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Healthy and Sustainable Eating: Leading the Shift – Event Highlights

Sue Mah with Dr. Fiona Yeudall and Dr. Cecilia Rocha

Sue Mah with Nutrition Connection Forum speakers Dr. Fiona Yeudall and Dr. Cecilia Rocha. Image source: Lucia Weiler

Hosted by Nutrition Connections, this year’s annual forum explored the shifts that will be required in eating habits and food choices in order to benefit the health of current and future generations as well as the health of the planet. Here’s our summary of a few of the presentations.

What is Sustainable Eating? – Dr. Cecilia Rocha

Dr. Rocha is a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, a Professor in the School of Nutrition and a researcher at the Centre for Studies in Food Security at Ryerson University.

Sustainable diets, defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations are: those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.

Rocha reminded us of the 17 sustainable goals proposed by the United Nations, in particular, goal #12 which focuses on responsible consumption and production. Consumers have the potential to be agents of change through their healthy and ethical choices of what to eat. Through responsible consumption, ordinary people can effect change by carefully selecting the products they buy. However, price, convenience and brand familiarity are often the most important decision for most consumers, rather than fairness, sustainability and health.

In a world in which food is mostly a commodity, bought and sold through markets, how do we make the transition from unsustainable and unhealthy food systems to sustainable diets? Can consumers, through their choices of what food to buy, lead the way to that transformation? Rocha further posed this thought-provoking question: Is it realistic or reasonable to put this heroic task on the shoulders of consumers?

Rocha acknowledged that alternative food markets such as Community-Supported Agriculture (CDA), famers’ markets and fair-trade may offer consumers a more sustainable, healthy and ethical model of food production and consumption. Her opinion is that these alternative markets are still viewed as niche and alone, aren’t the answer. Rocha suggested that public policy is needed in at least three areas to facilitate responsible consumption:
– taxes and regulation (e.g. on sugar-sweetened beverages, use of chemicals, ultra-processed foods, and advertising)
– subsidies (e.g. for ecologically-friendly processes and alternative markets)
– information, education and nudging (e.g. food-based dietary guidelines).

 

How Do Our Eating Habits Compare to Canada’s Food Guide? – Dr. Rachel Prowse

Dr. Prowse, Applied Public Health Science Specialist at Public Health Ontario, compared the recommended proportions of food (by weight) in the new Canada’s Food Guide versus Ontario adults’ intakes from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey – Nutrition Public Use Microdata File. Research results are expected to be published next year, however preliminary findings show that we’re not eating according to the recommended proportions of the food guide. Dr. Prowse suggests that non whole grains and “Other foods” (such as cookies, cakes, pastries, ice cream and confectionary) may be displacing nutritious foods on our plates. A consumer shift towards eating a more plant-based diet may help to drive the production of sustainable food options.

 

A Deep Dive into Food Waste – Dr. Kate Parizeau

As an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph, Dr. Parizeau researches the social context of waste and its management. Parizeau shared some staggering statistics:
– Canada generates 12.6 million tonnes of organic waste per year
– Canada wastes $49.5 billion of food annually – enough to feed every person living in Canada for almost 5 months.

In collaboration with the Guelph Family Health Study, Parizeau looked at food waste both at the household level. Household food waste was defined as either “avoidable” (food that could have been eaten such as whole fruits and vegetables, spoiled food, uneaten leftovers, food past it’s best before date as well as bought but forgotten food) versus “unavoidable” (such as egg shells, banana peels and meat bones).

The study found that about ¾ of the household food waste was avoidable. Most of the avoidable food waste (over 65%) came from fruits and vegetables, 24% from bread and cereals, 6% from meat and fish, and 2% from milk, cheese and eggs. Overall, this amounts to an average of $936 per year, over 175,000 calories thrown out and 1,196 kg of C02 emissions created.

 

Image source: Kate Parizeau

 

Food literacy skills can result in reduced food waste. Behaviours such as meal planning, shopping with a list, food preparation, storing food safely and cooking at home are encouraged. A new cookbook Rock What You’ve Got – Recipes for Preventing Food Waste is now available for free download. This cookbook was created by the Guelph Food Waste Research Group in partnership with The Helderleigh Foundation, George Brown College’s Food Innovation and Research Studio (FIRSt).

 

 

 

5 Recipes to try for Nutrition Month

Asian chicken sesame chopped salad recipe

Most of us, including myself, usually cook the same 5-7 recipes each week. With the launch of the new Canada’s Food Guide earlier this year and March being National Nutrition Month, now is the time to explore new recipes and take your taste buds on an adventure!

Here are 5 recipes that caught my eye from the Dietitians of Canada. Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Layered Top to Bottom Beet Salad

beet root salad recipe

Bruschetta Fish

bruschetta fish recipe

Greek Salad

Greek salad recipe

Asian Chicken Sesame Chopped Salad

Asian chicken sesame chopped salad recipe

Crispy Chickpeas and Pumpkin Seeds with Lime

crispy chickpeas

Happy Nutrition Month! Eat well, live well – this month and all year long!

