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7 Ways to Eat Better Every Day

a bowl of food with quinoa, shredded carrots, cabbage and spinach

 

Canada’s Food Guide gives us general information about healthy eating. Now, a new report – Applying Canada’s Dietary Guidelines – by Health Canada shares additional recommendations to help you meet your nutritional needs. Here are 7 things you can do to eat better and why!

1. Eat a dark green veggie every day

Did you know that vegetables and fruit make up less than 25% of the foods we eat? We need to eat a dark green vegetable every day for essential vitamins and minerals, especially folate and iron.

Folate and iron are both important for red blood cells which carry oxygen from our lungs throughout our body.

Special attention: For adolescents and adults who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant / breastfeeding, eat foods rich in folate as well as take a daily multivitamin supplement with 400 mcg folic acid (400 micrograms or 0.4 milligrams). During pregnancy, the multivitamin should also contain iron.

Examples of dark green veggies:

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Beet greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Chinese broccoli
  • Collards
  • Dandelion greens
  • Fiddleheads
  • Green beans
  • Green peas
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Parsley (fresh)
  • Rapini
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Seaweed (some types: kelp, dulse, wakame)
  • Taro leaves
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress

Recipe ideas: Kale Chickpea Salad with Trout, Blistered Green Beans with Ginger

2. Eat an orange veggie a few times a week

Orange veggies are super sources of beta-carotene which convert to vitamin A in our body. Vitamin A plays a role in keeping our eyes, skin and immune system healthy.

Special attention: Men and individuals who are breastfeeding should enjoy orange veggies more often – on most days of the week.

Examples of orange veggies:

  • Acorn squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Carrots
  • Hubbard squash
  • Pumpkin
  • Red and orange peppers
  • Sweet potato

Recipe ideas: Mexican Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Beans and Corn, Sheet Pan Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potatoes and Asparagus

3. Enjoy a variety of whole grains

On average, less than 30% of the total grains we eat are whole grain or whole wheat. Not only are whole grains naturally low in saturated fat, sodium and sugars but they also provide folate, thiamin, vitamin B6, iron, zinc, magnesium and fibre.

Enriched, refined grain foods (such as white rice and white bread) also provide iron and folic acid. However, breads can be a top source of sodium, and refined breakfast cereals / granola bars can be a source of added sugars.

Examples of whole grains:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Corn
  • Farro
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pasta

Recipe ideas: Baked Mushroom and Herb Barley Risotto, Bulgur Chicken Burgers with Yogurt Sauce

4. Enjoy legumes, tofu, nuts or seeds every day for protein

Canada’s food guide recommends eating plant-based foods more often to reduce our overall intake of saturated fat. Currently, less than 20% of the protein foods we eat are plant-based. To pump up the plant protein, eat legumes (dried peas, beans, lentils, peanuts) or tofu at least once a day, as well as nuts or seeds at least once a day.

Recipe ideas: Chickpea Burger, Crispy Tofu Noodle Bowl

5. Eat foods with unsaturated fat

Replace foods high in saturated fat with foods which contain mostly unsaturated fat such as:

  • avocado
  • eggs
  • fish and fatty fish (salmon, trout, herring, sardines, mackerel, arctic char)
  • lean cuts of meat and wild grame
  • lower fat dairy products, fortified soy beverages
  • nuts, nut butters, seeds
  • poultry without skin
  • hummum
  • tofu
  • vegetable oils

Special attention: Help young children enjoy a variety of these foods throughout the day to help them meet their nutritional requirements for fat and calories.

Recipe ideas: Light Lemony Spring Herb Hummus, Crunchy Flax Chicken Nuggets

6. Get calcium every day

Calcium is a nutrient needed at all stages of life for bone health. Look for choices which meet your traditions and personal / cultural preferences.

Special attention: Children, adolescents, adult female and older adults have higher needs for calcium than others, so should include calcium containing foods at all meals and some snacks.

