By Carolyn Harris
A new school year is starting, and kids are going to be learning about health and nutrition at school. Unfortunately, much of the nutrition information taught in schools today is based on Canada’s Food Guide, which is biased in favour of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. In fact, when the 1992 version of Canada’s Food Guide was released, the meat, dairy, and egg industries successfully lobbied the government to increase the recommended number of servings of these products. More recently, the 2003 version of the Food Guide was revised by a panel that included food industry lobby groups. More information on this subject can be found in this article.
With pizza days, Subway sandwich days, and milk delivery being considered the norm in elementary schools, it can be helpful for veg teachers and parents to take some time to teach their students and children about healthy plant-based nutrition.
Both scientific studies and anecdotal evidence show us that people at all stages of life– including children– can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet. Moreover, vegans and vegetarians are less likely to suffer from various chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and more. Raising kids on a plant-based diet, as long as it is done properly, is a great way to teach them healthy living, compassion, and sustainability– values that will guide them throughout their lives.
If you’re an educator or a parent looking to teach your kids or students about plant-based eating, there are many educational resources available. Here are just a few of them.
The Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM) provides resources for schools that promote a healthy vegan diet. Elementary school students can enjoy these “Power Plate” colouring pages that illustrate the elements of a healthy meal, along with this word-search puzzle and extra colouring sheet.
Teachers and parents can educate themselves on the ins and outs of vegan nutrition for children in PCRM’s adorable “Nutrition for Kids” PDF booklet. (Seriously, the way they’ve styled the fruits and veggies is so cute– check it out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean!)
More materials to use in the classroom, including printable posters, can be found on PCRM’s “Resources for schools” webpage, and resources for parents can be found under “Resources for Parents”. PCRM also gives advice to those looking to introduce more vegan options in their cafeterias. Students can follow these tips, while parents and educators can find advice on the resources pages mentioned above.
For older (high school age) students, “The New Four Food Groups” poster can be printed out and distributed to students, or used as a wall chart.
The Vegan Society (in the UK) also provides resources that can be used in schools, such as vegan food guide posters that kids can colour. The posters can be ordered from The Vegan Society’s online store— each pack contains a black-and-white poster to be coloured in, as well as a full-colour poster, and on the back of the poster are nutritional recommendations.
The Vegan Society also sells a colourful vegan nutrition chart that shows from which foods one can get different vitamins and minerals– a great thing to have on the wall of a classroom, playroom, or kitchen to encourage kids (and adults) to eat a wide variety of vegetables and other healthy vegan foods!
In addition, vegan parents may find that getting kids involved in preparing vegan meals– and explaining in depth to the kids why the family is vegan– can help kids become committed to veganism in the long term.
What resources and strategies do you use to educate kids about plant-based nutrition? Let us know in the comments below!