The food choices that school-age children and youth make directly influence their learning and health. Good nutrition contributes to healthy growth and development, and promotes concentration.

Healthy eating is not just about what you eat but how you eat.

Visit Health Canada for more tips on healthy eating for children and youth.

Ideas to Encourage Healthy Eating

  • Eat meals and snacks together as a family. Children who sit down with others regularly for meals are more likely to eat healthier, learn table manners and develop stronger relationships.
  • Avoid talking about difficult issues that can make mealtime stressful – plan another time to discuss them.
  • Allow enough time for children to eat and encourage them to eat slowly.
  • Reduce distractions by turning off the TV in order to focus on food, family and friends.
  • Encourage children and youth to try new foods along with familiar foods without forcing them.
  • It can take many attempts before some children and youth will taste and enjoy a new food.
  • Include foods that aren’t your favourites. Children and youth may like peas even if you don’t. They pick up messages about how you view food. If you are excited about a new food, they may be too.
  • Children and youth can have fun, develop cooking skills and are more likely to eat the food offered when they are involved.
  • Plan meals and snacks for the next week together.
  • Allow children and youth to look through cookbooks and choose recipes they would like to try.
  • Take children and youth shopping, and teach them to read labels.
  • With supervision, all children and youth can help with meal preparation.
  • Begin every day with a healthy breakfast.
  • Limit offering highly processed foods.
  • Prepare healthy snacks and healthy meals.
  • Try serving raw vegetables at dinner – children and youth often like them better than cooked vegetables.
  • Fill a bowl with fruit and put it where it can be easily reached.
  • Plain milk and unsweetened fortified soy beverage are also healthy choices.
  • Limit drinks with caffeine and/or added sugars (e.g. tea, coffee, soft drinks, fruit drinks and sport drinks). Energy drinks are not recommended for children or youth.
  • Adults are responsible for providing children with a variety of nutritious foods to choose from, regular times to eat, and a safe and relaxing place to eat
  • When children and youth are healthy and active, adults need to trust that children know when they are hungry, when they are full, and how much to eat.
  • Children and youth should stop eating when they feel full, even if they have not finished everything on their plate. Let them choose foods from the healthy choices available at each meal.
  • Children have small stomachs and need to eat often during the day to make sure they get all the nutrition they need to grow, learn and play.
  • If food is used to reward or punish, it can change how children view food. Soothe hurt feelings with a hug instead of food.

Student Nutrition Programs

Learn about Student Nutrition Programs in Toronto that provide healthy meals and snacks to children and youth in schools and community sites.

Student nutrition programs:

  • Provide nutrients and energy so that students are ready to learn and participate in school.
  • Create healthier eating habits.
  • Support better scores in math, reading and science.