Examples of food sources of calcium:

  • Lower fat, unsweetened milk, yogurt and kefir (0-2% M.F.)
  • Unsweetened, fortified plant-based beverages (oat, soy, cashew, almond)
  • Cheese that is lower in fat and sodium
  • Tofu made with calcium
  • Legumes (e.g. edamame, navy beans, white beans)
  • Fish and shellfish (e.g. canned sardines / canned salmon with bones)
  • Some dark green / leafy green vegetables (e.g. arugula, bok choy, Chinese broccoli, okra, rapini, watercress)
  • Some seaweed (e.g. kelp, dulse, wakame)

Recipe ideas: Mac ‘n Cheese Muffins, Cod au Gratin

7. Get vitamin D every day from food and / or supplements

Vitamin D is made by the skin when exposed to sunlight. However many factors like smog, season, time of day, sunscreen use, and amount of skin exposed can all affect the amount of vitamin D that is produced.

If you don’t eats foods with vitamin D every day, take a 400 IU (10 mcg) vitamin D supplement. Some multivitamins also contain vitamin D.

Special attention: As we age, we make less vitamin D from the sun, and this can affect our bone health. Anyone aged 51 and older should take a 400 IU (10 mcg) vitamin D supplement every day in addition to eating vitamin D rich foods.

Examples of foods with vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, artic char, rainbow trout)
  • Eggs (yolk)
  • Unsweetened, lower fat milk
  • Unsweetened, fortified plant-based beverages
  • Soft margarine

Recipe ideas: Baked Salmon with Honey Mustard Marinade, Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

References: Health Canada (2022 May 7). Applying Canada’s Dietary Guidelines.

This article originally appeared on Canadian Food Focus, a source for Canadian food and farming stories that provide advice to help you make confident food choices.

5 Food & Nutrition Trends for 2023

Aerial image of friends eating with various dishes on the dinner table

What are the trends that will be shaping the way we shop, cook and eat?  We’ve scanned the research and share these top 5 trends.

1. Foods with benefits

According to the Mintel 2023 Global Food and Drink Trends report, 57% of Canadian consumers value food and drinks which offer health benefits such as heart health, gut health, stress management or immune support. Another growing health issue is sleep. Data from McKinsey research, cited in the 2023 Trend Report by Nourish Food Marketing, shows that better sleep is in fact, a higher health priority than better nutrition, fitness, mindfulness or appearance.

Do you have a product with unique benefits? This year’s National Nutrition Month theme for March focuses on unlocking the potential of food and ingredients. Work with me to leverage my expertise in sharing the nutritional and health benefits of your product in the media, social media, and at events.

 2. Technology

Move over Alexa. Adam is in the house. Showcased at this year’s CES tech event (formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show), Adam is an interactive, two-armed robot, bartender or barista, making coffee, boba tea or other drinks. Canadian Grocer magazine predicts we’re entering an automation nation driven by innovative technology and labour shortages. Smart home faucets and appliances as well as self-service or smart cart checkout systems are already in use. Automation is also used for stocking merchandise and fulfilling orders at distribution centres.

What’s next? The tech savvy Gen Alpha population (born in 2010 and onwards, the same year that the Apple ipad was invented), AI (artificial intelligence) and trending #FoodTok recipes on TikTok will all be major factors shaping the future of food and beverage, according to Datassential.

3. Budget-wise eating

The cost of groceries will continue to rise. Canada’s Food Price Report predicts that food prices will increase by an average of 5 to 7 percent this year. Vegetables will take the biggest hit, with prices expected to go up 6 to 8 percent. For a family of four, this could mean an extra cost of over $1,000 over the year. For a two-adult household, it’s an extra $500. Eating out at restaurants will also cost an extra 4 to 6 percent. On top of this, natural gas and electricity bills will hike up between 50 to 100 percent for most Canadians!

To cope with inflated prices, consumers will turn to money-saving strategies such as reducing food waste, cooking from scratch and making copycat recipes at home instead of going to restaurants. The food budget will include more economical ingredients such as frozen veggies, cheaper cuts of meat and plant-based proteins. Ready-to-eat foods requiring little or no cooking and energy-efficient air fryer recipes will continue to be popular.

 4. Trending Foods

Seaweed – The term ‘seaweed’ actually refers to many different species of marine plants and algae that grow in oceans, rivers and lakes. Green algae, kelp, nori, seaweed snacks and wakame salad are just a few examples. Containing a range of nutrients such as beta-carotene, calcium, folate and vitamin K, seaweed is especially popular among Millennials and Gen Xers.

