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.
The BC curriculum promotes an inquiry- and strength-based approach that puts students’ lived experiences at the center of their learning. Similarly, food and nutrition education is meaningful and safe when it is tailored to the developmental stage of students, informed by how children learn to eat, and supports a positive relationship with all foods. Nutrition education is most effective when it seeks to engage students with food through curiosity, connection to the real world, and reflective thinking, rather than top-down lessons about food choices.
Information for educators
It is important to approach health and nutrition topics thoughtfully to ensure meaningful and safe experiences for students. The following tips and resources support educators with providing student-centered nutrition and food education.
- Avoid food labels such as “healthy” vs “unhealthy” foods, “green light” vs “red light” foods, or “junk” vs “growing” foods. Labelling foods in this way can lead to feelings of shame or guilt about foods served at home, foods enjoyed on special occasion, or foods students have not yet learned to accept.
- Avoid lessons about nutrients (calories, fat, vitamins, etc.) or their health benefits. This information is too abstract for young children to understand or apply, and does not help them build positive food attitudes or skills.
- Consider that growing children have different nutritional needs (including requirement for calories, calcium and dietary fat) compared to adults.
- Consider the social, emotional, and cultural values of food. Include and celebrate these aspects when talking to students about food or health.
- Provide experiences that help students build their comfort and skills with identifying, growing, and preparing a variety of foods.
- Teach students to listen to their internal body cues (e.g. “What does your tummy say?” or “How do you know that your tummy needs more food?”) as opposed to external cues (e.g. portion size) when deciding how much to eat.
- Teach students to spot nutrition fads and find good sources for nutrition advice. See finding reliable healthy eating information on the internet (HealthLinkBC).
- Use positive and inclusive language to talk about food and what our bodies need. For example: “Eating different foods gives us what we need to grow and play.”
Asking questions is a great way to help students explore and become familiar with food. The following questions exemplify a positive approach to learning about foods and can be adapted to various grade levels:
- What does it look like? (e.g. colour, shape, size)
- How does it feel? (e.g. smooth, fuzzy, rough)
- How does it taste? (e.g. sweet, sour, bitter)
- How/where does it grow? (e.g. in the ground or on a tree)
- What journey did it take to get to our plates?
- What factors might influence access to this food in your community?
- How can it be prepared and eaten?
- What connections might it have to culture, traditions, or history?
- How has media or advertising influenced how you feel about this food?
Exposure to new foods is a great way to build food skills and food acceptance over time for children of all ages. Ultimately, it is familiarity with foods and how they are prepared that strongly influences eating patterns in the long-run. Here are a few tips for food-based learning:
- Allow and instruct students to refuse food by saying “no thank you”. It may take many exposure before students try a food, but there is still rich learning in seeing, touching, or watching others eat it.
- Avoid asking students whether they liked a food or not; food acceptance is a skill that is learned over time. Discourage negative comments e.g. “yuk” or “gross”.
- Consider using foods that are readily available and accessible to students in their local communities. This builds on previous experiences, and increases the likelihood that they will be exposed to that food again.
- Ensure food safety and hand washing practices are a routine part of food-based education.
- Offer foods with a napkin and instruct students to politely spit food into the napkin if they do not want to swallow it.
- Offer small tastes of food, without pressure. Pressure makes it harder for students to learn to like new foods in the long-run.
- Provide opportunities for student to reflect on the food experience through drawing, journaling, or talking. Help children build their vocabulary by describing how food looks, feels, and tastes.
