Learning and teaching how to eat healthy

Health sciences
Students of the Faculty of Health Sciences Nutrition program prepare food in the Nutrition labs for an event celebrating the labs opening
Nutrition has always been, and will always be, crucial for our health and well-being. However, eating healthy is not always so simple.

Due to the pandemic and recent inflation, food is more expensive and less accessible. And on top of this, we are eating more highly processed foods, which contribute to the development of chronic disease. In short, food insecurity is directly affecting the physical and mental health of more and more people today.

Dietician Isabelle Giroux, who is a professor and director of the School of Nutrition Sciences at the University of Ottawa, rightly underscores the fact that innovations in food science and nutrition are vital for promoting health and well-being around the world. "The dieticians trained at the School are ready to tackle current health issues with expertise and determination."

Food literacy from the classroom to the dinner table

According to Isabelle Giroux, "nutrition should be a vital component of education, at both the individual and community levels." Better education about nutrition, starting at a young age, could improve food literacy and promote the selection of healthier, more affordable food. Knowledge transmission is one aspect of the School’s mission. Once a year, students enrolled in a community food course invite their loved ones and staff members to a group meal. The rules for designing the menu are clear: the food must be tasty and nutritious, and within a specific budget.

For these budding dieticians, these meals are ideal opportunities to apply their skills in food procurement, management, leadership, communication, and collaboration. For the guests, it’s an opportunity to learn and to discover possibilities for healthy, affordable food.

Isabelle Giroux

“Nutrition should be a vital component of education, at both the individual and community levels.”

Isabelle Giroux

— Professor and Director of the School of Nutrition Sciences

Preparing the next generation of dieticians

The director stated that the School is unique in the importance it places on food science and nutrition as central to its teaching and research. The dieticians who study here develop an expertise that responds to health care needs and to promoting health and preventing disease. Moreover, thanks to the new master’s program in nutrition and food biosciences, the School continues to attract individuals who are passionate about research.

The School is equipped with ultra-modern labs that lend themselves to practical experiments, thereby training the next generation of specialists capable of guiding our food choices in a constantly evolving world.

The School is accredited by the Alliance of Canadian Dietetic Regulatory Bodies, the professional dietician training program that opens the door to admission to provincial dietetic regulatory authorities. The demand for specialists in this field continues to grow, meaning that job prospects in this area are excellent.

From innovative research to food labelling

Isabelle Giroux underscores the extent to which the School excels in innovative research on crucial nutritional issues. Its researchers are notably evaluating the food literacy of University of Ottawa students to shed light on barriers to healthy eating and to propose solutions. Another research project involves the role of dieticians in multi-disciplinary primary health-care teams in Canada; it aims to identify key competencies and to target obstacles to quality care. This type of initiative is filling in gaps and greatly enriching scientific literature on this topic.

For example, food science professor Susan Tosh has demonstrated the nutritional benefits of eating oats. This scientific proof gave the Canadian government the confirmation it needed to allow food labels to state that oat fibre may contribute to reducing  blood cholesterol levels.

The University of Ottawa’s School of Nutrition Sciences is building a future in which eating healthy is possible for everyone, thanks to its commitment to research, innovation and education. It is training dieticians who have the skills needed to play an essential role in a world where healthy eating and well-being are synonymous. If you are interested in nutrition, visit our website to learn more about our programs, including the master’s degree in nutrition and food biosciences. Happy nutrition month!

Isabelle Giroux will participate in symposium on nutrition science in the 21st century, entitled Les sciences de la nutrition au 21e siècle : de la recherche à l’assiette hosted by professors France Rioux and Melissa Fernandez from the School of Nutrition Sciences, as part of the 91st Acfas conference, which will be held at the University of Ottawa from May 13 to May 17, 2024.