Canadians are engaging in several nutritional endeavors that we Americans may want to consider adopting. With an eye toward diet and its relation to health, the province of Quebec has just announced its own nutrition policy, based on 11 years of research and work by nutritionists within the province.
The team of experts who drafted the policy is headed by Dr. Madeleine Blanchet, a physician and epidemiologists with a strong interest in nutrition; experts from Laval University, the Medical College at Sherbrooke and the University of Montreal Medical School also took part. Their goal is to improve health through imporoved eating habits - first, by preventing malnutrition and nutritional deficiency diseases, and second, by trying to prevent disorders that stem in part from over-nutrition (such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease). Intestinal disorders associated with a lack of fiber are being considered. Finally, they also aim to reduce dental disease.
Over the next 10 years, the plan will stress a series of major steps aimed at achieving these goals; it's a plan Americans should consider. And, of course, there is no reason why you, as an individual, cannot reorganize your own nutritional priorities and adopt the recommendations. In brief, they suggest that the average person should:
Consume three meals a day, for a total of about 80 per cent of calorie needs, with small snacks providing the rest. The Canadian report quotes an old French saying: "Animals feed, human beings eat." It urges people to take time to eat, and to make meals an occasion for social interaction, not just "feeding." It also stresses the good sense of eating a good breakfast, and of not overeating.
Cut dietary consumption of sugar in half. Although French Canadians love sweets, they are urged to switch to fruit for dessert and avoid soft drinks in favor of low-fat milk or water.
Reduce the amount of fats you consume by 25 per cent. The report suggests eating less meat, particularly those that are fatty. It also urges passing up fried foods and fatty spreads on bread and sandwiches. The use of low-fat milk, yogurt and cheeses also is being promoted.
Increase the proportion of starch and fiber in the diet. This can be done by eating whole fruits, raw vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and by using more dried beans, peas and lentils.
Conserve the nutritive value of all foods by storing foods under refrigeration, avoiding overcooking and eating food as soon as possible after cooking.
Eat a wide variety of foods, because diversity helps ensure a well-balanced diet.
Combine diet and exercise. It is also important to control alcoholic intake.
Do these recommendations sound familiar? In many respects, they resemble the dietary goals outlined by the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs almost a year ago.