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Ingredients for a healthier tomorrow – Nutrition Month 2022

Image Source: Dietitians of Canada

 

Canadians are looking for healthier ways of eating, a healthier planet and affordable food. To celebrate the 40th annual Nutrition Month, dietitians are focusing on the connection between food, public health and the environment. The sustainability movement has been growing in Canada and around the world. In this blog we define some key ingredients for a healthier tomorrow and sustainable food system.

Key Ingredients for a healthier tomorrow [1]

You probably know that dietitians provide life changing advice on nutrition and food choices to manage illness and promote health. But many dietitians are also involved in these areas of sustainability that could help create a healthier tomorrow.

  • Improved Food Security
    • “Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.”[2]
  • Food Literacy
    • “Food literacy includes five main interconnected components: food and nutrition knowledge; food skills; self-efficacy and confidence; food decisions; and external factors such as the food system, social determinants of health, and socio-cultural influences and eating practices.”[3]
  • Food Sovereignty
    • “Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”[4]
  • Sustainable Food Choices (Diets)
    • “Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”[5]
  • Sustainable Food Systems
    • A food system that delivers food and nutrition security for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised.”[6]  Figure 1 summarizes what sustainable food systems look like in Canada.

Figure 1. Source: Dietitians of Canada (2022) Nutrition Month Activity Guide

How to join the conversation and support action  

It can be challenging to know where to start with change towards a healthier you and a healthier planet. The Dietitians of Canada share 5 tips for reducing the environmental footprint of your diet:

  1. Reduce food waste
    Check out our tips to Double down on reducing food waste, Put the freeze on food waste, and
  2. Eat to satisfy your hunger and support your health
    Read more tips on 5 smart snacks and What’s Your Food Personality? 
  3. Buy local products
    Read more about the meaning of local!
  4. Choose a healthy and balanced diet
    Read our highlights from a sustainable eating conference
  5. Talk to a dietitian for credible, life changing advice
    Read more about Why work with a dietitian?

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us and we’ll feature it in our Ask a Dietitian posts. Registered Dietitians are the most trusted food and nutrition experts who are committed to helping Canadians enjoy nutritious, sustainable, and affordable and healthy eating.

 

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

[1] Dietitians of Canada (2022) Nutrition Month Activity Guide https://www.dietitians.ca/News/2022/Nutrition-Month-2022-Ingredients-for-a-Healthier-T

[2] Committee on World Food Security, Food and Agriculture Organization (2012) https://www.fao.org/3/MD776E/MD776E.pdf

[3] Nutrition Connections. Effective education strategies to increase food and nutrition knowledge in children and youth (2019) https://nutritionconnections.ca/resources/effective-education-strategies-to-increase-food-and-nutrition-knowledge-in-children-and-youth/

[4] What is Food Sovereignty. Food Secure Canada (Accessed 2022) https://foodsecurecanada.org/who-we-are/what-food-sovereignty

[5] Burlingame B, Dernini S. Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action. (2012) https://www.fao.org/3/i3004e/i3004e.pdf

[6] Nutrition and Food Systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security (2017) https://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE_Reports/HLPE-Report-12_EN.pdf

Why work with a dietitian?

DIETITIANS SERVICES (SOURCE DIETITIANS OF CANADA)

Nutrition is a hot topic. You may have a growing desire for better nutrition as a way to improve your healthy and productivity.  Research shows that nutrition counselling with a dietitian is a good investment for your health and wellness. Here are some common questions we get asked about working with a dietitian.

Why should I consult a dietitian?

Dietitians translate scientific research into practical solutions. They work with you to help you feel your best. Dietitians can provide:

  • Tips and healthy recipes to help you plan, shop for and cook healthy meals for your family
  • Information to help you interpret food labels, the latest food trends and diets
  • Support to improve your relationship with food and be mindful of your eating habits
  • Individualized Counselling to help you:
    • manage your weight, food allergies and intolerances or digestive issues
    • get the most from your workouts
    • prevent and manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and kidney disease
  • Guidance on how to feed your baby, a “picky” eater, or an active teenager
  • Advice on whether you need a vitamin or mineral supplement based on your health needs.

