Teaching about food and nutrition

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.

General tips
  • 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.”
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Inquiry-based learning

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?
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Hands-on activities

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.
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Resources

General resources

Health and food safety

Educator workshops

Grants for food-based learning

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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.

Food and nutrition

Kindergarten and primary grades

Books

Middle and secondary grades

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Garden activities
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Hands-on food activities
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Indigenous knowledge and perspectives
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Local food systems
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Positive body image and media literacy
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Social justice

Books

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