meal on a plate, salmon and saladTo measure healthy eating, COMPASS uses Health Canada’s Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, which recommends that youth eat a particular number of servings from each of the food groups every day. The closer students are to meeting these guidelines, the healthier their diet. COMPASS also asks students how often they eat breakfast and lunch, how often they purchase lunch and snacks, and how often they consume sugary and/or caffeinated drinks.

Table 1: Health Canada’s recommended number of food guide servings per day
Food group Male teens(14-18) Female teens (14-18)
Fruit and vegetables 8 7
Grain products 7 6
Milk and alternatives 3-4 3-4
Meat and alternatives 3 2

Why is healthy eating a health issue?

Adolescents who consume higher fat diets and drink high-calorie beverages are more likely to be overweight or obese.1

Breakfast skipping has been associated with a number of behaviours that compromise youth health. For instance, adolescents who skip breakfast are more likely to:

  • be overweight or obese1,2
  • use alcohol more frequently2
  • smoke2,3
  • exercise less2
  • have lower academic achievement.2

Adolescents who eat breakfast are more likely to be physically active at least three times per week.3 Additionally, youth who have good dietary habits tend to have higher academic achievement.4

Schools are in a unique position to influence the daily food choices that youth make. Please refer to your School Health Profile for suggestions on how to encourage healthy eating at your school.

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References

1Storey, K. E., Forbes, L. E., Fraser, S. N., Spence, J. C., Plotnikoff, R. C., Raine, K. D., & McCargar, L. J. (2012). Adolescent weight status and related behavioural factors: Web survey of physical activity and nutrition. Journal of Obesity, doi:10.1155/2012/342386.

2Kaski-Rahkonen, A., Kaprio, J., Rissanen, A., Virkkunen, M., & Rose, R. J. (2003). Breakfast skipping and health-compromising behaviors in adolescents and adults. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57,842-853.

3Cohen, B., Evers, S., Manske, S., Bercovitz, K., & Edward, H. G. (2003). Smoking, physical activity and breakfast consumption among secondary school students in a Southwestern Ontario Community. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 94(1), 41-44.

4Kristjánsson, A. L., Sigfúsdottir, I., D., & Allegrante, J. P. (2010). Health behavior and academic achievement among adolescents: The relative contribution of dietary habits, physical activity, body mass index, and self-esteem. Health Education & Behavior, 37(1), 51-64.