Promoting healthy eating among children and youth is a serious public health challenge in Alberta and across the country. We know that diets rich in vegetables and fruit, whole grains and plant-based proteins help promote healthy childhood development and reduce chronic disease risk (Health Canada, 2017). Unfortunately, many Canadian kids are consuming high amounts of processed foods, high in calories, sugar and saturated fats, putting them at increased risk of chronic conditions (Health Canada, 2017, Heart & Stroke, 2017). Recent research commissioned by Heart & Stroke found that Canadian children and youth are getting more than 50% of their daily calories from energy-dense, nutritionally lacking products (Moubarac, 2017).
Once upon a time, we thought healthy eating simply meant making “good” food choices. As a parent, this might mean encouraging kids to eat more vegetables, limiting sugary foods at home and keeping the water jug full. These actions are important, but more and more, we are realizing that making healthy food choices is not that simple. Our eating habits and the habits we set for our kids are also influenced by the settings where we live, work and play.
From hot dog school lunches and sport team pizza specials, to fast food advertisements on TV and sugary drink ‘snap chat’ filters, one thing is clear: junk food is at kids’ finger tips everywhere they turn. And sophisticated, edgy marketing urges them to want and eat more (Heart & Stroke, 2017). A quick scan of the various places young people spend their time – from where they learn (schools), play (recreation facilities), relax (social media, TV) and socialize (malls, stores, and festivals) – it’s apparent that very few community settings are immune.
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