Ask a Dietitian: Explore Nutrition Facts and the H&PE Curriculum Webinar Blog |

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Ask a Dietitian: Explore Nutrition Facts and the H&PE Curriculum Webinar Blog

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 - 09:02

On November 18, 2020, Ophea hosted a webinar exploring nutrition facts and the H&PE Curriculum, which featured educators and a dietitian. The purpose of the session was to give educators a chance to learn about nutrition, confirm or expose long-held nutrition beliefs, and leave feeling empowered to inspire students. The session explored the food guide; shared how personal food biases may influence nutrition lessons; and provided concrete tips on supporting a safe school environment that fosters healthy eating.

We would like to thank The Helderleigh Foundation for their partnership on this webinar, as well as our co-presenters:

  • Andrea Barrow is a Health & Physical Education teacher with the Limestone District School Board in Kingston, and an Ophea Ambassador.
  • Andrea Haefele is a Health & Physical Education teacher in the York Region District School Board and an Ophea Ambassador.
  • Cara Rosenbloom RD is a Toronto-based dietitian, freelance writer and co-author of the books Nourish and Food to Grow On.  

View the full webinar on our YouTube channel.  

During session registration, educators sent in their nutrition questions, and we received over 130 queries! Here are the answers to the most frequently asked nutrition questions:

How do I use Canada’s Food Guide as a teaching tool?

Canada’s Food Guide covers a wide breadth of topics, which meet curriculum needs at every grade level. From teaching lessons about how food is made in grade three, to covering food marketing in grade five, the guide offers a comprehensive overview of what, how, where, when and why we eat. An in-depth overview of the Food Guide was covered in a previous Ophea webinar, A Journey through Canada’s NEW Food guide: What Educators Need to Know.

Ophea’s H&PE Elementary Resources include lesson plans for grades 1-8, which address the healthy eating topic within the elementary H&PE curriculum, and align with Canada’s Food Guide too.

Can you comment on the language that we should use when teaching students about healthy eating? Specifically, how do we explain good vs. bad foods?

The key is to keep it positive, and refrain from labelling any foods as “unhealthy,” “bad,” or “junk.” These words can be damaging and judgemental, and may make children think if the food they eat is bad, then they are also bad. This can harm their self-esteem. Remember, many kids don’t have a lot of choice, and eat whatever they are given or have access to. We never want to make a child feel bad about that. 

You can use the Food Guide for appropriate language. For example, in grade 2, you need to “identify food and beverage choices that contribute to healthy eating patterns” and can trip over “good vs. bad” language here. Gently share the idea that “processed foods should not be consumed regularly,” which is what the food guide advises. These words do not shame certain foods or make kids feel bad for eating them. Rather, reinforce the messaging that “healthy eating patterns can be developed regularly by eating vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, and protein foods. These are foods that help you” to fuel your body to learn.

Remember, your goal is to inspire children and youth and help them build a healthy relationship with food. Of course, we want them to understand how food plays a role in healthy living. But food is about so much more than health! Food is an integral part of socialization, enjoyment, holidays, customs, family time and skill-building (think grocery shopping and cooking meals).

How can we continue to deliver the expectations within the Healthy Eating topic, but also meet students where they are at during this pandemic?

There’s no right or wrong way to handle a pandemic. Some people have relied more on comfort food, while others have found more time to cook nutritious meals. We’re all just doing our best during unprecedented times. For additional thoughts and ideas on how educators, students and families can prioritize well-being in the times of COVID-19, check-out Ophea's article, Finding Balance in Precarious Times.

Families may be struggling to put food on the table. In this situation, any food is better than no food, so healthy eating may not be the message to lead with as an educator. Know your audience and meet students where they’re at. We are all eating what we can access and afford. We want to ensure there is no guilt or shame around the choices that anyone is making. We all have enough stress without the added pressure of following a specific eating plan during a pandemic! It’s time for compassion, not rigid rules.

Note: Food banks remain open during COVID-19.

Can you share some advice to educators when teaching about the more sensitive topics within healthy eating?

We all have foods we love, and perhaps foods we don’t like – so it’s normal to have preferences. But that’s different than having biases that get imposed on others. Students hear everything you say, even when talking about your own eating habits. It’s fine to talk about foods you enjoy, but skip the chatter about your personal weight or diet regimes. 

And please be aware of weight bias, which is judgment towards individuals based on their weight, shape, or size. It can affect people at all weights, but people in larger bodies are often more negatively affected and experience stigma and discrimination. Harvard University developed a self-assessment tool if you are curious about your own weight bias. This tool is for educators, not for students.

Aim to create a weight-inclusive school environment, so every child can develop self-confidence and positive mental health. Students experiencing weight stigma are more likely to have low self-esteem, increased stress, depression, anxiety, and experience social isolation. Refrain from weighing students, doing collective class “diet challenges,” or measuring body mass index. Learn more about these and other considerations from a weight bias handout from Ontario Dietitians in Public Health (ODPH).

Where can educators get reliable nutrition information?

 Find a dietitian

Credible nutrition sources

Classroom resources

Let’s keep the conversation going! Share with us @OpheaCanada on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

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