Why are nutrition services important?

Health concerns are on the rise

  • 44% of Canadians over age 20 have at least 1 chronic health condition
  • 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes
  • More than 2.6 million Canadians suffer from food allergies

Canadians want better nutrition

Canadians are increasingly more aware of their food choices, shopping smarter, and opting for better nutrition now more than ever before.  Although provincial health plans don’t provide adequate coverage, many employee and private health insurance plans cover Registered Dietitian led Nutrition Counselling sessions.

Manage your Health

Good nutrition improves health and reduces health risks that can lead to illness or high prescription drug use.

  • Lowers risk for and helps manage type 2 diabetes
  • Improves weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels
  • Controls digestive issues and food allergies

Your best choice for nutrition services are Registered Dietitians…hands down!

Dietitians are Specialized

Dietitians must pass university and licensing exams, undergo rigorous practical training, and commit to staying on top of emerging research, skills and techniques in food, nutrition and health.

Dietitians are Regulated

Dietitians are the only nutrition practitioners that are licensed and regulated in every province in Canada. Just like a nurse or physiotherapist, dietitians hold a protected designation. Look for the letters RD (registered dietitian) or PDt (professional dietitian) DT.I or Dt.P, after your health care professional’s name depending on the province.

Dietitians are Health Care Professionals

Dietitians belong to a national association that promotes the highest level of professional standards through extensive training, knowledge sharing and a powerful evidence-based nutrition database – a leading resource for nutrition professionals around the world.

A Dietitian can unlock the power of food for your healthy living. Ask us how. Connect with us

What’s the difference between cholesterol and triglycerides?

Ask the dietitian image of Lucia Weiler RD over a heart shaped bowl with berries and stethoscope

You’ve probably heard of high blood cholesterol, but have you heard of high blood triglycerides?

Cholesterol and triglycerides are important measures of heart health.  Both cholesterol and triglycerides are different types of lipids that circulate in the blood, but elevated levels of both can raise your risk for heart disease. Here is a rundown of the difference between cholesterol and triglycerides, and why they matter for your heart health.

Definitions & Why it Matters

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in some foods and in your blood. Your liver makes most of the blood cholesterol and it produces enough for your needs. Cholesterol is part of every cell in your body and some hormones. Cholesterol is needed to help your body digest and absorb fat.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up inside arteries, forming what is known as plaque. Large amounts of plaque increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in some foods as well as in your body. Triglyceride is a term that describes the structure of a fat, which is made up of 3 fatty acids and a glycerol backbone. (See summary chart for diagram). When you eat, your body converts any excess calories you don’t need to use right away into triglycerides for a longer-term energy source. Triglycerides are mostly stored in your fat cells and are commonly deposited beneath the skin and around some internal organs. Some triglycerides circulate in the blood.

You need some triglycerides for good health. But high triglycerides might raise your risk of heart disease. High blood triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (arteriosclerosis) — which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

What’s the best way to lower your blood cholesterol and triglycerides?

Healthy lifestyle choices are KEY low lower the risk of heart disease.  Bringing your blood cholesterol and triglyceride numbers down takes effort and commitment. Here are some things you can do.

Top 5 ways to lower cholesterol:

  • Choose foods that are lower in saturated fats like fish, lean cuts of meat and poultry, and lower fat milk and dairy products.
  • Eat a variety of heart healthy foods. Choose more vegetables, fruit, high fibre whole grains, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soy products, nuts and seeds.
  • If you smoke – quit all types of smoking.
  • Be physically active on most, preferable all days of the week.
  • Maintain a body weight that is healthy for you.

Top 5 ways to lower triglycerides:

  • Limit fast releasing carbohydrates like candy, sweet snack foods, and baked goods made with highly refined white flours.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglycerides.
  • Include heart healthy fats such as olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.
  • Focus on boosting veggies and high fibre foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds and whole grains every day.
  • Enhance your fitness routine. Find moderate to vigorous activities you enjoy (such as cycling, running, brisk walking, swimming, etc.) and aim for at least 150 minutes per week which is about 40 minutes 4 times a week or 50 minutes 3 times a week.

