Here’s a term we’ve been hearing lately — the “obesogenic environment.”
Do you live in one? It means any place where it’s all too easy to eat poorly and not very conducive to getting much exercise.
That’s where a lot of us are at, according to the newly released Obesity in Canada report by the federal Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The proliferation of fast and processed foods, coupled with the overwhelming use of electronic devices, have led to this type of environment, it says.
The report sums up the testimony of all kinds of diet and health experts as well as charitable organizations, Aboriginal groups and food industry representatives, and has tried to capture not just the consequences of an ever-fattening society, but reasons why nearly two-thirds of Canadian adults and one-third of kids are now either overweight or obese.
It’s a bigger problem than just a collective loss of willpower, this committee heard.
Over the last three or four decades, unhealthy food has become cheaper and more widely available. Over 60 per cent of foods purchased in this country are ultra-processed. There’s been a general loss of “food culture,” meaning many people now don’t know how to cook. Most of us now live in towns and cities designed for cars, not pedestrians. Many find nutrition labels confusing and therefore unhelpful. The report cites criticism of Canada’s Food Guide too.
It includes 21 recommendations, from more doctors learning to prescribe exercise more often, to an overhaul of the Food Guide, to the federal government providing infrastructure funding to help communities facilitate more active lifestyles, both indoors and out.
From policy-makers to parents, industry insiders to family doctors, all Canadians have a role to play to beat back this crisis, the report says.
Freeze aheads and planned overs
When I was a kid we’d joke how meals Mom made always seemed to be leftovers. No one could remember the originals. That wasn’t the case, of course. But when there was more than we could eat one night, it was warmed over the next. She called those meals the ‘must gos.’
The Alberta-based Atco Blue Flame Kitchen website is a great resource for any home cook wondering what to do with last night’s leftovers, or simply trying to keep one — or two — meals ahead of schedule. On it you’ll find recipes both for freezing whole meals for later use — helpful as you get ready for a busy spring seeding season — plus other ideas for creatively using leftovers from yesterday’s meals. The home economists call their recipes for stretching one meal into two a “planned over.”
For more Atco Blue Flame Kitchen ideas, recipes, and household tips visit the website.
‘Planned Over’ Cajun Ham Hash
- 3 tbsp. oil
- 2 c. diced cooked ham
- 1-1/2 c. sliced green onions
- 1 c. diced red bell pepper
- 3 c. frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
- 3/4 tsp. Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 tsp. thyme, crumbled
Heat oil in a large non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add ham, onions and red pepper; sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in hash browns, Cajun seasoning and thyme. Cook until hash browns are heated through and slightly crisp, about 5 – 7 minutes. Serves 4.
‘Freeze Ahead’ Holay Molay Chili
- 2 tbsp. flour
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 2 tbsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. salt, divided
- 1 tsp. coriander
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1-1/2 lb. beef chuck steak, cut into 1/2-inch (1.25-cm) cubes
- 2 tbsp. oil, divided
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cans (10 oz./284 ml each) beef broth
- 1 can (14 oz./398 ml) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (28 oz./796 ml) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 c. cocoa
- 2 tsp. sugar
- 4 c. cubed peeled butternut squash
Combine flour, chili powder, cumin, 1/2 tsp. (2 ml) salt, coriander, cayenne pepper and cinnamon in a plastic bag. Add beef to flour mixture and toss to coat. Heat 1 tbsp. (15 ml) oil in a Dutch oven. Add beef in batches and brown on all sides, adding remaining oil as necessary. Remove beef from pan and keep warm. Add onions and garlic to pan; sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, beans, cocoa, sugar and remaining salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and return beef to pan. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 1 hour. Chili may be prepared to this point and refrigerated for up to 24 hours or frozen for up to 2 weeks. Some flavour changes may occur when freezing. Reheat chili before proceeding. Add squash and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Serves 6 – 8.