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Food and Nutrition

Food Literacy

Food literacy isn’t just about knowing what’s on your plate. It extends beyond individual eating behaviours to consider broader factors like cultural traditions, food access, and environmental sustainability. Other aspects of food literacy include:

  1. Knowing about food – understanding food and nutrition.
  2. Having food skills – your ability to buy, prepare, cook, handle and store food.
  3. Feeling confident when choosing, preparing and eating food
  4. Making nutritious food decisions most of the time
  5. Having a supportive local food system, food environment, living situation, and culture and traditions.

Learn a little more about the key aspects of food literacy here.

Food literacy affects how we eat, and how we eat affects our health. In Canada, dietary risk factors are a major contributor to chronic diseases rates. Food literacy teaches us that various factors like education, income, culture, and marketing impact our eating habits. To improve food literacy, we need an approach that tackles these factors and makes it easier for everyone to access, cook, and consume nutritious food.

The Canada’s Food Guide promotes food literacy and recommends we: 

Practicing these elements of food literacy can support and protect our health. 

An important aspect of food literacy is knowing about food safety. The Health Unit offers food handler certification exams which are required for some jobs where food is prepared for the public.

Some of the ways the Health Unit supports food literacy in our community include collaborating with community partners to provide health evidence, training for cooking programs and support for planning or developing food programs, such as community gardens and kitchens, good food boxes, food forums and food festivals. The Health Unit is a member of the Simcoe County Food Council and the Food Council’s Food Literacy Education Working Table. 

Having more opportunities in our community to learn about and practice food literacy, can help improve our health. If you or your organization are interested in promoting food skills, but need support, reach out to us.

Canadian food labels have had changes in recent years. Checking out additional information about food labelling from Health Canada can help you to make informed food choices.  

 Food labels include a nutrition facts table which can help you make decisions about which foods to purchase and eat, based on whether they contain a little, or a lot of certain nutrients.  You may want to limit nutrients such as: sodium, sugar or saturated fat. You may want more of other nutrients, such as: iron, fibre, calcium or potassium.

 facts table.en

Food labels may also include a front-of-package nutrition symbol. These symbols are required on foods that are high in one or more of: sodium, sugar or saturated fat. The food industry has been given until January 1, 2026 to make this change. An example of what this label looks like is: 


Food labels may include a supplemented food label, if the food contains added supplemental ingredients like vitamins, minerals, or other ingredients (e.g., caffeine). All supplemented foods may have a caution identifier on the front of the label. All of these products will have a supplemented food facts table, instead of a nutrition facts table. The food industry has been given until January 1, 2026 to make this change.  An example of what the supplemented food label looks like is:


Weight bias means judging others or ourselves based on body weight, shape or size. It can come from stereotypes and can lead to negative feelings, health problems or even being treated unfairly by others.

When people start to have negative thoughts about their bodies, it can lead to feelings of embarrassment or low self-esteem.  They may also become critical about themselves or other people. Weight bias gets worse when people experience negative treatment, based on their size, in the places they live, work and play. Living in a world that only values a certain “ideal” body type is harmful to health and well-being. It can unfairly affect a person’s ability to succeed at school or work

The diet or “weight-loss” industry is a part of the problem. Diets advertise the idea that being thin means being healthy.  Realizing and speaking up that health is not about weight or size can help to stop this cycle.

People may experience weight bias:

  • In hospitals and clinics: some healthcare workers might judge their patients based on their weight. This could make patients feel bad and even avoid going to the doctor.
  • At work: some people feel like their coworkers ignore them or are making mean jokes about their weight.
  • In schools: bullying about weight is common. Even teachers sometimes treat students differently because of their weight, which can affect how well students do in school.
  • In everyday life:  seemingly nice comments about weight, like "You've lost weight, you look great!", can hurt people's feelings by making them feel as though they are only “good” if they are thin.
  • In movies and TV shows: characters who are bigger are often shown eating a lot or being made fun of, while thinner characters are shown in romantic relationships and treated better.

How can we reduce weight bias?

  • Accept and respect different body shapes and sizes.
  • Shift the focus away from weight and towards health and well-being.
  • Recognize when we are judging others based on their weight.
  • Understand that our weight is complicated and there is much more involved than just diet or exercise.
  • Speak out against weight-based bullying or discrimination (unfair treatment).
  • Question and call out media images that show only thin or muscular bodies.
  • Encourage positive roles for people with higher weights in the media. 


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