Talk with your registered dietitian or contact us to discuss your blood lipid numbers and develop a personalized plan for keeping a healthy heart.

summary chart cholesterol and triglycerides

References:

 

Written by: Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD – Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

 

February signals Black History Month and Heart Month

L.Weiler, Canva

Every February is Black History Month and also Heart Month. Do you think this is a coincidence or is there more to consider?

As dietitians and health care professionals, especially this year, we reflected deeper. We are taking the time to recognize health disparity and reflect on what is happening in our health care community. Now is the time to double down on efforts to listen and learn from our colleagues in the Black community and act accordingly.

When people think about heart health, it’s important to consider what this could mean in terms of things we can and cannot change.  Research shows that people of African descent are at higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke. This is because they are more likely to have high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease at a younger age (Heart and Stroke Foundation Canada, 2021).

Studies also confirm that there are Black-White health inequalities in Canada (Veenstra, 2016). For example, Black women and men were more likely than their White counterparts to report diabetes and hypertension. The authors of this study concluded that high rates of diabetes and hypertension among Black Canadians may stem from experiences of racism in everyday life. University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s prevention and wellness experts explain that ‘people of the same ethnicity share many of the same genes, which is why family history and ethnicity are so closely linked.’  Studies also indicate that ‘people from minority populations are less aware that smoking, high cholesterol, and family history increase their risk for heart disease. Awareness levels can impact a person’s decision about whether to start making healthy lifestyle changes’ (Ottawa Heart Institute, 2021).

We are committed to continue navigating through these changing times with an open mind, positivity, compassion and hope for a better future. We are reading the science, listening to colleagues in the Black community at conferences and on their media and social media channels.

Here are some resources we found informative:

As we journey to do better, you can rely on us as Registered Dietitians to bring you trusted food and nutrition information to help you make informed choices about your health and wellness. We love food – it unites us all.

Reference List:

Veenstra (2016)  Black-White Health Inequalities in Canada. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25894533/
Ottawa Heart Institute (2021) Heart Health Education. Available at:  http://pwc.ottawaheart.ca/education/heart-health-education/risk-factors/ethnicity)
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (2021) Risk & Prevention Available at: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/stroke/risk-and-prevention/risk-factors-you-cannot-change

3 Tips to Overcoming Weight Bias

Did you know that weight bias and discrimination are real and rampant? A recent study looking at news stories in media found that 72% of images and 77% of videos stigmatized  people with obesity[1].  With so much weight bias in our society, what can we do to help?  As dietitians we reviewed the science and bring you these 3 tips to help stop the weight bias, with hopes that we can all make lasting positive change in response to weight shaming, stigma and discrimination. 

N4nn weight bias 2017 2017-11-26_20-25-57

  1. BECOME AWARE – Do you have a weight bias? A first step in addressing weight stigma is to become aware of our own potential attitudes and assumptions about body weight. What do you think and say about people with obesity? Did you know being called “fat” is the most common reason children are bullied?[2] A Harvard University survey reveals many people have an automatic preference for ‘thin people’ relative to ‘fat people’.[3] This survey is based on an Implicit-Association Test (IAT) that anyone can take, and measures the implicit attitudes and beliefs that people are either unwilling or unable to report. The WEIGHT-IAT asks you to distinguish images of people who are described as ‘obese’ or ‘fat’ and people who are ‘thin’. Try the IAT here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html – and select the Weight IAT to discover whether you have a hidden weight bias.
  1. SPEAK WITH COMPASSION Use words that hurt less. At a recent nutrition symposium, we learned about research that shows the choice of words we use can have different impacts on people with obesity. [4]

words we use obesity bias N4NN 2017 11-27_14-57-23

  • Body weight should not be a topic of social conversation. It’s a deeply personal subject for most people. Even as a health professional, ask permission to speak about body weight.
  • Use person first language rather than describe people by their disease. ex. Saying “a person with obesity” is person first langauge. Saying “an obese person” is not person first language. It’s the same way you would say a person “has a broken leg” rather than say they “are a broken leg.”
  1. SHOW RESPECT – Every body deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Are YOU ready to help STOP the weight bias? Here are some tips:
  • Notice weight shaming and speak up when you hear inappropriate comments or jokes. Talk about someone’s performance, enthusiasm or other positive attributes rather than talking about their weight. If you notice someone blaming a person for their weight, remind yourself and others “We don’t know their story, so don’t blame them for their size.”
  • Shift the focus from weight to health and well-being.
  • Adjust your attitude – if you change your thoughts, your feelings and actions will follow.[5]

The journey toward well-being starts with how we eat and dietitians have the knowledge, compassion and flexibility to help Canadians achieve their goals. If you have questions about food and health contact a Registered Dietitian for reliable, life-changing advice.