Mushrooms – With their meaty texture and umami-flavour, mushrooms are a perfect meat extender to stretch the food budget. Mushroom coffee and even mushroom-based cocktails are examples of the food’s versatility. Some mushrooms may have adaptogenic properties.

Tinned fish / canned fish – Thanks to a few viral TikTok reels about tinned fish date nights, eating canned mussels on corn chips is a trendy thing! Chalk up convenience, cost and nutrition too. We’re not sure exactly how long this trend will last.

5. Trending Flavours

Ube – Food experts predict that Filipino will be the cuisine of the year, with special attention to ube, a beautiful purple coloured yam. Ube has a sweet, nutty, earthy flavour and is used in chips, fries and baked goods.

Yuzu – This small citrus fruit looks like a mandarin orange and has a tart taste similar to a grapefruit. It’s used in Japanese ponzu sauce, drinks and baked goods.

‘Swicy’ – Think sweet plus spicy. Swicy is a flavour combo appearing in products such as chili dark chocolate, hot honey chicken, barbecue sauces and nut mixtures. Can’t wait to try it!

 

Holiday Eating Tips from a Dietitian

Mini Santas made from sliced strawberries and whipped cream.

The holidays are just around the corner! How are you feeling? Excited? Overwhelmed? Nervous about all of the food?

As a dietitian who loves to eat, I’m sharing 3 tips to help you eat well through the holidays (and beyond)!

Tip #1:  Be picky

There’s probably going to be a lot of different food choices. Tell yourself that you don’t have to eat them all. Do a once over of all the choices available and then be picky about what you put on your plate. Love your uncle’s mashed potatoes? Go for it! Not crazy about your cousin’s quiche? Give it a pass.

Tip #2: Be realistic with your portions

You know the saying – “Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs!” Sometimes, we take more food than we can realistically eat. In my experience, I find that the first three or four bites of a food are AWESOME! And then after that, well, the food becomes a little meh. If a food still tastes awesome after the fourth bite, you can always go back for more. Practice this type of mindfulness to help prevent overeating. Bonus – you’ll reduce food waste too!

Tip #3:  Ditch the diet talk

Ditch the diet talk like “I know I shouldn’t, but I’m going to have dessert” or “I’m going to be bad and have another chocolate.” Avoid judging yourself or anyone else for what and how much they’re eating. Instead, build a healthy relationship with food that allows you to honour your hunger / cravings and enjoy food for it’s nourishment, comfort and nostalgia. Our kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces are watching and listening to us. Let’s model healthy behaviours and show them that all foods can be enjoyed without guilt.

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy holiday season!

P.S. Here’s the recipe for these cute Strawberry Santas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Important Nutrients for Vegetarians

Various fruits and vegetables on a cutting board and table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re a vegetarian, you’re probably eating a variety of plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Following a plant-based eating style has many benefits, such as a lower risk for developing heat disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer. But did you know that you could be missing out on some important nutrients? Here are 3 key nutrients to think about.

Iron

Iron is a part of hemoglobin that’s in red blood cells and helps carry oxygen throughout our body. There are two different forms of iron:

  • heme iron – found in animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and eggs
  • non-heme iron – found in plant-based foods such as vegetables, grains, legumes and tofu.

Heme iron has better bioavailability, in other words, it is more easily absorbed by our body compared to non-heme iron. For this reason, it’s recommended that vegetarians get almost two times more iron as non-vegetarians, especially adults and adolescent females.

To improve the absorption of non-heme iron, try these tips:

  • Enjoy your meal with a food or drink that contains vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruit, citrus fruit juice, kiwis, mangoes, cantaloupe, sweet peppers, bok choy, broccoli, kale, potatoes).
  • Add a food that contains heme iron if you include these foods in your diet (e.g. fish, shellfish, eggs).
  • Cook with cast iron pots.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of coffee or tea, or having high amounts of calcium at the same time as your vegetarian meal because these block iron absorption. Wait about one to two hours after a meal before enjoying coffee, tea or taking calcium supplements.
  • Try the Lucky Iron Fish, a reusable cooking tool that adds extra iron to your foods and beverages.

