More and more Canadians are changing their eating habits. According to a 2022 survey, Canadians are making conscious changes to their lifestyles such as eating out less and cutting down on their meat consumption. This happens as food inflation in Canada is on the rise: it jumped by 10.3% in September 2022 from September the previous year, placing it at its highest rate since 1981.
However, these lifestyle changes also reflect unhealthy trends. Over 21% of Canadians surveyed are reducing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables they buy to save money. What does this tell us about the overall healthy food consumption in the country? Let’s take a closer look below.
A quick look at the data shows that many Canadians do not practice a healthy diet. A study published in CMAJ analyzed temporal obesity trends in the Canadian adult population from 2005 through 2018. Here, they acknowledged that obesity is increasingly prevalent worldwide and also confirmed that Canada isn’t exempted from this epidemic. The prevalence of obesity has increased substantially across sexes, age groups and all Canadian provinces and territories to 27.2%, and it is a modest estimation to say that more than 1 in 4 adult Canadians are living with obesity.
This isn’t a huge surprise, as health reports show us that almost half of Canadians’ daily calories come from ultra-processed foods. This includes soft drinks, instant noodles, packaged cookies and snacks, and fast-food and frozen meals. These are also foods that tend to be cheaper and more convenient for families to consume.
Policies and nutrition programs
To combat these statistics, the Canadian government released the Healthy Eating Strategy in 2016. Here, updating Canada’s Food Guide was a key element. In January 2019, they released the first wave of documents, including the new Food Guide and Dietary Guidelines. Much of these align with a number of policies that have been developed and adopted by the Canadian health and scientific organizations that are members of the Canadian Hypertension Advisory Committee.
Experts claim that policies on diet are generally based on education and target personal choice — when many factors at the sociocultural, community environment, and corporate commercial level are what work together to directly affect an individual’s capacity to purchase, prepare, and consume food. That is why the new Healthy Eating Strategy aims to target food production at the industrial and community level. This is to be done through means like reducing sodium in food, eliminating industrial trans fats, and restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.
Tools and methods to help
Another component of the Healthy Eating Strategy is the launch of media campaigns to promote healthy yet cost-efficient meals. Here, Canadians can take advantage of weight loss programs that are readily accessible online and already provide individuals access to an expertly-crafted meal plan. Diet and nutrition experts can directly consider an individual user’s budget and preference while also considering trends in the economy to predict food shortages or surpluses.
Media campaigns also work to promote established diet regimens like intermittent fasting that already have a growing community in Canada. This allows overweight adults to better watch what they consume. At the same time, this works to educate the public on the dangerous effects of an unhealthy diet and the growing obese population within the country.
These are done in hopes of encouraging more Canadians to seek other available resources amidst a limiting economy. With the collective and consistent effort of every stakeholder, the current initiatives of the Canadian government, local organizations, and individuals can reap more positive statistics in the near future despite global economic challenges.