How to teach Canada’s Food Guide

Food and Nutrition

Learn how to make Canada’s Food Guide meaningful for your learners. This article includes age-specific activities you can use in early learning and at school!

By DFC - PLC, Nutrition Team
Two plates side by side. Once has ingredients for a breakfast separated to mirror the CFG Plate. The second plate has a completed breakfast with toast, fruit salad, and a smoothie.

Our team of Registered Dietitians is passionate about building developmentally appropriate resources and programs to support educators in teaching about food and nutrition. We are often asked, “How do I teach Canada’s Food Guide in early learning and at school?”  

As with any form of learning, effective nutrition education requires different approaches for different ages and stages of learners, so you need to look at Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) and consider how and why it may be relevant for your learners at different times. 

You may be familiar with the term “pacing learning,” in which children and youth learn at a pace that matches their ability and interests. So what does this approach look like in practical terms when you teach CFG? 

Nutrition education works well when children and youth are given lots of time and opportunity to explore and practise. Keeping this in mind for CFG, start with hands-on food activities and then add gentle, well-timed reinforcement of nutrition concepts as outlined in the table below.  

We have broken down recommendations by ages and stages, from early childhood through high school, reflecting developmentally appropriate learning goals. The learning is paced to occur when students generally experience the most significant shifts in cognitive development, welcoming a new level of complexity in thought processes as children and youth progress with their learning.  

Ages and Stages*  Pacing Learning for Teaching Canada’s Food Guide Related Programs and Resources 
Early childhood 
  • Children are too young at this age to be taught CFG.  

  • Centre learning on food exploration and create an environment in which children can build their confidence with a variety of foods.  

  • Find out what children already know about food and what they are wondering about to help you plan food learning opportunities. 

Early elementary 

(kindergarten – grade 3) 

  • Centre learning on food exploration and categorization of foods based on the senses. 

  • Sort foods into basic categories based on colour, shape, texture, and/or temperature. 

Late elementary 

(grades 4–6) 

  • Late elementary is a great time to introduce the CFG Plate and begin teaching students about how all foods fit in. 

  • Sort foods into their CFG categories: vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, and protein foods. 

Junior high  

(grades 7–9) 

  • Junior high students can begin translating food categorization into hands-on skill development. For example, connecting the CFG Plate to personal food preferences when planning meals and snacks. 

  • In grades 7–9, we can shift students’ mindsets to critically assess food and nutrition messages.  

High school 

(grades 10–12) 

  • High school students are ready to study abstract concepts such as the role of nutrients in the body and key nutrients in food categories. 

  • Students can learn to apply variety and balance while planning and preparing meals and snacks that meet personal nutrient needs, using CFG as a tool. 

  • Introducing more complex conversations about food systems will take learning to the next level. 

* These are general progressions for learning. Some children and youth may not follow this progression exactly. You know your learners best, so feel free to meet them where they are in their journey. 

OverView

Grade
For All Ages
Age
Multi-age
Theme
Canada's Food Guide
Theme
Healthy eating