Best vegetarian foods for iron:

  • Iron-fortified grain products (e.g. breads, cereals, pasta)
  • Whole grains and whole grain foods
  • Legumes (e.g. split peas, lentils, beans)
  • Soy / soy products (e.g. firm or extra firm tofu, tempeh, soy veggie burger, fortified soy beverage)
  • Nuts / nut butter
  • Seeds / seed butter (e.g. pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds)
  • Dark green vegetables (e.g. Swiss chard, asparagus, edamame, snow peas, kale)
  • Dried fruit (e.g. raisins, dried apricots)
  • Prune juice
  • Blackstrap molasses

Zinc

Zinc is important for a strong immune system and helps with wound healing. Vegetarians, especially vegans, can be at a higher risk for zinc deficiency because fruits and vegetables contain very little zinc. If you’re a pescatarian, try fish and seafood for zinc. If you’re a lacto-ovo vegetarian, you can get zinc from eggs and dairy products.

Plant-based foods contain phytates (a natural substance found in grains, nuts, seeds and legumes) which actually reduces zinc absorption. To improve the absorption of zinc, try soaking grains, nuts, seeds and legumes before cooking.

Best vegetarian foods for zinc:

  • Legumes (e.g. beans, split peas, lentils)
  • Nuts and nut butters (e.g. almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecan, pine nuts)
  • Seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds)
  • Whole grains
  • Fortified cereals

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is important for healthy nerve cells and for making red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal-based foods. Many plant-based foods are fortified with vitamin B12 such as fortified plant-based beverages and products labelled as “simulated meat products” or “simulated poultry products.” If you’re vegan, it may be helpful to take a vitamin B12 supplement. Talk to a Registered Dietitian for more advice.

Best vegetarian foods for vitamin B12

  • Plant-based foods fortified with vitamin B12 (e.g. fortified soy yogurt, veggie burgers, simulated meat products, simulated poultry products)
  • Plant-based beverages fortified with vitamin B12 (e.g. fortified soy / oat / rice / almond beverage)
  • Fortified nutritional yeast

There are many delicious foods to enjoy on a vegetarian diet. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting enough nutrients or have questions about supplements, consult with a Registered Dietitian.

References:  Health Canada (2022 May 7). Applying Canada’s Dietary Guidelines – Considerations for Vegetarian Diets.

This article originally appeared on Canadian Food Focus, a source for Canadian food and farming stories that provide advice to help you make confident food choices.

The Spirit Plate – an Indigenous Food Tradition

Have you heard of a Spirit Plate?  I hadn’t until I met Chef David Wolfman.

Chef Wolfman with Sue, Lucia and others standing in a kitchen with plated food.

Chef Wolfman (first on left) with Sue, Lucia, USA Consulate General Susan Crystal (third from right) and others, preparing foods using Indigenous ingredients.

 

Chef Wolfman is an internationally recognized expert in traditional Indigenous cuisine, member of the Xaxli’p First Nation in BC and a Culinary Arts Professor at George Brown College in Toronto. At a culinary master class hosted by Taste USA and the Ontario Produce Marketing Association, I had the wonderful opportunity to cook and learn from the Chef.  Along with dozens of other participants, we prepared dishes using traditional ingredients such as Wild Rice Jambalaya and Shawnee Cake, and Barbecued Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry Sauce served with Salad and Chokecherry Drizzle.

Before we sat down to eat together, Chef Wolfman assembled a Spirit Plate with samples from each of the cooked dishes. The plate is then left outside to honour both the ancestors and children who are no longer here with us.  🧡

This simple yet meaningful gesture allows us to remember those who have come before us and those who have left us. It’s a reminder that food is love and connection.

Chef Wolfman wearing his Indigenous chef's wardrobe and explaining the meaning of a Spirit Plate

 

 

In this video, Chef Wolfman describes the Spirit Plate.

Thank you Chef for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with us!

 

 

Good Things Grow in Ontario!

Sue smiling and holding two strawberries as earrings in strawberry field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was a kid, I remember singing the tune ‘Good things grow in Ontario!’ And that lyric still holds true today.