Sue

My Chat with Canada’s Minister of Health

Sue + Minister of Health Ginette Jan 23 2019 - 1

I had a serendipitous meeting with the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s Minister of Health! She was entering the TV studio green room just as I was about to leave. We were both being interviewed (separately) about the new Canada’s Food Guide.

Here’s a note from our conversation.

Canada’s Food Guide is about the food experience – cooking and eating together, and enjoying food. “When I think about food, I think about family,” said the Minister. As the youngest of 9 kids, she remembers waking up to the smell of fresh bread baked by her mom.

I shared my own experiences. As a daughter of a chef, I grew up eating together with my family. We used our prized Chinese bowls and celebratory red chopsticks every day. We ate everything from apples and bok choy to ice cream and lobster. Food was delicious, wholesome and enjoyed without guilt.

Food unites us! The new Canada’s Food Guide reminds us to enjoy food, eat mindfully and eat with others. I like that message!

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc

The new Canada’s Food Guide is coming soon – Here’s what you can expect

There’s been quite a buzz lately about the new Canada’s Food Guide, which should be released soon this year!

I recently shared my expert insights and answered consumer questions on CBC Morning Live national news. Check out my two interviews to get the full scoop!

Watch Interview Part 1

Watch Interview Part 2

Here are just a few expected highlights of the new Canada’s Food Guide:
– Recommendations on HOW to eat, not just what to eat or what not to eat.
– Recommendations to limit the 3 “S” – sugars, saturated fat and sodium.
– A focus on plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit.
– A new “protein” group which includes a variety of protein-rich foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, soy products, tofu, eggs, fish / seafood, lean red meats, lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in sodium and fat.
– Consideration of other factors that affect our food choices such as food accessibility, food affordability and cultural diversity.

Interested in learning more? Contact me to book a Lunch and Learn presentation or seminar.

What’s the Latest Update on the Canada’s Food Guide?

canada's food guide better resolution

I was happy to attend the annual Dietitians of Canada conference in beautiful Vancouver last week and listened to a presentation by Ann Ellis – Manager of Dietary Guidance Manager at Health Canada – who shared the latest update on the revisions to Canada’s Food Guide.

Originally, the new Food Guide was supposed to be out by now, but Health Canada is waiting for additional data about Canadian’s eating habits, so the timelines have shifted.

Later this fall, Health Canada plans to launch a “Suite of Resources:

Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers – A report providing Health Canada’s policy on healthy eating. This report will form the foundation for Canada’s Food Guide tools and resources.
Canada’s Food Guide Healthy Eating Principles – Communicating Canada’s Dietary Guidelines in plain language.
Canada’s Food Guide Graphic – Expressing the Healthy Eating Principles through visuals and words.
Canada’s Food Guide Interactive Tool – An interactive online tool providing custom information for different life stages, in different settings.
Canada’s Food Guide Web Resources – Mobile-responsive healthy eating information (factsheets, videos, recipes) to help Canadians apply Canada’s Dietary Guidelines.

In Spring 2019, Health Canada plans to release:
Canada’s Healthy Eating Pattern for Health Professionals and Policy Makers – A report providing guidance on amounts and types of foods as well as life stage guidance.
Enhancements to Canada’s Food Guide – Interactive Tool and Canada’s Food Guide – Web Resources – Enhancements and additional content to Canada’s web application on an ongoing basis.

Some other insights that I learned:
– Health Canada is hoping to get back to an overall pattern of eating and highlight nutrients of public health concern. The new Canada’s Food Guide will also have a heavy focus on food skills and determinants to health.
– There is no intent to advise consumers to avoid meat in the new Food Guide.
– The new Food Guide will focus more on the proportionality and frequency of meals, rather than numbers of servings to consume. In other word, information about number of servings may be more “behind the scenes” info for health professionals rather than front-facing info for consumers
Sign for my free nutrition e-newsletter if you haven’t done so already. And stay tuned – once the new Canada’s Food Guide it out, I’ll let you know all about it!

8 Food & Nutrition Trends to Watch in 2018

Trends 2018

I’ve been keeping up with trends reports from around the world! Here’s what food and nutrition experts are predicting for 2018.

1. Fermented Foods. In a recent survey of 2,500 dietitians fermented foods are predicted to be one of the top trends for 2018. A source of the good, probiotic bacteria, fermented foods include yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, miso and natto. (Today’s Dietitian)

2. New and Improved Canada’s Food Guide.
It’s been a decade since the last national food guide. With the much anticipated launch of the new Food Guide this year, we can expect to see messaging around not just what to eat, but also how to eat. (Dietitians Sue Mah & Lucia Weiler)

3. Hello Leftovers, Goodbye Food Waste. Canadians will continue to think about how their food choices can reduce food waste. Consumer strategies include a revival in the use of leftovers, right-size portioning and GIY (Grow It Yourself). (Loblaw Food Council)

4. Mindful Choices. Today’s consumers are thoughtful, mindful and conscious about making responsible food choices. They want to understand what is in their food and how it was produced in order to make informed decisions for their health, sustainability and ethical issues. (Innova Market Insights)

