March is Nutrition Month in Canada. The theme for the national campaign sponsored by Dietitians of Canada is “Make Wise Food Choices, Wherever You Go”. The aim is to help Canadians make wise food choices at grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias and vending machines.
In today’s world, food is available everywhere. Between 1972 and 1995, the number of commercial eating places increased by 89% in the United States. The number of fast food restaurants has grown by 147%. We now find restaurants in home improvement and department stores. New food products are introduced regularly and rapidly. In 1998, over 11,000 new products were introduced in the American market. About two-thirds of these new products were candy, snacks, beverages and pastries. With nutrition information, advertising and marketing bombarding consumers, there is a lot of confusion about which food choices are wise. The Dietitians of Canada website (http://www.dietitians.ca) is one good starting point for consumers trying to sort through the confusion.
It can also be helpful to be aware of factors that influence food choices.
Taste is the most important factor influencing the food choices Canadians make. Taste preferences are highly individual. Canadians are reluctant to sacrifice taste.
Nutrition is the second most important factor affecting food choices. The desire to maintain good health is key. More women than men, and more older than younger, Canadians rate nutrition as “very important”. Most often, people are choosing foods based on amounts of fibre, protein, vitamins, fat, sugar and salt.
Many Canadians find it difficult to eat healthy foods daily. On average we are spending less time preparing food. In 2000, we spent 20 minutes on daily dinner preparation compared to 2 hours spent in 1985.
Since we are spending less time in the kitchen, prepared and semi-prepared foods are increasing in sales. Shop carefully as many convenience foods are not as nutritious. Fast cooking methods and time-saving appliances can help us make healthy homemade foods, quickly. Plan meals and grocery shopping ahead of time. Family members can help.
Cost has a much greater influence on food selection for low income households. About 15% of Canadian households are food insecure. Food insecurity means that people have limited or uncertain access to nutritious and safe foods. People with more money have healthier diets than those with less money. They eat more fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk, and less meat, fat and oils.
When making food choices, think about the factors that may be affecting your decisions and choose wisely. For more information, contact your local Public Health Nutritionist.
WRITTEN BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITIONISTS OF SASKATCHEWAN
Dietitians of Canada, 2006 Nutrition Month Campaign, “Make Wise Food Choices Wherever You Go!” Backgrounder.