Quality counts more than calories

Feb_2017 blog_WebA recent posting in Harvard Chan’s School of Public Health’s e-newsletter brings up some important points regarding calories vs. quality. The article states that rather than focusing on calories alone, food quality is also key in determining what we should eat and what to avoid in order to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.” Instead of choosing foods based solely on the caloric value, think about choosing high-quality, healthy foods, and minimizing your intake of low-quality foods.

What is high-quality vs. low-quality?

  • High-quality foods are unrefined, minimally processed foods such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and healthy sources of protein.
  • Lower-quality foods are highly processed snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined (white) grains, refined sugar, fried foods, foods high in saturated and trans fats, and high-glycemic foods

Researchers emphasize that there isn’t one “perfect” diet for everyone, due to individual differences in genetic predisposition and lifestyle factors.  Researchers did not discount the importance of calories, instead suggesting that choosing high-quality foods (and reducing lower-quality foods) is important in helping individuals consume fewer calories overall.  This is helpful advice to follow whether eating at home or dining out – look for restaurants that offer menu items made with fresh and high-quality foods.

Menu labelling has arrived in Ontario!

Now that the new legislation is here restaurant goers will begin to notice calorie counts posted in restaurants and other food service venues like grocery stores and movie theatres.

What does this mean?
labelled menu board Jan_17It means that each regular menu item should have a calorie count beside it in the same prominence on the menu as the name of the item or its price. It may be a single number or it may be a range, depending on the items and how it can be ordered.

For instance, an item (like a burger) which can be ordered with different toppings and side dishes will show a range of caloric values. It is up to the customer to decipher the information as it pertains to how they are ordering the menu item.

The contextual statement
In addition, each menu or menu board will also display a contextual statement which provides diners within information on how many calories the average person needs in one day.  It states “The average adult requires approximately 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day; however, needs may vary.” This is just a guideline as people’s caloric needs vary greatly depending on factors like age, sex and activity levels.

Will this change your decision when dining out?
Toronto Public Health believes that menu labelling is one tool to help consumers make an informed decision about what they are eating when dining out. We hope you will find the new menu information helpful and would love to hear how (or if) our readers use it when making your decisions.  Please leave a comment below or send an email to savvydiner@toronto.ca.

Healthy eating during the holidays

The holiday season is here which means many of us are dining out more often due to busy schedules and festive parties!   Health Canada provides some great tips so you can still enjoy your favourite holiday foods and keep your commitment to eating well.

You may have noticed by now that some Ontario restaurants have begun posting calories on their menus and menu boards.  Larger chain restaurants in Ontario, with 20 locations or more, have until January 1st to comply with the new menu labelling requirements legislated under the Bill 45 Making Healthier Choices Act. Menu labelling will help people make informed choices about the food they eat when dining out and we are very excited to begin 2017 on a healthier note.

Winners of the Savvy Diner Culinary Challenge!

On November 17, 2016 Toronto Public Health (TPH) hosted the first Savvy Diner Culinary Challenge with students from Humber and Centennial colleges. The objective of the challenge was to increase knowledge about nutrition among prospective chefs, with the goal that they will incorporate healthier options in their menus.

Culinary Challenge Winners

A big congratulations to the winners Amber Bell and Emma Marple from Humber College’s Food and Nutrition program and their instructors Tina Horsley and Shonah Chalmers.  Their winning recipe (PDF) was Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Dill Roasted Vegetables.  All teams did a fantastic job of showcasing their skills and talents and we thank them for their enthusiasm and participation in the event

Local celebrity judges Rose Reisman, a leading health expert, author and media personality, Ted Reader, a celebrity chef and author of several cookbooks, and John Cirillo, an award-winning, world-class chef and culinary academy operator, were on hand to assess the students’ dishes. The dishes were judged based on nutrition criteria, taste, food temperature, team work, cooking technique, safe food handling and ease of replication in a restaurant setting.  Chef Mark Wilson and Chef Tony Fernandes were also there to advise and monitor the food preparation.

We commend the students and their instructors for taking on the task of creating nutritious menu entrees and learning how to prepare a meal that inspires healthier eating choices for consumers when dining out.  Well done students!!

Bill 45 – Are you ready?

Menu labelling is coming soon to restaurant chains in Ontario 

savvydinersamplemenurev4Beginning January 1st, 2017 Ontario will be the first province in Canada to mandate calorie postings on menus. This is great news as many of us want to make healthier food choices when dining out!

Bill 45 requires that all restaurants and food service establishments in Ontario with 20 locations or more post the number of calories for each food and beverage item on their menu or menu board. They will also be required to display the recommended daily calorie requirements to help consumers make informed choices. This applies to all large food chain restaurants including locations such as fast food restaurants, movie theatres, supermarkets and convenience stores.

Helping Ontario residents make healthier choices is a big investment toward improving the overall health of our population. The implementation of Bill 45, Healthy Menu Choices Act is a big step and we commend the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for making this happen.

Learn more about the implementation and requirements for Bill 45.