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New study examines eating habits of Canadians


Toronto – For children and teenagers, snacking makes up about a quarter of their daily food intake and contributes more calories than breakfast, says a new study on the eating habits of Canadians.

The Evolution of Eating in Canada Symposium, hosted by Nestlé Canada April 26 at the University of Toronto, brought nutrition experts and academics together to discuss how, what and when Canadians are eating and to examine trends that may be affecting their eating habits in the future.

The symposium provided an in-depth look at a study designed to understand the nutrition and dietary patterns of Canadians. Based on the latest Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) consumption data, the study found that the diet quality of Canadians is “poor.”

The survey data examined food choices and nutrient intakes to determine the nutrition quality of Canadians’ food choices according to meal, occasion and time.

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“In our study, we saw a U-shaped curve that reflects the quality of eating habits among the Canadian population,” said Mary R. L’Abeé, lead researcher on the study, in a news release. “In early life, when parents have the most influence, the nutritional quality of foods that young children eat is generally quite good. Choices start to deteriorate in late childhood and are at their worst in adolescence, then start to improve as Canadians enter their late twenties and early thirties.”

The research found that 30 per cent of total calories are consumed from food and beverages not recommended in the Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, snacking makes up to 25 per cent of the daily energy intake for children and 23 per cent for adolescents.

The research also found that most calories were consumed at home. However, for people who ate at locations other than home, on average 40 per cent of daily calories were consumed at these locations.

“The structure of eating today has drastically evolved,” said Kathy Perrotta, Vice-President, IPSOS Reid, author of The Evolution of Snacking report and leader of the IPSOS FIVE study. “Eating no longer centres around three daily meals. Instead, Canadians are grazing consistently throughout the day and we are seeing a greater deal of snacking earlier and more often. At its core, it is the food choices, healthy or not, that are being made during these key snacking moments that will impact the overall health of Canadians, rather than the frequency of snacking.”

Also evolving is how digital technologies are impacting the way Canadians consume and how they gain their nutritional information, the data suggested. It is important for the food industry to understand how trends like wearable technologies, sensors in packaging or personalized real-time information about food, are influencing how Canadians are making food choices.

The Toronto event, moderated by Sue Mah, registered dietitian, president of Nutrition Solutions and food trends expert, offered academic presentations and a panel discussion with nutrition experts Mary R. L’Abbé, chair of the department of nutritional sciences in the University of Toronto faculty of medicine; Kathy Perrotta, vice-president, IPSOS Reid; Rebecca Chesney, research and communications manager for the Institute for the Future; and Jane Dummer, registered dietitian, author and food consultant.