This webpage provides educators with tips, resources, and lesson plans for providing positive, student-centered food and nutrition education that aligns with the BC curriculum.
Learning to enjoy a variety of foods takes time and practice. Students benefit from many opportunities to build their comfort and skills with food at school, in a pressure-free environment. Food is also a powerful teaching tool with the potential for many cross-curricular connections.
Information for educators
It’s great to see that so many educators are interested in teaching about food and nutrition! The following tips and resources support educators with using a student-centered approach to promote long-term, positive eating attitudes and behaviors.
- Build food skills and curiosity about food. Describe food using the senses. Explore where food comes from, how it gets to our plates, and the different ways it can be prepared and eaten.
- Apply a trauma-informed approach. Offer neutral exposure to food, without pressure. Pressure includes persuading or rewarding student to choose or avoid certain foods “to be healthy”. Students have diverse experiences and home contexts that will impact their food access, preferences, culture, supports, and nutritional needs.
- Talk about all food neutrally. Avoid labeling foods as “good or bad”, “healthy or unhealthy” or “sometimes or everyday” foods. These labels do not help students accept foods and can lead to feelings of guilt or shame.
- Hold off on teaching about nutrition until middle or high school. Abstract concepts such as nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, etc.) are difficult for young learners to understand or apply.
- Talk about food as more than fuel or nutrients. Explore how food provides pleasure and connects to the self, family, history, culture, nature, community and food systems.
- Use the concept of “variety” to teach about food in an inclusive way. There are many different ways to eat that can give us what we need to grow, learn and play.
- Aim to be a positive role model. Show students that you enjoy a variety of foods. Consider how your school can create a supportive food and eating environment.
- Avoid calorie counting activities, food tracking assignments, or talking about weight loss diets. These activities can be unsafe for students and do not support positive eating attitudes and behaviors.
- Support listening and trusting our bodies to eat what we need. Canada’s food guide no longer recommends numbers of serving of food groups. It promotes mindful eating and enjoying a variety of food.
- Promote critical inquiry. Support students to spot diet fads, find reliable sources of nutrition information, critically think about food marketing, and make connections between food and social justice issues.
- FAQs from educators about Canada’s Food Guide - Healthy Schools BC
- Guiding principles for educators - Healthy Schools BC
- Grade specific examples for how to use the guiding principles (PDF) - Healthy Schools BC
- Nurturing healthy eaters in the classroom (PDF) - Vancouver Coastal Health
- Teaching and talking to students about food and nutrition (PDF) - Healthy Schools BC
- Food-based learning: Tips for elementary schools during COVID-19 (PDF) - Northern Health
- Learning from the land toolkit - Farm to School BC
- Setting the table: Foundational knowledge for Traditional First Nations Foods (PDF) - Healthy Schools BC
- Teach food first: An educator’s toolkit for exploring Canada’s Food Guide with K-8 students - Healthy Schools BC
- Supporting healthy eating at school: What we say and do matters (F2S BC webinar series) - Northern Health, and Vancouver Coastal Health
- Teach food first and updates to BC PHE elaborations - Healthy Schools BC
- Canada’s Food Guide and you (grades 8-12) (PDF) - Northern Health
- What's for lunch? (grades 8-12: parents/caregivers) (PDF) - Northern Health
- Be food safe in the classroom: 4 food safety principles (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Caring about food safety (free online course) - Government of British Columbia
- Canning foods: Your guide to successful canning - First Nations Health Authority (FNHA)
- Food safety and you - Health Canada
- Food safety courses - Government of British Columbia
Northern Health Population Health dietitian can offer tailored workshops for educators, schools, and school districts on a variety of topics including food literacy, nutrition education and body image. For more information email: PopHthNutrition@Northernhealth.ca
Virtual nutrition education workshops for BC K-12 teachers are also offered by Registered Dietitians at BC Dairy Association (BCDA). Educators who have completed a workshop can apply for a mini food grant to purchase food for their classroom.
Lessons and activities
Kindergarten and primary grades
- Edible parts of a plant: Video lesson, illustration (PDF), and worksheet (PNG) (grades 3-5) - Anna Lutz, RD
- Food explorer lessons - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- Fresh stories activities - BC Agriculture in the Classroom
- Rainbow foods - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Teach food first lessons - Healthy Schools BC
- What am I? Food literacy activity (PDF) - Northern Health and Vancouver Coastal Health
- Primary booklist (PDF) - compiled by BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
Middle and secondary grades
- Breakfast basics (PDF) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- Canada’s Food Guide: A sample of guided learning activities (PDF) - BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC)
- Food Truck project (grades 10-12) - BC Teachers’ Federation
- Teach food first lessons - Healthy Schools BC
- Traditional First Nations Foods lessons - Healthy Schools BC
- Food allergy awareness challenge (K-12) - Food Allergy Canada
- Videos for teens about anaphylaxis and being allergy aware - Food Allergy Canada
For more information about food allergy prevention and management at school see the school food environments page.
- Crop planting cards and Northern BC crop calendars - Farm to School BC
- Food garden lesson book (PDF) - Social Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC)
- How to grow with kids - Megan Zeni
- Mindfulness in the garden - UBC Faculty of Education
- Picture perfect potatoes: A Spuds in Tubs program unit for middle school students using a project-based learning approach (grades 6-9) (PDF) - BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC)
- Saving garden seeds lesson (PDF) - Farm to School BC
- Traditional First Nations Foods lessons (K-8) - Healthy Schools BC
- Learning First Peoples classroom resources (K-12) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC)
- Learning from the land lessons (K-12) - Farm to School BC
- The Honorable Harvest (video) - Robin Kimmerer
- Traditional Foods fact sheets (grades 8-12) (PDF) - First Nations Health Authority
- A Day with Yayah learning guide - BC Agriculture in the Classroom
- Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: A Guide to Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and Teaching of Plants - Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Spirit Bear series and learning guides (grades 2-6) (PDF) - First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
- BC at the table (grades 8-12) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- BC Agriculture in the classroom lessons (K-12) - BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC)
- Interactive grow BC map (all ages)
- Connecting the 2019 Canada Food Guide to local agriculture (grades 8-10) (PDF) - BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC)
- Food matters action kit: Inspiring youth across North America to prevent food waste - Commission for Environmental Cooperation
- Science First Peoples: Teacher resource guide (grades 5-9) (PDF) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA)
- Skeena salmon, watershed and ecosystems - SkeenaWild
- Stream to sea: Stewardship and sustainability lessons (K-12) - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Amazing me (grades 4-5) - Discover Education and Dove Self-esteem Project
- Beyond images (grades 4-8) - National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC)
- Everybody for every body (grades 7-9) (PDF) - Food Share
- Get real! Digital media literacy toolkit (grades 5-12) (PDF) - National Eating Disorders Association
- Healthy at every size: So, what’s normal? (grades 6-12) (PDF) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- #TheWholeMe: A toolkit for young people about positive body image and authentic sharing on Instagram (PDF) - The Butterfly Foundation
- Digital resource library - Ditching diet culture at school
- Where we all fit: Body-inclusive library collections - BC Teachers’ Federation
- BC Poverty Reduction Coalition lessons (grades 9-12) - BC Poverty Reduction Coalition
- Exploring my power and privilege toolkit (grades 8-12) (PDF) - Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion
- Just Food (grades 11-12) - University of British Columbia