who work in or with schools.
PDF Grade Level: all
Mental Health and Weight Bias in Schools image

Mental Health and Weight Bias in Schools

Educator resource on mental health and weight bias in schools.
PDF Grade Level: all
Kids in the Kitchen image

Kids in the Kitchen

Cooking ideas by age group.
PDF Grade Level: all
Is Sugar Unhealthy for Children? image

Is Sugar Unhealthy for Children?

Provides answers to frequently asked questions about sugar and children.
Two Sided PDF Grade Level: all
Indigenous Foodscapes image

Indigenous Foodscapes

Indigenous plant and pedagogy pilot project with goal of bringing native plants and traditional knowledge into the minds, hearts and bellies of children and youth
Webpage Grade Level: all
Healthy Eating for Schools image

Healthy Eating for Schools

Resources providing information on nutrition standards for schools.
Webpage Grade Level: all
Food Picture Cards image

Food Picture Cards

Free downloadable pdf (80 images, included activities are in French only)
Images and Activities in French Grade Level: all
Finding Reliable Healthy Eating Information on the Internet image

Finding Reliable Healthy Eating Information on the Internet

Tips to help sort through all the information to find good quality and trustworthy sources.
Two Sided PDF Grade Level: 6, 7, 8
Farm to School BC image

Farm to School BC

Through a variety of programs and resources, Farm to School brings healthy, local and sustainable food into schools. It provides students with hands-on learning opportunities that develop food literacy, all while strengthening the local food system and enhancing school and community connectedness.
Website Grade Level: all
Evaluation Rubric ecSatter image

Evaluation Rubric ecSatter

Rubric to help educators follow best practice in nutrition education.
PDF Grade Level: all
Connecting around Food During COVID-19: Child-centered nutrition education and home learning opportunities image

Connecting around Food During COVID-19: Child-centered nutrition education and home learning opportunities

Provides a supportive framework for nutrition education at various grade levels, explores a curated sample of home learning lesson plans and activity ideas designed for use during COVID-19, identifies resources for families to support eating well during COVID-19.
Webinar Grade Level: all
Beyond Images image

Beyond Images

A body image and self-esteem curriculum with lesson plans. Educators must register to access resources.
Website Grade Level: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
What's In a Mixed Dish? Online Learning Activity image

What's In a Mixed Dish? Online Learning Activity

Students learn about what foods make up certain mixed dishes.
Webpage with slide deck for download and activity instructions Grade Level: 3, 4, 5, 6
Virtual Trout Farm Tour image

Virtual Trout Farm Tour

Virtual trout farm tour- students explore aquaculture (requires Facebook account).  
Video Grade Level: 6, 7, 8
Science First Peoples: Teacher Resource Guide image

Science First Peoples: Teacher Resource Guide

Unit 1 Traditional Ecological Knowledge pg. 27; Unit 2 Plants and the Connection to Place pg. 53; Unit 5 Climate Change pg. 121; Unit 7 Interconnectedness of the Spheres pg. 151; Unit 8 Ocean Connections pg. 171
Pdf with lesson plans- download pdf and bookmark lesson pages Grade Level: 5, 6, 7, 8
One of these Foods is Not Like the Other Online Learning Activity image

One of these Foods is Not Like the Other Online Learning Activity

Students explore and identify a variety of foods from each grouping (also use food groupings study prints as needed).
Webpage with slide deck for download and activity instructions Grade Level: 3, 4, 5, 6
My Class A to Z Agriculture Book image

My Class A to Z Agriculture Book

Students colour and write about each letter of the alphabet.
Coloring and journaling template pages Grade Level: k, 1, 2, 3
Math Peoples: Teacher Resource Guide image

Math Peoples: Teacher Resource Guide

Hunting - Cultural Practice and Bow Technology pg. 161; Cooking with Fractions pg. 168; Statistics and Salmon pg. 218; Waterkeepers I and II pg. 223, 230
Pdf with mini-unit lesson plans- download pdf and bookmark lesson pages Grade Level: 6, 7, 8
Maple Tapping with Chef Wade image

Maple Tapping with Chef Wade

Students learn about making maple syrup.
Webpage with Video and Lesson Grade Level: 6, 7, 8
Little Green Thumbs image

Little Green Thumbs

Variety of lessons about planting, growing, eating and sharing.
Website with Lessons Grade Level: k, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Leavening Activity image

Leavening Activity

Students learn about what makes baked goods light and fluffy.
Lesson Plan Grade Level: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Growing Outside: School Gardens image

Growing Outside: School Gardens

List of a variety of resources for BC schools for growing outside.
Lesson Book, Resource Guide, Toolkit, Garden Guide, and more Grade Level: all
Fruity Flavoured Water image

Fruity Flavoured Water

Simple recipe that can be adapted for your class.
Recipe Grade Level: all
Food Waste Audit with Waste Audit Template image

Food Waste Audit with Waste Audit Template

Materials to help students conduct a school food waste audit.
Activity (Google Doc and PDF) Grade Level: 6, 7, 8
Food Find image

Food Find

Students search, find and count foods from across groupings of food in a food market drawing.
Activity sheet (for colouring also) Grade Level: k, 1, 2
Viewing 30 resources