The Healthy Eating component of the Healthy Living strand equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to make the healthiest eating choices possible. Students learn to examine their food choices and eating patterns. They are given opportunities to think through decisions and set appropriate goals, while working within the parameters they can control.
The learning in this topic area emphasizes the importance of student involvement in preparing and choosing meals and snacks. The objective is to encourage students to make connections between what they learn in the classroom and their lives. In doing so, they can develop a sense of personal responsibility for making healthy food decisions.
Educators need to consider issues such as poverty, disordered eating, cultural practices, and food allergies when approaching teaching about healthy eating with sensitivity.
While teaching about personal responsibility, educators must remember that students have variable amounts of control over the food they eat at home and bring to school. Both the kinds of food and the amounts available at home will dictate how a student eats. In particular, students who live in poverty may have very little control over their eating habits, and they may not be able to eat healthy foods, or even sufficient amounts of food, every day.
Body Image/Disordered Eating
Sensitivity regarding weight, body shape, and personal beliefs regarding “what is healthy” also affect students’ eating choices. Using a ﬂexible and balanced approach to food guidelines can reduce potential triggers with respect to students’ body image and eating concerns. The key message students should receive is that healthy eating and regular physical activity are essential requirements for maintaining good health over the course of their lives.
When teaching about healthy eating, it is essential for educators to use sensitivity and good judgement. Students, like all people, have complex relationships with food. In every culture, food is eaten for many reasons other than hunger. It can provide comfort and security. It can be a symbol of hospitality or social status. It can hold religious or cultural significance. Culture influences what and how we eat, as well as how we prepare and serve our food. So just as some students avoid foods due to allergies, others may not eat foods from all four food groups because of family, cultural, or religious reasons.
Educators should pay careful consideration to the ways they talk about food and nutrition with students. They should avoid implying that one value system or food practice is superior to another, and ensure that no foods, food groups, or eating practices are criticized. Educators must also avoid making assumptions about students based on their country of origin, culture, or religion. On the contrary, they need to create an inclusive classroom environment by recognizing and celebrating both the possible variety of foods consumed by their students, the diversity of experience any given students may have, and the multitude of ways those foods can be enjoyed.
Theory into Practice – Consider having students write a blog post describing how foods are used in various cultures. Ask students to access Canada’s Food Guide to select food they most often consume. Use their personal selections to make healthy eating decisions based on food accessibility.
If students have serious or even life-threatening allergies to any food, their eating experiences can be significantly different since many foods that are considered healthy choices (e.g., milk, eggs, nuts, or fish) can trigger an allergic response in some people. Therefore, educators should reassure students that they can still have healthy eating habits even if allergies prevent them from eating certain foods. Educators may accomplish this by emphasizing that the vitamins and nutrients found in certain foods are also present in many others. Educators can also use Canada’s Food Guide to help students find alternatives within the applicable food group.
Theory into Practice – Consider having students investigate various health conditions or diseases that require specific food choices or meal planning.
The content in this section was sourced from: Ophea. (2015). Level Up. Retrieved from: http://teachingtools.ophea.net/sites/default/files/pdf/level_up_-_program_guide.pdf