[1] Heuer C, Puhl R.  Obesity stigma in online news: A visual content analysis.   Journal of Health Communication.   2011

[2] Puhl, R. et.al Cross-national perspectives about weight-based bullying in youth: nature, extent and remedies. Pediatric Obesity, 2016

[3] Harvard University, Project Implicit Sourced Nov 2017 https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html

[4] Adapted from Puhl, Peterson, Luedicke 2013

[5] Michael Vallis, Canadian Obesity Network Presentation 2011

3 out of 5 adults have a chronic disease! Are you one of them?

chronic disease apr 2017

Did you know that 4 out of 5 Canadian adults are at risk for chronic disease, and 3 out of 5 Canadian adults actually live with a chronic disease? [1]  The top 4 chronic diseases in Canada are Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes and Chronic Respiratory disease. The good news is that 40% of cancers, 80% of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and respiratory disease are preventable by reducing common risk factors such as:

  • poor nutrition
  • lack of physical activity
  • smoking
  • harmful use of alcohol.

According to the World Health Organization, an unhealthy diet is one of the primary risk factors for chronic disease. Research shows that diet counselling makes a difference. For example, structured and intensive lifestyle interventions delivered by dietitians can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 60% in clients at risk.[2]

What can you do? 

  • Eat a nutritious and healthy diet, including lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Don’t smoke or use other forms of tobacco
  • Limit your alcohol consumption to Canada’s LOW risk drinking guidelines
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Get regular physical activity

How do you know which nutrition information to trust?

There is so much nutrition information out there that Canadians don’t know what to believe. It can be challenging to know which online nutrition information is credible and which is not. [3] For your food and nutrition questions – ask a Registered Dietitian. Registered Dietitians are the most trusted food and nutrition experts who are committed to helping Canadians enjoy safe, nutritious, affordable and healthy eating.  As nutrition experts, dietitians can help you decide on and find factual information that’s relevant to your health and wellness needs. Contact us or check out the ‘Your Health’ section at www.dietitians.ca.

 

[1] Chronic Disease Alliance Prevention Canada (2016)  http://www.cdpac.ca/media.php?mid=1411
[2] Dietitians of Canada, The impact of diet counselling (2015) https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/Chronic-Disease-2-pager.aspx
[3] Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month (2017) www.dietitians.ca

Take the fight out of food! How to spot credible nutrition info!

Nutrition month 2017 Sue & Lucia Pledge

Eating should be joyful and pleasurable, but it can also be frustrating and confusing. Take the online pledge to take the fight out of food. Find accurate information to help you make better decisions about food and take the fight out of your food struggles.

Did you know that almost half of Canadians (49%) get their food and nutrition information from the Internet, social media or blogs? Unfortunately, not all online information can be trusted. Here’s how to spot the most credible nutrition info.

1. Talk to a dietitian – the most credible food and nutrition experts. According to the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research, Tracking Nutrition Trends 2015 report, only 20% of Canadians get their information from a dietitian. Yet, most Canadians (88%) say dietitians are credible sources of information. Contact us with your food and nutrition questions.

2. Ask questions. Evaluate online nutrition advice by asking:
• Who runs the website?
• Is the website trying to sell something?
• Does it sound too good to be true?
• Where does the information come from?
• Is the information based on more than one clinical study?
• Was the study done in animals or humans?
• Was the information / study reviewed by an editorial board?

