Canadians not consuming enough fruits and vegetables

by | Mar 7, 2014 | News

Simon Leve
News Reporter

A significant number of Canadians are familiar with nutritional guidelines but remain off the mark when it comes to following them, according to a recent EKOS poll.

The survey found roughly half of Canadians consume only one to three fruit and vegetable servings per day, less than half the recommended amount of seven to 10 servings.

In addition, more than 40 per cent of Canadians thought that four to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day were an adequate amount.

Bradley Corcoran, professor and program coordinator for Humber’s fitness and health promotion program, said the findings were concerning. “The lack of consumption of fruits and vegetables is concerning because of the body’s need for vitamins and minerals,” Corcoran said.

“These nutrients are essential to proper cell and body function and deficiencies can lead to further health problems.”

But there are also some positive findings in the poll results. About 55 per cent of survey respondents reported consuming the eight recommended cups of liquid a day.  Also, 42 per cent of respondents reported to eating protein for breakfast, which is said to stabilize blood sugar and make you feel more full, according to Rita Lee, a registered dietitian from EatRight Ontario.

While Canada’s Food Guide, the basic nutritional guidelines laid out by Health Canada, is considered a good foundation and tool, there are some questions as to how realistic it can be to follow.

Jill Fraleigh, a registered dietitian from South Lake Regional Health Centre, said she believes the guide can be difficult to follow based on Canadian culture.

“I think Canadians are generally well informed on what healthy eating is, (but) I don’t think our culture is set up to (eat well),” Fraleigh said.

“Fruits and vegetables are one of the most expensive foods and I think that’s a big problem.”

As long as unhealthy food is going to be less expensive then I think it’s going to be difficult and probably even undesirable for people to eat the healthy choice all the time.”

Fraleigh added people in general should try not to obsess over eating healthy, but rather eat in a more balanced manner, giving themselves permission to eat everything in moderation.

“What ends up happening with this whole healthy thing is for people who really, really want to be healthy they become rather obsessed and they make up all these rules about what they are allowed to eat and what they are not allowed to eat,” she said.

“And when they eat something and break their rule they usually feel they need to compensate or punish themselves in some way. I think everyone in our culture does that to differing degrees,” Fraleigh said.

The EKOS poll was conducted between Dec. 18 and 23.  The results were gathered using EKOS’ online Probit research panel, with a random and national sample of 1,250 Canadians aged 18 and older. A sample of this size provides a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.