I was recently invited by Farm Food Care Ontario to attend a farm tour in beautiful Norfolk County where we had the chance to learn more about food and agriculture!

First stop: Strawberry Tyme Farms

Dalton and John Cooper standing in a high tunnel strawberry field

Meet Dalton Cooper, a 4th generation berry farmer and his dad John. Originally an apple farm since 1939, the family now grows berries using innovative varieties and growing techniques. Traditionally, strawberries harvest in June but a new ‘day-neutral’ strawberry fruits for 5-6 months, extending the typical strawberry season from June / July well into October.

John gave us a little strawberry physiology lesson to understand how this works. ‘June strawberries’ are named as such because they fruit in June. These berries are planted in the Fall when the days are short, and bear fruit in June when the days are long. On the other hand, ‘day-neutral’ strawberries are an annual variety planted in the spring with berries ready to pick about 12 weeks later. The berries continue fruiting regardless of the length of the day, which is why they’re called ‘day-neutral’!

The strawberries are grown on table tops in high tunnels which protect the berries from damaging heavy rains and maintains a moderate temperature. Not to mention, it’s much easier to pick these berries! The Cooper family also grows long cane raspberries, a growing technique where the berries are grown in pots and produce fruit in their second year.

Fun facts: There are 675 farms across Ontario which grow strawberries. Ontario growers produce between 6,000-7,000 tonnes of strawberries each year!

 

Next stop: Suncrest Orchards

Farmers Amanda and Hayden with their family of Jamaican workers

Image: Facebook Suncrest Orchards

Farmers Amanda and Hayden Dooney have owned the Suncrest Orchards since 2019 and work with a wonderful Jamaican family of eight employees including Raymond and George.  They’re seasonal agricultural workers who come up to the farm as early as March and stay until the end of October or longer. The farm grows and harvests seven different varieties of apples: Paula Red, Ginger Gold, Sunrise, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Royal Gala and Ambrosia.

Red gala apples growing on a bush

At lunch, we had the wonderful opportunity to chat with some of the workers. Amanda says, “We have huge respect and appreciation for the sacrifice they make to come up and help with our orchard.”  Livian, (pictured front left below), for example, has worked seasonally on farms for 25 years and is proud to have supported his four kids through university. Indeed, let’s all give our thanks to the amazing farmers and seasonal agricultural workers who work so hard to grow delicious and nutritious food!

Are you hosting an educational tour? Contact me to cover the event and share highlights!

This event was sponsored travel and this blog reflects my own learning experiences. Thanks to the event sponsors for hosting a truly inspiring and heart-warming event: Farm and Food Care OntarioGreenBeltMore than a Migrant WorkerOntario Apple GrowersOntario Berries and the Ontario Produce Marketing Association.

 

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

 

4 jars of apple pie overnight oats with apples and flowers in the background

Apple Pie Overnight Oats

This delicious breakfast features nutritious oats and the cozy flavours of apple pie. It's all made ahead of time so you can go ahead and hit that snooze button!
Course Breakfast
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 apple, diced
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions
 

  • In a microwave-safe bowl, toss apples with maple syrup and cinnamon. Cook in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.
  • In a container or jar, add oats, milk, yogurt, maple syrup and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
  • Spoon cooked apple on top of the oat mixture.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir before eating.
Keyword apple pie overnight oats, apples, breakfast, breakfast ideas, breakfast recipes, easy breakfast recipe, oats, overnight oats

How much caffeine is too much?

A person holding a the handle of a coffee mug. An image of Sue's face in the overlay.

Health Canada has set recommended maximum daily amounts of caffeine depending on your age. For children and teens under the age of 18, the recommended caffeine intake depends on their body weight. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, irritability, nervousness and headaches. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consider having less.

chart with caffeine recommendations for age groups

Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea, chocolate and certain flavourings such as guarana and yerba mate. Check out the caffeine content of some common foods and beverages to see where you’re at with your caffeine intake for the day. Keep in mind that many mugs and store bought drinks are larger than a standard cup.

chart with caffeine intake of foods and beverages

Do you have a food or nutrition question?  Ask me and I’ll feature the answer in one of my next newsletters.

