Food Stats Show Some Positive Trends

Canadians are eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and less red meat, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the nation’s overall diet is improving.

The average Canadian also consumes more sugar, coffee and cheese and nearly as much fat and oil as before, says a new Statistics Canada food consumption report for 2009.

The average caloric intake is down from previous years but is still considered too high.

In all, the report paints a mixed picture of the state of human nutrition in Canada, said Joyce Slater, a University of Manitoba nutritional sciences assistant professor.

“I think it’s too soon to jump up and down and say we’re listening to our nutrition messages and we’re all eating better,” Slater said.

“I think there’s some positive trends but we’re not out of the woods.”

According to Slater, some of the positive findings in the StatsCan report released last week are:

Annual fresh fruit intake in 2009 was a record 39.3 kg per person.

Fresh vegetable intake, excluding potatoes, was also a record at 40.7 kg per capita.

Potatoconsumptiongrew1.4percentto27.9kg per person, the first increase since 2001.

Redmeatconsumptionfellslightlyto23.4kgper person.

Total oil and fat consumption was also down slightly.

Total consumption of cereal products was up.

Per capita intake of nuts, beans and other pulses also increased.

But Slater, who teaches community nutrition at the university, warned against reading too much into some of the statistics.

She pointed out a lot of the increase in cereal consumption came from refined white flour, which has the bran and much of the fibre removed. Consumption of rice is up, mainly because of Asian immigration, but most of the rice is likely white, not whole grain.

Cheese, which is high in butterfat and salt, is up, as is the amount of sugar and syrup in the Canadian diet.

Slater noted soft drink consumption is down slightly. But coffee consumption in 2009 was up 3.6 per cent to 90 litres per person, as Canadians continue to pursue their daily caffeine habit.

And an increase in the consumption of high-energy drinks more than compensates for the drop in soft drink consumption, she said.

In a 2009 paper published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, Slater argued increased energy consumption from such products contributes more to obesity than the lack of physical activity does.

StatsCan reported the total dairy intake of calories per person fell to 2,358 calories, down by 155 since the peak in 2001.

But that’s an across-the-board figure for Canadians of all ages and the figure for the adult population is probably higher, Slater said.

“We’re still nowhere near where we need to be.” [email protected]

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