Knowing where food comes from and how it is grown and harvested as well as how to choose foods for optimum nutrition is the focus of March's national Nutrition Month campaign.
The theme this year is "Celebrate food ... from field to table!" and a survey released in time for the annual campaign sponsored by the Dietitians of Canada shows that Canadians favour food produced in this country.
Of all the foods produced in Canada, the most popular identified by respondents were beef, cheese, corn on the cob, potatoes, apples and maple syrup.
The online Ipsos Reid/Dietitians of Canada survey of 2,201 Canadians conducted from Nov. 25 to Dec. 8, 2009, also found 86 per cent of respondents feel confident the food they eat in Canada is safe.
As well, 96 per cent believe that the term "healthy" describes foods found in their region while most others say that the words "fresh" (94 per cent), "abundant" (88 per cent), "diverse" (85 per cent) and "good value" (82 per cent) also describe their regionally produced foods well.
Finally, almost eight in 10 (78 per cent) agree that it is important for them to know where their food is grown.
"The big impetus is to get people to focus on understanding where their food comes from other than assuming everything is just neat because it comes from the grocery store in a pretty package," says Dietitians of Canada spokesperson Mary Bamford.
"We need to have Canadians question what they are actually feeding their families," the Toronto dietitian adds. "Is it food or a food-like substance?"
The survey found that 59 per cent believe it to be true that fruits and vegetables produced closer to where they live contain more nutrients than those that have travelled from afar, while 41 per cent think this claim is false.
It also found that as a way of controlling their food bills, eight in 10 Canadians are cooking at home more often.
Likely in order to save money due to the struggling economy over the past year, many Canadians are also checking weekly flyers for sales or are using coupons (76 per cent). The survey found too that almost half are going without more costly food (49 per cent) and are buying in bulk (44 per cent), while others are buying from a farmers market (27 per cent) and growing their own garden (24 per cent).
Bamford says that gardening at home is a growing trend, and it doesn't have to be on a large scale.
"You can grow some tomatoes in a pot, vegetables on a terrace, balcony window or in a small corner of your yard."
If gardening isn't an option, Bamford suggests shopping at the growing number of farmers markets across Canada.
"Take the kids and ask the farmers some questions about how he or she grows their fruits or vegetables, questions that many people don't have the answer to anymore."
During these shopping expeditions at the market, let your children choose a new food each visit, Bamford suggests.
In celebration of healthy eating, dietitians across Canada unite to organize events and communications to reinforce the importance of nutrition for health and well-being. Nutrition Month stimulates nutrition activities in communities across Canada, and shows you where to find dietitians to help with reliable nutrition information.
The 6,000-member dietitians organization offers other suggestions to help your community promote healthier food.
- Start, support or get involved with local community garden projects to grow fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
- Work with your local school board to create ways to showcase locally produced foods either in the classroom or in school cafeterias.
- Ask your grocery store to carry more locally grown foods. Enjoy foods during the appropriate seasons.
For example local lettuce, asparagus and fiddleheads are plentiful, fresh and affordable in the spring. Strawberries grace fields in June into July. As well there are later harvests in August.
Peaches, beans, corn, broccoli and tomatoes hit the shelves in August and apples and root vegetables are plentiful in October and November.