Against the backdrop of the Thanksgiving harvest season and the junk food indulgence of Halloween, the federal government has focused its attention on our nation’s eating habits. In particular, Health Minister Jane Philpott announced plans to update Canada’s Food Guide and create simplified food labels. She also talked about bringing national rules for marketing food to children in line with World Health Organization guidelines and limiting the amounts of trans fat and sodium allowed in food.
It’s great the Canadian government is going to come in line with WHO guidelines from six years ago, but even the feds say it will take several years for the changes to take place. Why wait? Let’s start making our own changes now.
Premier Gallant raised the idea of a tax on soft drinks not that long ago. Perhaps that’s not the ideal solution either, but maybe there are some concrete steps that can be taken to help New Brunswickers make healthier choices. What if stores just stopped stocking these items? I can hear the snickers, but it’s not a new idea. There’s a pharmacy owner in Cape Breton who decided selling soft drinks, fruit juices, and vitamin water alongside diabetes and heart medication wasn’t responsible, so he stopped. People didn’t protest. He’s still in business. There were no complaints from suppliers, only a slight dip in revenue from those products being gone, and a jump in sales of the healthier products taking over the space.
I don’t consider our family eating habits to be an example of healthy eating, but I also don’t think we’re doing too badly. We don’t bring pop or chips home. Any cookies or muffins we eat are at least homemade, with some fruit content. I do check for sugar and fat content on things like yogurt and cereal before deciding which ones to buy (though I can be swayed more by the amount on the sale sticker). But I know we’re not eating enough fruits and veggies. Probably not enough fibre. Definitely too much meat. A few good nudges from the government, visual reminders about proper portion size, a few less additives hiding in the things I grab off the shelf – it all sounds good to me.
What’s most important to me, though, is trying to have our kids understand healthy eating habits and choices. We talk about moderation and balance in our snack choices. We try not to make meals about consumption but about conversation. We try to get our picky eater to understand an all-carb diet of crackers and bread isn’t sustainable. We remind our bottomless pit that eating too much at once is bad for digestion. We indulge in dessert when we feel like it, and try to follow it with a dance party in the kitchen while we do the dishes.
If all of the aspects of the Health Minister’s plan were introduced forcefully and quickly, it could make a big impact on how and what we eat. But we all know legislation is generally a slow process, whether we wait for the province or the federal government to make changes. What we need to do is to stop waiting and take control ourselves. Let’s see more retailers make healthy decisions. Let’s see more families make healthy decisions. Sure, pop is a cheap drink, but so is water. Add a slice of lemon if you need flavour in it. People should be free to buy whatever they want, but we also don’t need to have unhealthy options at every check out. Let’s help each other make healthier choices. Because we’re all paying the price of raising healthcare costs.