A push to provide Ontario students with healthier cafeteria foods has  prompted many teens to seek out alternative options.

Last fall, the Ontario government brought in new guidelines banning foods high in fat, sodium and sugar from school cafeterias.

But the changes have been unpopular with students and they are costing cafeterias dearly.

The Toronto District School Board projects that its own cafeterias will lose $700,000 this year.

Premier Dalton McGuinty, however, thinks that the province made the right decision and school cafeterias simply need to better market their healthy offerings to students.

"I think rather than reintroduce unhealthy foods, we need to find better ways to make the choice of healthy foods more attractive to young people," McGuinty said Thursday, when speaking to reporters in Kitchener, Ont.

When CBC News interviewed students from Toronto’s Oakwood Collegiate Institute on Thursday, it appeared that they weren’t enthralled with the food being served — whether it was good for them or not.


Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty says the focus needs to be on making “the choice of healthy foods more attractive to young people.”

"It’s healthy and it’s nasty," said Shelly-Ann Moore, 16, who decried the high number of vegetarian items on the menu.

Hearing that cafeterias are finding it hard to hold on to their teenage customers, Moore said they should be asking students what they like to eat if they want their business.

"Get a survey of what they like to eat and try to make it in a more healthy way, so that kids can eat it and still be getting healthy nutrients from it," she said.

For 16-year-old Keenan Dunkley, the choices in the Oakwood cafeteria just aren’t as alluring as the pizza slices available nearby.


Shelly-Ann Moore, 16, says school cafeterias should survey students about the kinds of foods they like to eat. (CBC)

"It’s right across from school, it’s cheap, it tastes good," said Dunkley, listing some of the reasons he finds it worthwhile to have lunch off school property.

As for getting teenagers to pick healthy food over junk food alternatives, Dunkley said it’s a tough sell.

"It makes people run from the food," he said.

With files from CBC’s Mike Crawley