In order to look what people are actually eating and observe to see how food group intakes have changed over time, scientists at the University of British Columbia conducted two surveys between 2004 and 2015 and found a 13-per-cent decrease in the amount of fruit and vegetables being consumed by Canadians.
And while consumption of milk and dairy products also declined during the study period between 2004 and 2015, Canadians were found as eating more meat and alternatives in 2015 than they were a decade earlier.
Claire Tugault-Lafleur, a postdoctoral fellow in UBC’s food, nutrition and health said, “It is important to know the eating regimes to identify challenges and opportunities to promote healthier eating patterns among Canadians. While some studies have recently reported trends in Canadians’ intake of macronutrients like energy and total sugars, nobody had looked at differences in food group intakes during this period.”
During the study period, scientists examined dietary data from two nationwide surveys involving more than 50,000 Canadians aged two and older. In both 2004 and 2015, respondents provided information about food and beverages they had consumed in the past 24 hours.
In 2015, Canadians reported consuming an average of 4.6 servings of total fruit and vegetables daily, down from 5.2 servings per day in 2004.
The decrease was largely explained by fewer servings of vegetables (outside the dark green and orange category), potatoes, and fruit juices. On the other hand, Canadians increased their intake of dark green and orange vegetables, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds over this time, the average daily intake of other healthy dietary components like whole fruit, whole grains, fish and shellfish was stagnant. Canadians also reported fewer daily servings of fluid milk in 2015 compared to 2004.
In 2007, the Canadian government released Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. This version of the food guide included specific recommendations regarding amounts and types of foods to consume from each of the four core food groups (fruit and vegetables, grain products, milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives).
Some of the shifts uncovered by the UBC study were in line with recommendations, but many healthy food groups recommended in the 2007 guide either saw no increase (whole fruit, whole grains, fish and shellfish) or decreased (vegetables, fluid milk). This suggests that more effective efforts are needed to address barriers to healthier diets among Canadians.
Tugault-Lafleur said, “Poor diet quality is the number one contributor to the burden of chronic diseases in Canada.”
The study is published in the journal Nutrients.