New Front-of-Package Nutrition Labels are Coming to Canada

A magnifying glass with the words "High in sat fat, sugars, sodium"

 

 

 

 

 

You’re probably already familiar with the Nutrition Facts information found on the back of food packages. Health Canada is now introducing a new nutrition symbol that will appear on the front of food packages. This new front-of-package (FOP) nutrition symbol will help consumers quickly identify foods which are high in saturated fats, sugars and / or sodium. Here’s what you need to know.

Background

According to Heart and Stroke, 60% of the food we buy is prepackaged and processed, and many of these foods may be high in saturated fats, sugars and / or sodium. Eating a diet that’s high in these nutrients of concern is linked to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and some types of cancer. At the same time, 8 out of 10 Canadians say that nutrition is important when choosing foods.

To help Canadians make informed choices, Health Canada is introducing a new front-of-package (FOP) nutrition symbol to identify packaged foods which are high in saturated fats, sugars and / or sodium. The regulations came into effect on July 20, 2022 and food companies have until January 1, 2026 to update their packaging their labels. Over 40 countries including Chile, Argentina, Mexico and New Zealand, currently have a front-of-package nutrition labelling system.

 

What does the new front-of-package (FOP) symbol look like?

French only front-of-package symbol

Horizontal front-of-package label with magnifying glass and words

 

 

 

 

The new FOP symbol is a black and white image of a magnifying glass along with the name(s) of the nutrient(s) of concern – saturated fat, sugars and / or sodium – that are deemed high in the packaged food or beverage. It may appear either as a horizontal or vertical symbol. The FOP symbol may appear on the food package as one bilingual symbol or as two separate symbols in both official languages.

English only front-of-package symbol

French only front-of-package symbol

 

 

 

 

The FOP symbol will always appear on the upper right half of the food package. In the sample chocolate bar below, the symbol indicates that the food is high in saturated fat and sugars.Sample chocolate bar with the front-of-package symbol for high saturated fat and sugars

 

 

 

 

 

Which foods will need to show the FOP symbol?

For most packaged products, the definition of “high” means that the food or beverage contains 15% or more of the Daily Value for saturated fat or sugars and / or sodium per serving.

For example, take a look at the nutrition facts information below for a can of soup. The saturated fat is at 5% DV, the sugars is at 2% DV but the sodium is at 36% DV. So this soup would need to show the front-of-package nutrition symbol with the word sodium to let consumers know that this product is high in sodium.

Nutrition facts table for a can of soup

 

 

Front-of-package symbol for high sodium

Front-of-package symbol needed for the sample can of soup by January 1, 2026

For foods with a small serving size such as salad dressings or pickles, the criteria is 10% DV instead of 15% DV for saturated fat, sugars and sodium. And for pre-packaged main dishes that have a larger serving size, such as a frozen pizza or frozen lasagna, the criteria is 30% DV for those nutrients.

Which foods are exempted from the FOP symbol?

This is a list of some foods which are exempted either because of a recognized health benefit, technical or practical reasons. 

  • Plain fruits and vegetables
  • Plain, unsweetened 2% milk & whole milk
  • Plain cheese and yogurt*
  • Plain nuts / seeds & nut / seed butter
  • Eggs
  • Raw, plain single ingredient meat, poultry & fish, including ground meat
  • Butter, margarine, ghee; Vegetable oils; Sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup; Salt (e.g. table salt, sea salt, Kosher salt, garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt, etc.) – It would simply be redundant and impractical to put a FOP symbol on these foods.

Any of the foods noted above are no longer exempt if they’re made with an ingredient that contains saturated fat, sugars and / or sodium. For example, a bag of plain salad is exempt from the FOP regulations. But is the bag of salad contains bacon bits and salad dressing, the FOP symbol may apply. Similarly, if salt is added to plain nuts, the FOP symbol may apply.

*Cheese and yogurt made from dairy these foods naturally contain saturated fat, sugars (lactose) and sodium (needed in the cheese-making process). However, these foods contain calcium which is considered a “shortfall nutrient” since many Canadians may not be getting enough and calcium. Any plain cheese or yogurt is only exempt from the FOP symbol if a serving of the food contains at least 15% DV for calcium (or at least 10% DV for calcium in foods with a serving size of 30 grams / 30 mL or less). The ongoing need for this exemption will be reassessed after 10 years.

