Talking To Students About the Food Guide

Canada's Food Guide 10 min

Information on Canada’s Food Guide and tips for teachers on how to talk about it with their students.

By DFC - PLC, Nutrition Team
Overhead shot of booklet and pencil surrounded with fruits, oats and yogourt
Booklet with pencil and healthy foods


  • Interpretation of the Food Guide
  • Planning classroom activities

The Food Guide

In January 2019, Health Canada published a new Canada’s Food Guide to replace the 2007 version. How will this affect the activities you do with your students? Discover the highlights of the new Guide and explore ideas for integrating it into your teaching practice.

How Has it Changed?

  • Serving numbers and sizes have been replaced by messages about listening to your hunger and fullness cues. This is great since we have known for some time that this is the best way to know if you’ve had enough to eat.
  • Foods are now grouped into three categories (previously there were four food groups):
    • Vegetables and fruits
    • Whole grain foods (grain products made with whole grains)
    • Protein foods (a combination of the Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives groups)
  • The look has changed: the rainbow has been replaced by a snapshot of a plate that illustrates the proportion of each food category.

New Additions

  • The Guide now also discusses how to eat: people are encouraged to enjoy their food, take the time to eat meals with family or friends, and cook with whole foods. In other words, the context in which food is consumed is just as important as the food itself!

Interpretation of the New Food Guide

According to the new Guide, healthy eating should not be complicated. Here is a summary of the overarching principles:

  • People are encouraged to eat more fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, with a focus on variety to take advantage of all the vitamins and minerals they contain. They should be eaten at every meal and regularly as snacks.
  • Opt for whole grain foods.
  • Always be sure to have one or more protein foods at every meal and even at snack time because they provide energy for a longer period of time. This makes you less hungry between meals.

Although protein foods have nutrients in common, they also each have their own unique nutrients, such as iron in meat, calcium in dairy products, omega-3 in fish and fibre in legumes. Variety is key!


Planning Classroom Activities

The nutritional value of a food or its alleged powers are not effective arguments for getting students to adopt healthy eating habits. Students choose and like foods for their taste and based on their experiences with them. If you want your activities to have a real impact, they must be concrete and most of all, fun. That’s why it is best to avoid categorizing foods based on their nutrients or nutrient value—an abstract concept for some students. Instead, create fun, positive experiences which students can use in their daily lives.

Some examples for K-3 students:

  • Have each student describe their snack based on the five senses: the texture of the food in their hands and in their mouth, its appearance, smell, taste and even the sound it makes when they eat it.
  • Using pictures of nutritious foods, have fun grouping foods based on the following criteria:
    • Shape
    • Colour
    • Texture (e.g., crunchy, soft, rubbery)
    • Flavour (e.g., sweet, salty, sour, bitter)
    • Where it comes from (e.g., tree, plant, ground, animal)
    • Class preferences, obtained by survey

For grade 4-6 students:

  • Make simple recipes with the students to give them ideas for lunches and snacks:
    • Try making a vegetable or fruit dip using plain yogurt with savoury herbs and spices or unsweetened fruit sauces. Serve with some veggies sticks or fresh fruit.
    • Group students and ask them to come up with a nutritious smoothie recipe using milk or yogurt, seeds like flax or chia seeds, a vegetable and a fruit. Try making one or more of the recipes in class and have some fun tasting them!
  • Have the students come up with nutritious lunch options that include foods from the three food categories.  They can include a vegetable, a fruit, a whole grain like multigrain bread and some protein like turkey and a glass of milk.



Multi level
Canada's Food Guide

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