Women focus more on diet
By Caroline Greene
Canadians, especially men, are less concerned about their eating habits than they were three years ago.
Tracking Nutrition Trends, a survey released by the National Institute of Nutrition, shows although overall interest in nutrition remains high, three quarters of women consider nutrition to be extremely or very important compared to a little over half of men a gender gap which has grown from 13 per cent in 1994 to 22 per cent in 1997.
The gender gap could be due to the greater involvement of women in food shopping and preparing meals, said communications manager for NIN Sheryl Conrad.
Women who participated in the survey were specific about what they were doing to eat better by including fruits and vegetables in their diets and choosing lower fat products. Men, on the other hand, took a more general approach through maintaining regular meals, controlling portions and watching weight or calories.
The main obstacle to healthy eating noted in the survey was a hectic lifestyle. Most Canadians have the financial means to secure a healthy diet, however, among students and the unemployed, this is a problem, Conrad said. Approximately three out of 10 Canadians admit they rarely eat breakfast, particularly young Canadians.
Conrad encourages students to think ahead and stock their kitchens with a variety of food which need not be expensive, so they can prepare quick meals which are still nutritionally balanced. "You don't want to get in the trap of eating the same thing day in and day out."
Len Piché, associate professor of the Brescia College nutrition program, said he is not surprised by the results because women tend to focus more on diet and health issues than men, but Piché also suggests people have to recognize whether the gap actually exists.
"The gap could occur because men have become less interested in health issues or women more interested." Interest could also depend on age and the amount of risk apparent to the individual, Piché said.
Health tips for students on the go include incorporating some healthier foods into one's diet such as a piece of fruit or drink box instead of typical fast foods. "We don't say there are good foods and bad foods but rather everything in moderation."
Along with nutrition, fitness is vitally important to a healthy lifestyle. "Healthy eating and physical activity are the two cornerstones of health," said communications officer for the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, Angele Beaulieu.
A 1988 study released by the institute found people who are active had a greater tendency to adhere to the Canada Food Guide. In general, middle-aged men tend to overeat while young women tend to undereat, Beaulieu added.