Knowledge of recommended calorie intake
Do Canadians know how many calories they should consume to maintain their current weight? Population-based random digit dialing (RDD) phone surveys were conducted with 1,543 Canadian adults. Overall, 24% of individuals correctly stated the recommended daily calorie intake. Females, younger participants, those with higher income, more education and who consumed at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily were significantly more likely to correctly state the recommended caloric intake. The majority of participants (63%) underestimated caloric needs, while few (4%) overestimated. Approximately 82% of respondents reported considering calories when selecting foods. Respondents were more likely to consider calories if they were female, had higher income, more education, perceived themselves as overweight, were actively trying to control their weight, reported a healthier diets or consumed at least 5 fruits and vegetables daily.
Overall, although four-fifths of Canadians reported using calorie information to guide their food choices, few could identify their daily recommended calorie intake. To promote healthy weights, policy initiatives may be required to help Canadians better understand target levels for caloric intake.
Canada’s Food Guide – Knowledge
Most countries provide food-based dietary guidelines to help consumers select a healthy diet. In Canada, the official dietary guidelines are included in Canada’s Food Guide (CFG), which was developed to provide guidance on the adequate intakes of micro- and macronutrients, and includes recommendation for daily calorie consumption based on weight, sex, and physical activity level.
Intercept exit-surveys were conducted with 1,048 adults who had purchased food from a hospital cafeteria to examine knowledge with CFS’s primary recommendations. Most respondents (85.9%) reported looking at Canada’s Food Guide over their lifetime; however, less than half reported looking at the food guide in the past year. Milk and Alternatives were the most commonly recalled food group (80.1%) and Grain Products were least commonly recalled (66.0%). Of the entire sample, 42.8% correctly recalled all four food groups. Slightly more than half could recall the number of recommended servings for Milk and Alternatives (52.8%) and Meat and Alternatives (51.3%), whereas few could recall the servings for Vegetables and Fruit (18.0%) or Grain Products (6.0%).Overall, 0.8% correctly recalled the correct number of servings for all four food groups. Females, younger respondents, White participants, those with higher annual income and those who had reported looking at Canada’s Food Guide recalled more food groups.
Overall, the study found relatively low levels of reported use and very low levels of knowledge of Canada’s Food Guide, particularly among population subgroups which face health disparities. Improving awareness, knowledge and use of Canada’s Food Guide may contribute to improving the nutrition profile of diets in Canada.
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Use and sources of nutrition information
The “TNT survey was a repeat-cross sectional survey conducted in 2004, 2006, and 2008. The survey was one of the few capable of tracking changes in the use and sources of nutrition information in Canada. We found that food product labels were the most common source of nutritional information in 2008 (67%), followed by the Internet (51%) and magazines/newspapers (43%). The Internet was the only source to significantly increase during the study period; however, the frequency of reading food product labels increased since 2004. Food selection based on trans fat increased significantly in 2006 after mandatory labeling of trans fat on packaged foods. Taste and nutrition were consistently the primary factors guiding food choice. Overall, the findings indicate that food product labels and the Internet are nutrition information sources with broad reach. More comprehensive labeling regulations were associated with increased use of labels and nutrient information over time.
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