How to Promote Healthy Eating Habits at School

apple sitting on a lunch box in front of a chalkboard at school

Can your child’s school have an impact on their eating habits? You bet! Your child spends a good part of their day at school. They should be able to put into practice what they are learning and experiencing at school about healthy eating.

Parents and caregivers have a role to play too. They can support positive change already underway and encourage healthy changes by starting or joining a nutrition committee or suggesting non-food items for fundraisers. Together, parents, caregivers, teachers and schools can create a healthy school nutrition environment where making the healthy choice is the easy choice.

What schools can do to encourage a healthy nutrition environment

Children learn better when they are well nourished. When children eat right, they can improve their memory and their ability to concentrate. In addition, eating well supports healthy growth and development. That’s why it’s so important that children are given the chance to make nutritious food choices at school. Which of these healthy practices does your child’s school encourage?

  • Offer non-food items such as pencils, stickers or extra play-time instead of food with little nutritional value as rewards or prizes.

  • Ensure teachers are trained to teach nutrition and know how to promote positive body image

  • Remind teachers they are important role models for good eating habits.

  • Offer nutritious food choices for class parties, special events, special lunch days, vending machines and cafeterias.

  • Provide at least 20 minutes to eat and socialize at lunch.

  • Serve culturally appropriate, nutritious food choices for nutrition programs.

  • Use non-food items for fundraisers instead of relying on bake sales or selling food with little nutritional value.

  • Allow kids to keep a water bottle at their desk to drink water when thirsty.

  • School-wide nutrition policy that outlines the school’s values and commitment to a healthy nutrition environment at school.

  • Teach food skills at school, like label reading, cooking, gardening and grocery shopping.

  • Connecting with farmers to learn how food is grown.

Your local public health unit may be able to help.

Ask about:

  • Resources to teach nutrition in the classroom.

  • School presentations.

  • Referrals for student nutrition programs.

  • Parent resources on packing lunches or eating breakfast that can be sent home from school.

Ways parents can make a difference to make healthier eating easier at school

  • Help to make healthy eating easier at your child’s school: Talk with your child about what they are learning at school about nutrition.

  • Send nutritious food choices to school for lunches, snacks and parties.

  • Promote non-food fundraisers such as a dance-a-thon or silent auction.

  • Bring your ideas and concerns forward to the parent council or principal.

  • Find out if there is a school nutrition committee and join it. If not, start one.

  • Find out if there is a food and beverage policy or help to create one.

  • Support healthy school activities. Help with a nutrition program.

  • Start an after school cooking club.

  • Role model healthy eating at home.

How can a dietitian help?

A dietitian can help your school in many ways. They can offer workshops to teachers and parents on nutrition, food skills, balanced lunches, allergies and more. A dietitian can also help advise on nutrition policies for the classroom and schools. If your child has allergies or you are struggling with packing  lunches, a one-on-one session with a dietitian can help. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

Schools are an important way kids learn about nutrition and healthy eating. It is important that schools model healthy eating behaviours and promote a healthy nutrition environment.

You may also be interested in:

Peanut-free Lunches and Snacks
Simple Lunch Solutions for Your Kids
Top Tips for Making Balanced Lunches for the New School Year
Make a Balanced Breakfast a Habit in Your Home
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.

Last Update – January 14, 2023

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