Tips for teachers: promoting healthy eating in the classroom
Michelle Jaelin, Registered Dietitian
Healthy eating in the classroom is now embraced as part of curriculum and learning. As a registered dietitian, here are a few tips teachers can use with their students for a successful school year ahead.
Fuel Foods and Fun Foods
All foods provide nourishment and enjoyment. Think of foods as fuel foods and fun foods, and not as “good” or “bad” foods. The best approach for healthy eating for students is to try to get them to think about consuming fuel foods more often for energy and learning. Examples of fuel foods are vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Canada’s Food Guide emphasizes choosing these fuel foods more often. Fun foods include cookies, candy, pizza days and birthday cake on special occasions.
Healthy Eating: Make it Positive!
As teachers, set the culture of the classroom by making healthy eating a fun and positive experience. Remember, everyone eats differently. Avoid food policing, shaming and commenting on lunches and snacks. If you are in a situation where you find yourself questioning the nutritional quality of a student’s lunch or snacks, remember: Fed is best. Understand that students come from a variety of different socio-economic backgrounds that will influence the foods they bring to school.
Everyone Eats Differently
Embrace different food cultures. We are lucky that Ontario is one of the most diverse provinces in the country, with students from many different backgrounds and abilities. Remind students that how another student eats is different, and not better or worse. Don’t yuck my yum is a saying that teaches good manners around food, with origins in anti-racism education around food, culture and immigration. Keep an open mind about the unique foods students bring to school.
As an educator, your role is to create a space where all students feel comfortable eating in a positive, judgment free environment.
Michelle Jaelin is TV and digital media Nutrition Expert, licensed registered dietitian, content creator and writer at NutritionArtist.com. She resides in Hamilton, ON with her spouse and rescue dog. Follow her @nutritionartist on Instagram and Twitter.
Looking for more ways to help teach healthy eating in the classroom? Check out these links:
- Nurturing Healthy Eaters in Elementary Schools – a great article from Bright Bites about creating healthy eating environments in schools.
- 20 Great Food Books for your Classroom – a carefully curated classroom booklist from Dietitians4Teachers