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Food for thought . . . Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy

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Many of the choices we make as adults stem from the values that were taught to us as children. Teachers advise parents, and they guide students in so many ways beyond the confines of the curriculum. We can all point to a teacher who had a great personal influence on us. It’s clear that teachers, with their tremendous influence, shape societies.

That is why I want to reach out to you to tell you more about Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy.

In a nutshell, the goal of the Healthy Eating Strategy is to change the food environment to make the healthier choice the easier choice.

Why is this important? Well, just look around you and you will see that the call for sugary, salty and fatty foods is everywhere: in the grocery store, in the streets, on TV, online, even at school. In fact:

  • 2/3 of packaged foods have sugars added to them
  • 3/4 of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods
  • 1/3 of the fat we eat comes from snacks and fast food

What is more troublesome is that children are particularly vulnerable to marketing messages that trigger their desire for junk food. Did you know that:

  • Kids see over 25 million food and beverage ads online every year
  • 90% of those are for foods high in sugar, sodium or saturated fat
  • Only 1 in 10 kids eats enough fruit and vegetables

No wonder then that we’re seeing 1 in 3 kids with overweight or obesity and teens with diseases like high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

On top of it all, the world of nutrition is confusing and often contradictory: here you hear low carb diets are good for you, and there you hear high fat diets are bad for you!

While at the grocery store and you want to buy nutritious foods for you and your family. You look for the iconic Nutrition Facts table, but it’s taking you too much time to pick the product from the shelf, turn it to the side or back and read through the information. Let’s face it, after a hard day at work and more to do at home, you want in and out fast.

In today’s food environment, making healthy food choices is really challenging.

Now imagine there is a symbol on the front of food packages designed to help you quickly and easily identify foods that are high in sodium, sugars and saturated fats—those very nutrients linked to chronic diseases and that you’re trying to limit.

Imagine you’re at a bakery to buy some goodies for a birthday and not worrying whether there is heart-clogging trans fat in them. Or you are at a restaurant and the food is tasty but not loaded with salt.

Imagine a school where the kids you care about are not exposed to the powerful marketing of junk foods, and where you have at your disposal modern and trusted Canada’s Food Guide tools and resources to talk to kids about healthy eating.

Wouldn’t that be great? Well, the good news is that all these will soon become reality. These are the actions that Health Canada is taking under the Healthy Eating Strategy to help make the healthier choice, the easier choice.

As a teacher or parent who strives to provide the best for the children you care for and set them on a good and healthy path for life, we would like you to be part of this change.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Talk about healthy eating with students.
  • Encourage healthy food options in the cafeteria and vending machines.
  • Visit the Healthy Eating Strategy website to keep up-to-date on the various initiatives and new resources.
  • Stay informed on Health Canada’s latest consultations by creating a profile in the stakeholder registry. This way you can have your say!
  • Share what you learn with your colleagues, students and their parents.

At the end of the day, an apple for the teacher was always a good idea . . . and it’s still a good idea for the rest of us too!


Dr. Alfred Aziz holds a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Toronto. He joined Health Canada in 2006, first as postdoctoral fellow and then as a research scientist. His research focused on the role of carbohydrates in the regulation of body weight and glycaemia. After a few assignments in the organization as part of the Health Canada Science Management Development Programme, he became the Chief of Nutrition Regulations and Standards Division in 2014. Alfred Aziz led the updates to the Nutrition Labelling regulations and is currently the Program lead on the Healthy Eating Strategy, and more specifically leading the work on labelling, trans fat and sodium.”