5. Rising Food Prices. The price of vegetables and the price of food purchased at restaurants will each rise 4-6% this year. Climate patterns are driving vegetable prices up. The average family of four in Canada will pay $348 more this year on food to a total of $11,948, and 59% of that budget will be spent on dining out. (Canada’s Food Price Report 2018)

6. Micro-markets for Food. As consumers are learning more about food, they are looking for more specialized, individualized choices that align with their personal values whether it be nutritional profile (fat, sugar, sodium, calories), location of production or antibiotic use. This is driving the development of micro-markets for specialized products. (Food Focus 2018)

7. Technofoodology. By the year 2020, there will be 24 billion internet-connected devices installed globally – that’s about 3 devices for every human on earth! This IoT (Internet of Things) revolution is changing the way we purchase, receive and interact with our food. There will be continued expansion of resources including Alexa, Google Home, “click and collect” online grocery shopping, as well as delivery of restaurant meals and meal kits. (Business Insider, Supermarket Guru)

8. Food Blockchain Revolution. Thanks to the Bitcoin, blockchain technology is taking off as a novel way for the agri-food business to record and disclose transactions in an open virtual space across the entire supply chain. From farmer to processor to packer to distributor to packaged goods maker to retailer to food service operator to exporter, blockchain technology brings a new level of transparency and information sharing. For example, in the event of a food safety recall, specific products can be traced easily and quickly. (Ketchum Food Forecast)

YOU can Help Shape Canada’s Nutrition Policies!

Child apple vs hamburger

Are you concerned about marketing to kids? Do you want Canada’s Food Guide to be the best tool to help you and your families eat well? Are you interested in access to safe and healthy food as well as the relationship between agriculture, the environment and the economy?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then please take some time to complete Health Canada’s free online consultations on these three issues. Don’t miss your chance to have your voice heard!

1. Restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children

Health Canada wants to reduce how much advertising children see or hear about unhealthy food and beverages. This online consultation is the first step to more consultations coming in 2018. Your ideas and opinions will help Health Canada decide how to go about restricting advertising for unhealthy food and beverages to children.
Here is the online consultation survey. Survey closes on July 25, 2017.


2. Canada’s Food Guide

This is phase 2 of the consultations. After this consultation, Health Canada will create recommendations and develop them into consumer messages, tools, and resources. A new suite of Canada’s Food Guide resources will be rolled out beginning in early 2018.
Here is the online consultation survey. Survey closes on July 25, 2017.


3. A Food Policy for Canada

A food policy is a way to address issues related to the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food. The decisions we make as individuals and as a country about food have a direct impact on our health, environment, economy, and communities.
Here is the online survey. Survey closes on July 27, 2017.

10 Things I Want for the New Canada’s Food Guide

CFG image

It’s been nine years since the release of the last Canada’s Food Guide and based on emerging research and trends, it’s sure time for an update! In fact, Health Canada is in the process of revising the Guide. Help all Canadians eat better and fill in this online questionnaire from Health Canada to help shape the new Food Guide.

Here’s my wish list of the top 10 wants for the new version.

1. Create age-specific Food Guides – how about a different one for kids, teens, adults and older adults. Each Food Guide could address the specific nutritional needs and issues for each of these age groups. For example…
• The Food Guide for young kids could include tips for feeding picky eating and food literacy/cooking skills.
• In the teens’ Food Guide, there could be messages around sodium and sugar sweetened beverages, maximizing bone density, and the benefits of cooking and eating meals with your family.
• The adult’s Food Guide could include tips for meal planning and healthy eating in the workplace.
• For older adults, the Food Guide could highlight the need for certain supplements, bone health, and the important role of protein in the prevention of age-related sarcopenia.
2. Take the emphasis off “low-fat” foods. Highlight foods that naturally contain healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olives in addition to healthy oils.
3. Include advice about eating protein – evenly throughout the day, at every meal, and especially breakfast to help with satiety and to maintain muscle mass.
4. Include visual images of portion sizes – for example, a fist is about 1 cup (250 mL) and the size of your palm is about one serving size of meat, poultry or fish. Encourage Canadians to fill half their plate with vegetables and fruit to help keep other foods in the right proportions.
5. Add ideas for eating sustainably and locally. We are eating for the health of ourselves, our families and our planet.
6. Encourage individuals and families to connect with food. Cook meals, grow a garden and create healthy eating environments at work, home, school and play.
7. Focus not just on what to eat, but also how to eat. Sit down and eat mindfully. Enjoy meals with family and friends.
8. Consider creating a vegetarian Food Guide or include more vegetarian options in the new Guide.
9. Add a message about alcohol that echoes the national low risk alcohol drinking guidelines.
10. Include lifestyle messages about the importance of sleep and physical activity that are essential partners to a healthy, wholesome diet.

Revising the Food Guide is no easy task! It requires an extensive review of the evidence-based research as well as consultation with health professionals and consumers. Here’s hoping that some of my top 10 – and your comments too – will make it to the final round!

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