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Overview of Canadians' Eating Habits

by Didier Garriguet


At home, at work or at school, in a five-star restaurant or in a neighbourhood take-out, Canadians are confronted by an ever-increasing variety of foods. Grocery stores now offer an abundance of imported products, along with frozen meals that can be prepared in minutes to satisfy the needs of time-crunched households. Fresh fruits and vegetables that were once considered exotic are available throughout the year. Technology has made it possible to genetically modify foods. (Royal Society of Canada 2001) Some foods are irradiated to prolong their shelf life. And today, fast food is part of a typical diet.

In the midst of this array of choices, just what are Canadians eating? Do they eat enough vegetables, drink enough milk, consume too much fat?

This report, the first in a series, presents the initial results of the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS): Nutrition, which was designed to answer some of these questions. It is the first national survey of Canadians’ eating habits since the early 1970s and is the largest and most comprehensive survey of its kind ever conducted in Canada.

Throughout 2004, in face-to-face interviews, over 35,000 people were asked to recall what they had eaten during the previous 24 hours. The survey also asked when they ate—breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks—and where the food they ate was prepared—at home, in restaurants, in fast-food outlets.

This report is an overview of what Canadians are eating: how many calories they consume; whether they eat the daily minimum recommended number of servings (Health Canada 1997) of vegetables and fruit, milk products, meat and alternatives and grain products; and what percentage of their total calories come from fat, protein and carbohydrates. Regional and economic differences in consumption patterns are examined. To provide some historical context, conclusions from the last national survey of Canadian dietary habits, the 1970-1972 Nutrition Canada Survey, are also presented.

(See Appendix A for data sources and analytical techniques, Appendix B for one-day versus usual intake, Appendix C for definitions, and Appendix D for limitations.)

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Date modified: 2006-09-19 Important Notices
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