Other exemptions include:

  • Foods that are only sold at a farmer’s market, flea market, craft show, road-side stand or sugar bush by the person who prepared and processed the product
  • Packaged individual portions of foods that are only intended to be served by a restaurant to accompany a meal or snack, such as coffee creamers or individually packaged crackers often served with soups at restaurants
  • Foods sold in very small packages or with limited display space, such as milk, cream and goat’s milk which are sold in refillable glass containers since there available labelling space is limited to the lid

Pros and Cons

Pros: The FOP symbol will help consumers make informed food choices. In Chile, where a similar FOP labelling system has been in effect since 2016, 92% of consumers said that the FOP label influenced their food purchase. And overall household food purchases in Chile contained 37% less sodium and 27% less sugars.

Another pro is that this new nutrition labelling policy will inspire food companies to reformulate their products. In the next four years, expect to see new and improved products containing less saturated fat, sugars and sodium.

Cons: The FOP symbol could promote a “good food vs bad food” mentality which supports diet culture. Remember that we eat food for more than just nutrition. We eat food for celebration, comfort and connection.

Sue’s advice

Use the new FOP symbol as another tool to help you make informed choices. Read the Nutrition Facts table on the back of the package to see what other nutrients are offered in the food. Look at the ingredients list to determine whether any fat, sugars or sodium have been added to the product. If you happen to occasionally eat a food / beverage that has a FOP symbol, don’t feel guilty or ashamed. All foods can be enjoyed in moderation and fit into a healthy, balanced diet.

 

This article originally appeared on Canadian Food Focus, an excellent resource for information about food and farming.

 

 

Cool Facts About World Refrigeration Day!

A cartoon refrigerator surrounded by images of fruits, vegetables and the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that June 26 is World Refrigeration Day?

Refrigeration is one of the most important engineering initiatives of the last century and is at the very heart of modern day life. Just think of the many ways in which this technology improves our lives:

  • Food safety: Bacteria can grow quickly in food at temperatures between 4°C to 60°C, potentially causing foodborne illness. But the cooling provided by refrigerators and freezers in our homes, restaurants and retailers slows bacterial growth, keeping foods safe to eat. Not to mention the cooling technology that allows perishable foods to be harvested and transported to their final destination.
  • Food waste reduction: One way to reduce food waste at home is to use up leftovers. Thanks to refrigeration and freezing, most cooked meals can keep about 3-4 days in the fridge and between 2-6 months in the freezer. For a detailed guide to storing leftovers, check out Health Canada’s info about Leftovers: How Long Will They Last? or this Cold Food Storage Chart.  
  • Food availability and nutrition: Freezing allows fruits and vegetables to be picked at their peak ripeness and then frozen – often within hours – to lock in maximum nutrition and flavour. When fresh, seasonal produce is not available, frozen is an excellent, nutritious and affordable option.  
  • Planetary health: Cooling reduces one of the largest contributors to climate change – the emission of greenhouse gases from food that is lost due to spoilage and waste.

Dr. Leslie Oliver sitting at his deskDr. Leslie Oliver (pictured), a member of the HVACR Heritage Centre Founding Committee and his father Howard Oliver were pioneers of early refrigeration in Canada.

The HVACR Heritage Centre is a volunteer driven heritage organization whose mandate is to preserve and record the history of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technologies and how they’ve changed our lives. Dr. Leslie Oliver, a professional engineer appraised historic artifacts as well as documented the contributions of the industry’s work since its early years. By 1928, his father T. H. [Howard] Oliver became one of Canada’s first high tech workers in the field of internal combustion, radio and refrigeration. Howard started the family business T.H. Oliver Ltd. which Leslie later took over as Vice President and General Manager. Read the inspiring stories behind cooling technology and its impacts on society at their virtual museum.

 

This post was sponsored by the HVACR Heritage Centre to raise awareness of World Refrigeration Day and recognize the invaluable contributions of this technology. Opinions are my own.

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