Canada's Condominium Magazine

March is Nutrition Month: eat healthy, if you can

March is Nutrition Month. This is another of those well-meaning public campaigns intended to tell us what’s good for us and hopefully persuade a few people to get healthy about their food choices. It must be a losing battle, based on what anyone can observe by taking a quick trip to any supermarket or shopping mall. With no claim to scientific accuracy, we conclude that most people still prefer their foods sugary, starchy, fatty and, best of all, prepared and ready to eat.

But the Dieticians of Canada bravely carry on, putting out their tips and apps and videos designed to “help Canadian families to simply get cooking.” That is the theme of this year’s campaign: Simply Cook and Enjoy!

The Dieticians say there is “growing concern” about the lack of home cooking and the loss of cooking skills among Canadians. They are worried that cooking skills are being lost, to the detriment of the next generation. Children who grow up in a household where they participate in meal preparation and then enjoy the meals with their families have healthier diets, the Dieticians say.

So the aim of this Nutrition Month is to get Canadians back to cooking basics, and to involve children and youth in the food preparation. And who could argue with that?

Healthier versions of convenience foods can be time savers when it comes to getting healthy meals on the table in a flash. Next time you’re shopping, look for these nutritious options: Pre-cut butternut squash, ready-to-go stir-fry vegetables and pre-made salads.

Dieticians of Canada

But, sadly, we feel they are merely preaching to the converted. Those who already take food seriously, meaning that they put some thought into the nutritional value of the foods they eat, as well as into smart shopping, creative preparation, and economical reusing, will duly read the Dieticians of Canada’s tips and take their advice, and the rest of us won’t.

We don’t mean to denigrate, but do the Dieticians of Canada really understand the magnitude of the problem? Do they really think that the millions of people who would rather drink soda pop than water or milk are going to go out and buy quinoa, the “smart carb,” because it will not spike their blood sugar? Or give up fast food because it is “nitrite laden”?

The Dieticians’ tips for cooking better are great. Blend a handful of spinach or kale into a fruit smoothie. Sounds good. Shred carrots, zucchini or onions into spaghetti sauce. Mmmm! Sprinkle berries onto breakfast cereal or yogurt. Yes.

But don’t they see the problem here? The people who most need their advice are not likely to make fruit smoothies, much less have fresh spinach or kale on hand. Nor are they likely to have carrots or zucchini in the fridge, even if they did make their own spaghetti sauce, which they don’t. Berries on the morning yogurt? How likely is it that the yogurt will be one of the natural kinds, as opposed to one with, on average, fourteen teaspoons of sugar in it?

The reality is, unless you prepare every single morsel of food that you consume, from scratch, you have no control over what’s in it. The individual consumer is, in a real way, up against the entire food industry. They decide how much sugar you consume and they decide how much fat. Unless you stop buying their products and prepare your own food. And the food industry, like the tobacco industry before it, is in no mood to admit that they’re in any way responsible for any health problems (like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and even Alzheimer’s) that scientists say are directly related to excess sugar consumption. A CBC Fifth Estate story on sugar recently asserted that the average Canadian family of four consumes 95 teaspoons of sugar every day, in processed food. The recommended maximum per adult male is nine teaspoons, and that still sounds like a lot to us.

Good luck to the Dieticians of Canada and their Nutrition Month.

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