3. Go to these trusted websites.
Some of our favourite information sources are:
Weiler Nutrition Communications Inc.
Nutrition Solutions Inc.
Dietitians of Canada
Eat Right Ontario
Healthy Canadians

4. Look for the Dietitians of Canada Member Blog badge
. We’ve met the blog criteria from our professional organization, and are proud to share our expert, credible, evidence-based insights!

DC member blog badge


This post has been adapted from Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at www.NutritionMonth2017.ca

What’s on the MENU? Calorie labelling!

what's on the menu blog march 2017

Have you noticed the new calorie labelling on Ontario chain restaurant menus? Operators, servers and consumers are coming to grips with the new reality of revealing calories in a serving of food. We’ve been busy moderating partnership events and engaging with stakeholders about the challenges of the new menu labelling. The events were in collaboration with Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals (CAFP), Restaurants Canada and Dietitians of Canada.

A shout out to fellow dietitian Donna Bottrell who did a terrific job organizing the events, and to Nancy Hewitt President CAFP Toronto for her support.

CAFP lucia moderator event
From left: Donna Bottrell, organizer of the event; Nancy Hewitt, CFE, President of the CAFP Toronto Branch; Susan Somerville, Dean, from Humber College, and Panelist Jamie Rillet and Moderator Lucia Weiler.

Here is a snapshot of what we heard:

  • ‘Medium and small chains are looking for guidance and consistency from the Government.’ Jamie Rilett, Restaurants Canada
  • ‘It’s challenging for a server to explain the calorie range for a serving size. More support and education would be helpful’ K.B.Bose, Shoeless Joe’s
  • ‘There is the nutrient variable to consider and educate about. How to address the fact that milk has more calories than pop but it’s also more nutritious?’ Katie Jessop RD
  • ‘Collaboration is needed between food professionals: chefs, dietitians and nutritionists.  And we are eating foods- not just one food. Food combinations in menus can help create healthier options. Nutrition professionals can assist operators and consumers.’   Lucia Weiler RD
  • ‘A lot of time was spent by Aramark in the initial analysis…they made sure to standardize recipes and then tested and tested which led to a recipe database.’ Karen Williams, Aramark
  • ‘Menu calorie labelling is just the beginning. There is a future importance for all aspects of nutrition and food, especially sustainable processing. Millennial consumers are very conscious about the’ what’ and the ‘how’ of food.’ K.B.Bose, Shoeless Joe’s

For more stakeholder views and participant feedback please contact us. We would be happy to help your team formulate unique insights that integrate our Registered Dietitian expertise in food and nutrition and provide you with solutions that both foodservice professionals and consumers can use.

2016 Nutrition News – A Year in Review

cauliflower-crisis-best-image

2016 has definitely been a year for trending food and nutrition issues! Here’s our recap of the top three nutrition headlines of the year plus what you can expect in 2017.


1. CAULIFLOWER CRISIS

Who can ever forget the $8 sticker shock on a head of cauliflower in January?! It became the poster child for rising food prices in Canada. According to the CBC, the price of fresh veggies rose by 13% in the past two years.

What to expect in 2017: The average Canadian family can expect to pay up to $420 more for food next year, according to Canada’s Food Price Report, an annual publication by researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax. The price of meats, fish, seafood and fresh vegetables may rise as much as 4 to 6 percent. Lead author Sylvain Charlebois points to weather disruptions caused by La Nina, energy related costs and the tanking Loonie as factors affecting the price hikes.

What you can do: Look at grocery store flyers and use e-coupons. Plan your meals and plan to use the leftovers too.

2. INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF PULSES
Declared by the United Nations, the International Year of Pulses successfully raised our awareness of pulses and their many health benefits. Chef Michael Smith, Canada’s ambassador of the International Year of Pulses, kicked off the year with an invitation for all of us to take the Pulse Pledge and eat pulses at least once a week for 10 weeks.

What to expect in 2017: The buzz about pulses will continue, starting with Global Pulse Day which occurs January 18th of every year. It’s a global event to celebrate pulses and continue the momentum of the 2016 International Year of Pulses. With rising food costs, look to economical and versatile pulses to be a staple on your grocery list.

What you can do: Plan to eat at least one meatless meal each week using beans, peas, lentils or chickpeas.

