March 22, 2016

Food skills are a complex, interrelated, person-centred set of skills that help encourage healthy eating by “providing individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to plan, purchase and prepare safe, nutritious and culturally acceptable foods and healthy meals for all household members (1, 2). 

Health Canada recently published a fact sheet “A Look at Foods Skills in Canada”, which provides a summary of key findings related to food skills in Canada obtained from two food skills modules added to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey – Annual Component 2012-2013 (1). 

These modules assessed the following components of food skills:

  • Knowledge  about food, nutrition, healthy eating, label reading, food safety (e.g. storage, preservation), functional properties of ingredients, and ingredient substitution;
  • Planning and organizing meals, writing a grocery list, and budgeting;
  • Conceptualizing food, creativity, using up leftovers, adjusting recipes, and reducing waste;
  • Mechanical cooking skills  such as chopping, mixing, using equipment, cooking, canning, and following recipes; and
  • Transference of skills to children and adolescents, including food preparation and planning. 

Results identified gender differences across food skills categories and common characteristics among those who reported higher vegetables and fruit consumption, which partially explains how food skills positively impact food choice and eating behaviours of Canadians.

Key findings Include:

  • Canadians who reported writing a grocery list were more likely to consume fruits & vegetables more frequently
  • Canadians who reported selecting foods based on nutrition labels were more likely to consume 5 or more fruits & vegetables per day
  • Children and adolescents’ exposure to cooking and food preparation activities has decreased within the home and school environment
  • Canadians who reported having very good mechanical skills were more likely to also report higher frequency of fruit & vegetable consumption, better self-perceived eating habits and perceived health.
  • The most common barriers identified among those who do not prepare or do not help to prepare meals include: lack of time, insufficient skills and “not my responsibility”.

The Canadian Sugar Institute offers a variety of resources that can help improve food skills related to cooking and baking, reading Nutrition Facts tables, and understanding the function ingredients play in foods. A brief description of these resources and which food skills they each involve are listed below. These resources are available in both English and French and can be ordered free of charge or can be downloaded from our website.

Resource Purpose of Resource Food Skills it Can Improve
Sugars, Carbohydrates and the New Food Label Helps consumers read and understand the Nutrition Facts table and front-of-pack claims.

Food knowledge  (label reading)

Facts on Sugars Increases consumer understanding of the various functional roles sugar plays in various foods and the impact of reducing the amount of sugar in a product, and provides an example on comparing Nutrition Facts labels based on sugars claims Food knowledge  (nutrition, label reading, functional properties of ingredients, ingredient substitution)
Breakfast Brain Booster Increases consumer knowledge of the importance of eating breakfast, and provides quick and easy breakfast ideas. Planning and organizing meals, conceptualizing food  (creativity)
Calories and Body Weight Describes the concepts of calories and exercise, and gives tips on managing energy intake and output for weight maintenance or weight loss. Food knowledge  (nutrition, label reading),  planning and organizing meals
Fuel For Your Activity Supports the importance of carbohydrates and proper nutrition for physical activity, and provides tips for appropriate meals and snacks. Food knowledge, planning and organizing meals
Sugar: From Plant to Food Highlights the process of sugar purification, the role of sugar in the diet, and describes the different types of sugars found in foods. Food knowledge (functional properties of ingredients, ingredient substitution)
Understanding the Glycemic Index Improves understanding of the relationship between carbohydrates in foods and blood glucose levels for meal planning. Food knowledge, planning and organizing meals
Nature’s Sweet Mystery Teaches a variety of food skills through an integrated teaching resource for children in grades 4-6. Students learn through a series of experiments and activities, which include making bread, and exploring food preservation techniques, food perception, and energy balance. Food knowledge  (label reading, food storage, food preservation),  mechanical techniques,  transference of skills

Also available for download are  "A Taste of Sugar" Recipe Collection, which provides the tools needed to cook and bake a variety of meals and snacks from scratch, such as breakfasts, appetizers, vegetable dishes, salads, soups, and entrees. The recipes also offer tips on controlling portions and increasing daily intake of fruits, vegetables and fibre.

Other resources include Health Canada’s Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide and Dietitians of Canada’s EATracker.

 

References:

  1. Health Canada. A Look at Foods Skills in Canada. 2015.
  2. Vanderkooy, P. Food Skills of Waterloo Region Adults. Region of Waterloo Public Health 2010. Available from http://chd.region.waterloo.on.ca/en/researchResourcesPublications/resources/FoodSkills_WR.pdf