Teaching Children Food Literacy

Teaching Children Food Literacy

Nutrition Month is celebrated every March by Dietitians of Canada. In celebration of eating healthy,
dietitians organize events and develop resources that help educate Canadians about healthy eating.
Dietitians are enthusiastic about the potential of food to enhance lives and improve wellbeing. We
collaborate with our clients to embrace food, understand it and enjoy it while considering their overall
objectives, needs and challenges. We look beyond fads and gimmicks to deliver dependable, life-
changing advice.

I’m really excited to be a part of the 2022 Dietitians of Canada nutrition month campaign, Ingredients
for a Healthier Tomorrow. From food security to food literacy and food sovereignty, to sustainable food
choices, and nutrition care and prevention, dietitians from across Canada are unlocking the potential of
food and doing their part to create a healthier tomorrow.

Food literacy is an incredibly valuable skill. Recognizing that simply having the knowledge to make more
nutritious food choices doesn’t always result in better outcomes. Dietitians value the importance of
developing food literacy with their clients and communities. I spend time helping my clients with the
hardest part, which is not what to do, but how to do it.

Childhood is a critical time to promote food literacy as children are developing the eating patterns and
skills that they will carry into adulthood and pass on to future generations. Support in the home
environment can motivate children and reinforce knowledge gained in school or through community
programs. (“Effective Education Strategies to Increase Food and …”) Aspects of family involvement
include stimulating awareness, gaining parental support, seeing parents as positive role models,
encouragement of healthy dietary behaviour, and involvement in preparing food in the home.
Food literacy includes five main interconnected components: food and nutrition knowledge; food skills;
building confidence and self-efficacy in food decision-making; increasing the awareness of where food
comes from; and considering the external factors (like the food system, culture, norms and social
determinants of health) that influence eating behaviours.

1 – Food and nutrition knowledge
Includes knowledge about different types of food, its origins, and how the nutrients in food
affect human health. It also means understanding the language commonly used to describe the
characteristics of food and food preparation (e.g., high fibre, low sodium, sauté, fold, etc.).

Ways to promote food and nutrition knowledge with your children are:
– Talk to your kids about food, share what you know.
– Ask them how different foods make them feel.
– Talk about the importance of protein for muscles and fibre for a healthy digestive tract.
– Discuss the value of variety.
– Share how you know when a food item has gone bad or how you decide which
watermelon to pick.
– Discuss how to check if a food has an allergen.
– Explore how to read the food ingredients and nutrition label in a neutral way. A quick tip
around this is that 5% is a little and 15% is a lot. To learn more about understanding
food labels check out Health Canada’s resources here.

2 – Food skills
Includes skills such as planning skills needed to make good use of leftovers, organize and
prepare healthy meals, make a grocery list and stay within budget as well as technical skills
needed to make meals, such as cooking, chopping/mixing, following and adjusting recipes.
(“Commonly used terms – Canada’s Food Guide”)

The how can depend on the age of your children but for all ages it starts with getting them in
the kitchen. Let them help with grocery shopping, meal planning, meal prepping in whatever
capacity you are comfortable with. For age specific meal prep ideas check this resource out. Get
them involved with recipe reading. If you’re looking for some new recipes to try out with your
kids, Dietitians of Canada releases a new cookbook every nutrition month. You can check out
2022’s here.

3 – Building confidence and self-efficacy in food decision-making
I know this can be a stressful one for parents.

Here’s a few tips:
– Don’t ask open ended questions for example, “What should we have for dinner?”
Instead give two options that are both realistic and available. By making sure the
options are both true options you are increasing their confidence when what they
choose is available.
– Let them choose a food to get with the grocery shop. Again, give two options, “Should
we get green peppers or red peppers?” or, “Should we get cucumbers or broccoli?” or,
“Should we get rainbow Goldfish or cheddar Goldfish?” or any other related two things
you can think of as long as both options are ok with you.
– Let them choose a part of a meal. Maybe not every day but whenever it’s available.
“Should we have tomatoes or carrots with supper?”
– Don’t set yourself up to get an answer you aren’t ok with. Instead of asking “Do you
want apple slices?” try “How many apple slices do you want?”
All of this helps build their confidence in their choices because there isn’t really a “wrong
answer”.

4 – Increase awareness of where food comes from
If you have space, try growing a small garden in the summer. This can produce (ha-ha) a great
conversation with your children about where food comes from. Talk about farming and
agriculture. If you don’t know much about this area you can visit a local farm like Deer Meadow
Farms, or a quick Google search would let you see some other options. Agriculture In the

Classroom also has great resources for kids and teachers you can check out their resources here.
A very cool place to check out is the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre. Click
here to learn more.

5 – External factors
This is a HUGE topic. Some small takeaways would be to:
– Talk to your kids about how household food insecurity is something families may
struggle with. If it’s something you’re able to do, think of ways you can help.
– Discuss different cultures and foods within those cultures. Try a cultural exploration
night with a signature dish and learning about the culture. Depending on the ages of
your children, each family member can take on part of it, so everyone has an
opportunity to share what they learnt and so it doesn’t just become an intense amount
of work for one person.
– Discuss how some people in Canada don’t have access to nutritious foods and physical
activity opportunities. Encourage gratitude if you do have access to these things.

If you want to learn more about the other components of this year’s Nutrition Month campaign, check
out www.NutritionMonth2022.ca.


Post written by Lindsay Martens
If you would like to discuss yours or your families nutrition needs with me, please feel free to send me
an email at phnutrition@outlook.com or book a free discovery call here.

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