3. SUGAR TAX
In February, the Dietitians of Canada released a position statement calling for a 10-20% excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and specialty coffee / tea beverages seems to be linked to excess weight in both kids and adults. In March, the Senate Report on Obesity also recommended a new tax on sugar-sweetened and artificially-sweetened beverages as one of many efforts to fight obesity in Canada.

What to expect in 2017: Sugar will continue to be under fire. In his Spring 2016 budget speech, Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau pledged to help families make better choices, including actions to include more information about added sugars on food labels. Earlier this month, Health Canada opened a public consultation about its proposed front-of-package nutrition labels. For the first time ever, sugar would be called out as one of the three nutrients that can negatively affect our health if consumed in excess. Health Canada proposes to set the % Daily Value (%DV) for total sugars (natural and added sugars) at 100 grams per day. Under these proposed new labelling regulations, foods which contain 15 grams or more of total sugars per serving would be considered “high in sugars” and carry a warning symbol.

What you can do: Share your opinions about nutrition labelling. Complete this brief consumer questionnaire and / or complete the technical questionnaire both by January 13th, 2017. This is YOUR chance to help shape the future of nutrition labelling in Canada.

Have questions about upcoming trends or how Health Canada’s proposed front-of-package labelling may affect your business? We can help. Contact us at: Info@NutritionForNonNutritionists.com

Dare to Compare: Coconut Water versus Sports Drink

Athletes of all ages are turning to these beverages for hydration. What’s the difference?

coconut-water-vs-sports-drink

Overall, unsweetened coconut water has fewer calories, carbohydrates and sodium than a typical sports drink. For general hydration, coconut water is fine. Look for the brands with no added sugar.

However compared to sports drinks, coconut water has too much potassium and not enough sodium or carbohydrates for optimal hydration during and after exercise / competitions.

According to the Dietitians of Canada, sports drinks may be beneficial if you:
– exercise hard for at least 1 hour
– exercise at high intensity (e.g. soccer, hockey, basketball)
– sweat a lot / have salty sweat
– wear a lot of protective gear or equipment such as for hockey or football
– train or exercise in the heat and humidity
– need to replace fluids and energy quickly such as during hockey tournaments
– train or exercise more than once a day.

Leftovers for Lunch

Save time and money by creatively transforming tonight’s dinner into tomorrow’s lunch! Watch our interview and tips on CTV Your Morning.

Feeding kids a vegan diet in Italy could be a crime

vegan-kid

The buzz:
Late last month, Italian Parliamentarian Elvira Savino proposed a bill that would hold parents legally responsible for feeding a vegan diet to children who are under the age of 16. A vegan diet excludes all animal products such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs.

The bill was proposed after multiple cases of Italian infants were hospitalized for malnourishment presumably due to eating vegan diets. If the bill passes, parents who restrict their children to a vegan diet would face a year-long jail sentence. Should the child fall ill because of the diet, the sentence would increase to four years; and if the child dies, the jail term would rise to six years.

The Italian government has not been shy to step into people’s kitchens. Last year, an Italian court reportedly ordered a vegan mother to feed her son meat at least once a week after her divorced husband complained that the son wasn’t getting adequate nourishment. In 2015, a father was sentenced to nine months in prison after forcing his teen daughters to diet only on whole grains, cereals and veggies because he deemed them to be too fat.

Savino’s proposed bill will be debated later this year.

The science:

According to the Dietitians of Canada, vegan diets can lower your risk of many conditions including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. A healthy vegan diet includes a variety of grains, vegetables, fruit, legumes (dried peas, peas and lentils), seeds and nuts.

However, because a vegan diet excludes meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs, it may take some planning to get enough protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fats from foods and/or supplements.

Our expert POV:
A vegan diet may be appropriate for toddlers to teens with careful planning. The most important consideration at these ages is to ensure that they are getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop well.

Talk to a dietitian about vegan food sources for nutrients such as protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B12 (which are typically found in meat, fish, poultry and eggs). Calcium and vitamin D are also essential for the development of strong bones and teeth, while omega-3 fats are essential for brain development and eye health.

With our training and experience in health promotion, we wonder if nutrition education for parents / caregivers would be more effective than this punitive legislation.