- Canada’s food guide and you (display) (grades 8 and up) - Northern Health
- Connecting around food during COVID-19:Nutrition education home and school learning opportunities (F2SBC webinar series) - Northern Health and Vancouver Coastal Health
- FAQ: Tops questions about Canada’s Food Guide in the school setting (PDF) - Vancouver Coastal Health
- Food-based learning: Tips for elementary schools during COVID-19 - Northern Health
- Supporting healthy eating at school: What we say and do matters (F2S BC webinar series) - Northern Health, and Vancouver Coastal Health
Health and food safety
- 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
- COVID-19 public health guidance for K-12 school settings (PDF) - see pg. 14 “Food Services” and pg. 24 “Appendix D: Supplementary guidance for school meal programs” (Ministry of Health)
- Food safety courses - Government of British Columbia
- Food safety: Easy ways to make food safer - HealthLink BC
- Virtual teacher nutrition education workshops – led by a Registered Dietitian at BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
Grants for food-based learning
- Mini food grants – BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
Lesson plans and activities
The following lesson plans and activities align with the new BC curriculum. They promote grade-specific, and inquiry-based approaches for teaching about food and other health-related topics including food skills, positive body image, media literacy, local food systems, social justice, and Indigenous Ways of Knowing.
Kindergarten and primary grades
- Allergy awareness lesson plans - Food Allergy Canada
- Alphabet foods (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Edible parts of a plant: Video lesson, illustration (PDF), and worksheet (PNG) (grades 3-5) - Anna Lutz, RD
- Fresh stories activities - BC Agriculture in the Classroom
- Foods from around the world (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Fun food sorting (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Rainbow foods (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- What am I? Food literacy activity (PDF) - Northern Health and Vancouver Coastal Health
- Where food comes from (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Primary booklist (PDF) - compiled by BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
Middle and secondary grades
- Allergy awareness lesson plans - Food Allergy Canada
- 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)
- Favourite food or meal experiences (PDF) - Nutrition Education and Consulting
- Math First Peoples teacher resource guide: Mini-unit: Cooking with fractions (PDF) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA)
- Mindful eating (PDF) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- Cook it. Try it. Like it: A guide for program leaders (grades 4-12) (PDF) - Interior Health
- Make your own trail mix (all ages) (PDF) - Interior Health
- Talking about taste (all ages) - UBC Faculty of Education
- Taste the difference: Apple taste test (all ages) - Life Lab
- Yogurt sundaes (all ages) (PDF) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- Exploring food: COVID-19 home learning lesson plans and resources (PDF) - Vancouver Coastal Health
- Planting seeds for healthy eating: Easy ways to grow food with kids - NH Stories
- Authentic First Peoples resources (K-9) (PDF) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA)
- Indian Residential Schools and Reconciliation teacher resource guide (grades 5-12) (PDF) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC)
- Learning First Peoples classroom resources (K-12) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC)
- Spirit Bear Series (grades 2-6) (PDF) – First Nations Child and Family Caring Society
- BC at the table teacher resources (grades 8-12) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- Connecting the 2019 Canada Food Guide to local agriculture (grades 8-10) (PDF) - BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC)
- Educational resources (K-12) - BC Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation (BCAITC)
- Interactive grow BC map (all ages)
- 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)
- Salmonids in the classroom (K-12) - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Science First Peoples: Teacher resource guide (grades 5-9) (PDF) - First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and First Nations Schools Association (FNSA)
- Being me: Promoting positive body image (K-9) (PDF) - Action Schools! BC
- Beyond images (grades 4-8) - National Eating Disorder Information Center (NEDIC)
- Healthy at every size: So, what’s normal? (grades 6-12) (PDF) - BC Dairy Association (BCDA)
- Media smarts (K-12) - Canada's Centre for Digital and Media Literacy
- Percy Pinhorn (book): Discussion and activity guide (grades 2-3) (PDF) - Body Diversity Newfoundland and Labrador
- Exploring my power and privilege toolkit (grades 8-12) (PDF) - Canadian Center for Diversity and Inclusion
- Justice not charity (grades 9-12) (PDF) - BC Poverty Reduction Coalition
- Racial disparities jigsaw (grades 9-12) - Teaching Tolerance
- The upstream story (grades 9-12) (PDF) - BC Poverty Reduction Coalition