Here’s our Advice to the Ontario Minister of Health…What’s Yours?

On October 9th, Ontario Minister of Health Deb Matthews announced that the government will be introducing legislation this winter which will require large chain restaurants in the province to post calorie and other nutritional information on restaurant menus.

We know that Savvy Diners in Toronto are really interested in seeing nutritional information, especially calorie and sodium values, on restaurants menus.

And there are a lot of good reasons why including sodium in the menu labelling rules would make sense. But so far, the Ministry of Health has not committed to including sodium since the emphasis has been on preventing childhood obesity, and thus on calories.

Here is an infographic that Toronto Public Health submitted to the Health Minister (we also submitted our other recommendations for provincial menu labelling legislation).

Why the Province Should Mandate Sodium Values on Menus Why the Province Should Mandate Sodium Values on Menus Page 2

There is only one day left for you to share YOUR opinions with the Health Minister. Take 10 minutes to complete the survey before the deadline of November 15th (Note: the first part of the survey asks about your views on reducing the marketing of foods and beverages aimed at children).


Hypertension Canada Shakes Up Sodium Guidelines


You may have heard the news that Hypertension Canada, a not-for-profit agency dedicated to the prevention and control of high blood pressure, is recommending that the daily sodium intake level be raised 2000 mg per day. Apparently, a task force of blood pressure experts reviewed the latest evidence and proposed the change after significant debate.

It is yet to be seen whether Hypertension Canada’s recommendation will become official federal government policy in Canada and the U.S. through a revision to the Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intakes which still tell healthy middle aged adults aged to aim for 1500 mg of sodium per day.

In case anyone is confusing this updated recommendation with a free pass to up their sodium intake… not so fast. The average Canadian already consumes 3400 mg per day, which is 1.5 times this new sodium target. That’s the amount of sodium in seven cheeseburgers!


The reality is that most Canadians are already overdoing it on salt, so reducing our intakes to 2000 mg per day would actually be a big improvement. Plus, Hypertension Canada’s recommendation for the daily sodium limit (2300 mg) didn’t change. Too much sodium will still increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, a precursor to a range of health conditions.

With the average sit-down restaurant meal in Canada having nearly 2300 mg of sodium in it, there’s no question that menu labelling could help us make better choices when dining out. We’ve heard that calories will soon be required on Ontario menus, but the province is completing consultations before deciding whether other nutrition numbers will be needed as well.

Savvy Diners can be assured that we are working hard to push for sodium to be included in the proposed legislation. And now… you can tell the Minister of Health (through an online public survey) how you feel about seeing calorie and sodium information on restaurant menus too. We hope you’ll take the time to share your thoughts on being a Savvy Diner!

Reading the Fine Print


It’s certainly encouraging to see the fast food industry recognize the demand for healthier options, but the claims made about these new fries are confusing.

Although advertised as having 30% fewer calories, in the fine print you’ll see this is the difference when these fries are compared to a competitor’s spuds. Swapping this option for the regular, in-house fries actually provides 20% fewer calories.

Only menu labelling would tell diners that substitution means a savings of 80 calories & 200 mg sodium for a medium order (or a savings of 70 calories and 180 mg sodium for a comparably sized small US order). Savvy Diners want greater transparency – time for this information to be on the menu!