Nutrition and Food Quality: Attitudes by Region

Habits vary from coast to coast, with biggest disparity between Atlantic Canada and Quebec

TORONTO, March 26, 2013 – Attitudes about nutrition and healthy eating vary from region to region, but the effects on the population are not always as expected. When planning meals, for example, consumers in Ontario show greater interest with nutrition compared to other regions (22 per cent), however overweight /obesity rates are lowest in Quebec (56 per cent). Further, though consumers in Atlantic Canada are the most cautious about serving foods with sodium and saturated fat, try to consume more foods with fibre, fruit and vegetables, and keep an eye on their cholesterol, the country’s obesity rates are highest in Newfoundland and Labrador (71 per cent). The NPD Group, a global research company, uses a number of studies to further examine these trends.

The company’s HealthTrack Canada, which tracks Canadians’ attitudes about health and diet, captures ailments, medical conditions, body mass index, and provides an overall assessment of personal health, reveals that when grocery shopping, consumers in the Atlantic region are more likely to check labels for ingredients they are trying to avoid (70 per cent), but consider taste (80 per cent) over nutrition (68 per cent). Also, despite proximity to the ocean, Atlantic Canadians report eating fish and seafood in meals at home at levels that are comparable with the rest of the country, but consume the most pork in meals at home (four per cent of meal occasions).

“Interestingly, households from the Atlantic region are the most conscious of the calories they consume, but struggle with obesity and, as a result, are the most likely to want to lose weight,” said Joel Gregoire, food industry analyst at The NPD Group and author of Eating Patterns in Canada. “That being said, these provinces recognize that there is room to improve their eating habits, but lower access levels to store-fresh fruits and vegetables might be a contributing factor in their struggle to make smarter food choices.”

Fruit, the country’s top snack food, is less commonly eaten as such in the Atlantic provinces, despite their best intentions, with Ontarians the most likely to keep fresh produce around. Many nutritionists advocate eating several small meals throughout the day and, when it comes to snacking, Western Canadians are the biggest enthusiasts (322 snack occasions per capita). Ontarians also enjoy snacking, often pre-packing those they plan to eat and carrying them from home. Residents of Quebec, however, report the fewest number of snack occasions (300 snack occasions per capita) and, despite their low obesity rates, also indulge in desserts most commonly (42 per cent more than the national average).

“Canada is not homogenous, so each region’s demographic, cultural, geographic, and economic profiles are reflected in the eating behaviors and attitudes of its population,” continued Gregoire. “Understanding these nuances is critical to successful product development and marketing efforts.”

Both the eating habits and the health outcomes are contrasting in eastern Canada, where French Canadians are more likely to satisfy their cravings more readily at meal time in comparison to their Atlantic counterparts. Further, being able to enjoy dishes that are easy to prepare is more important in Quebec. These residents are also less likely to skip breakfast, lunch and dinner (82 per cent enjoy full and regular meals daily), and refuse to deny themselves the foods they enjoy most.

This data has been compiled from the following studies from The NPD Group:

Study Name Overview
HealthTrack A series of surveys completed by the same households that have completed the National Eating Trends (NET) diaries. Among other things, households are asked questions about their concerns related to food ingredients, health and exercise, meal preparation and planning. The study also captures data on ailments and medical conditions, body mass index and overall assessment of personal health.
Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC) The definitive source for information on Canadians' eating and drinking habits.
CREST® The who, what, when and where of foodservice, operating continuously in Canada since December 1993. The sample for this service is approximately 35,000 individuals per quarter.

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Kim McLynn


The NPD Group, Inc.
900 West Shore Road
Port Washington, NY 11050

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