This article was written for the magazine Vivre le primaire from l'Association québécoise des enseignantes et des enseignants du primaire (French only).
Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) was revamped in January 2019. Since then, the balanced plate visual has replaced the rainbow that had been in use since 1992. With the new look, Health Canada suggests a new way of looking at food by focusing on plate proportions rather than on the number of daily servings. It’s a simpler way of doing things that’s worth embracing.
In schools, it’s not always easy to talk about CFG with children because the reference tool is rather theoretical for them. As teachers, you need to make it your own and simplify it before introducing it to your students. Our team of Registered Dietitians is here to help, and we bet that, by the end of this article, you’ll have all the information you need to discuss the subject with your students!
The balanced plate made easy
A positive perspective of food
Variety is one of the keys of the balanced plate, as each food is unique and provides its own set of nutrients. Variety also implies that there are no good or bad foods: all foods can be included in our diet, without the idea that some are forbidden. Of course, whole foods—the less processed the better—should be eaten more often and in greater quantities. This positive perspective is invaluable when it comes time to talk about food with students because it promotes a much healthier relationship with food.
A closer look at other important aspects of CFG!
Although the balanced plate is the representation used by CFG, healthy eating is about more than the food we eat. How we eat is now considered as an important aspect. That’s why CFG now includes key behavioural messages that inspire Canadians to improve their eating habits.
Take time to eat and listen to your hunger and fullness signals
There’s no denying that taking time to eat makes it easier to listen to your hunger and fullness signals. These signals are the body’s way of communicating that it needs energy (it’s time to eat) or that it has had enough (it’s time to stop). The challenge? Listening to them! Did you know that the ability to determine the amount of food the body needs is innate? Preserving this ability in children is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship with food.
As teachers, to really get this message across, you may want to schedule breaks for students to eat their snacks without distractions and encourage them to listen to their hunger and fullness signals. Take advantage of these occasions to discuss where foods come from, cultural differences, their favourite recipes, etc. Food can be a starting point for achieving many learning objectives, and this topic often grabs children’s attention. So why not take advantage of it?
Enjoy your food and eat meals with others
Enjoying your food means paying attention to the flavours detected by your taste buds. In children, there are many benefits to enjoying food, such as developing a sense of taste, being open to trying new foods, accepting textures and adopting a positive attitude toward food.
Meals and snacks are good opportunities to get together with others, socialize and be exposed to new, traditional or cultural foods. Since children learn a lot by observing and imitating those around them, sharing these moments with others can have a significant impact. And this goes for at home as well as at school! Peer influence is important on many levels, and food is no exception.
As a teacher, did you know that you can also be a role model when it comes to your students’ eating habits? Being a good role model doesn’t mean being perfect. But it does require sending positive messages and inspiring others through your actions. For example, by simply eating a snack with your students, you’re showing them that it’s important to set aside time to eat and that you can make it an enjoyable occasion. You’ll also pique their curiosity about the foods you eat. As the saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” So why not take advantage of your special connection with your students to influence them through your actions?
Did you know?
It takes at least 50 hours of nutrition education to have an impact on habits and behaviour. Your role is important! All of your activities and actions will allow the children to develop their food skills.
Ready to get started?
To support you in your efforts, we have created new fun and educational resources to discuss CFG in the classroom. Go to EducationNutrition.ca/GAC for free access to:
- Five short videos highlighting CFG’s main key messages (in French only). They are a great starting point for leading discussions about healthy eating with students. These videos are sure to grab their attention. Success guaranteed!
- Activity books to order (in French only). The books go along with the videos and meet pedagogical objectives, in addition to addressing food in an exciting way. The activities are short and easy for students to understand and designed to quickly fit into your lesson planning. Each cycle has its own activity book!
These resources have been designed especially for you and your students, based on strong evidence about nutrition and education. Order yours today!
Briggs, M., Safaii, S., Beall, D.-L., American Dietetic Association, Society for Nutrition Education and American School Food Service Association (2003). Position of the American Dietetic Association, Society for Nutrition Education, and American School Food Service Association—Nutrition services: An essential component of comprehensive school health programs. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, vol. 103, no. 4, pp. 505-514.
Government of Canada (2019). Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers. Retrieved July 23, 2020, from https://guide-alimentaire.canada.ca/static/assets/pdf/CDG-EN-2018.pdf
Government of Quebec (2010). Vision de la saine alimentation. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from https://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/fichiers/2010/10-289-06F.pdf