Category Archives: Health

“Eating You Alive” Documentary Screening and Q&A on November 21, 2017

On November 21, 2017 from 6-10pm at St. Paul’s University, the NCVA will be hosting a screening of Eating You Alive, a documentary about the link between chronic disease and nutrition, and how a plant-based diet can help to prevent and reverse certain chronic diseases. The event will include a talk and a Q&A with Dr. Jennifer Purdy, MD, and Susan Macfarlane, RD.

Tickets are $5 each and can be bought through the Eventbrite Page.

Here is the schedule for the evening, as I found it on the Eventbrite Page:

Featuring leading medical experts and researchers, Eating You Alive takes a scientific look at the reasons we’re so sick, who’s responsible for feeding us the wrong information and how we can use whole-food, plant-based nutrition to take control of our health—one bite at a time. Trailer: https://goo.gl/8JLL7B

6pm – Dr. Jennifer Purdy GP and Susan Macfarlane RD will open the evening with a short talk. Dr Purdy will speak to the link between chronic pain and diet.

Dr. Purdy is a family medicine doctor in Ottawa. She has a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell, and she is a member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Susan Macfarlane is a Registered Dietitian who specializes in plant-based nutrition, eating disorders, weight management, and sports nutrition.

6:30pm – Screening of EATING YOU ALIVE (1hr 50mins).

8:30pm – Q&A / Dr Purdy and Susan will address concerns and questions until 10pm

Please bring your own bottled water. The Green Door is across the street, on Main St, if you’d like to eat before arriving. It offers plenty of vegan options.

Petition to the Government of Canada Regarding Food Policy

Recently I found out about a new petition that was posted on the Parliament of Canada’s E-petitions website. The petition, which is being sponsored by Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, is calling for all public canteens under federal jurisdiction to serve a vegan option (and for the federal government to work with the provinces and territories to implement this law at their levels, as well).

The main part of the petition reads, “We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to require public canteens under federal jurisdiction to provide a vegan option, and to raise this issue and work with provincial and territorial counterparts to require the same at all levels of government.”

Judging by the way that the petition is worded, it sounds like, if the petition becomes law, this could lead to hospitals, schools, universities, colleges, prisons, and other public institutions to be required to serve a vegan option. This would be a win for people who live a vegan lifestyle, for, as a matter of human rights, it is essential that vegans have access to vegan food.

Furthermore, this would help encourage more people to eat a vegan diet, and it could help to indirectly raise awareness about veganism and to help people realize what vegan food actually is.

In March 2017, Portugal passed a law requiring all public canteens (at hospitals, schools, prisons, etc.) to serve a vegan option. Canada needs a law like this, too!

Canadian citizens are able to sign the petition and read more about it here. The petition is open until November 29, 2017, at 2:32 p.m. EDT.

Front-of-Package Nutrition Labelling: Stakeholder Meeting

The Canadian government is developing new regulations that would require front-of-package labelling for foods high in sugar, saturated fat, and sodium.

This image, from the consultation document (by the Food Directorate) found on the Government of Canada’s website, is titled “Figure 1: Examples of FOP “high in” symbol under consideration by Health Canada“.

Canada Front-of-Package Labelling

 

Front-of-package labelling is an issue that may be of interest to many health-concerned people. It is specifically relevant to vegans because most of the foods that are high in saturated fats are animal-derived; however, foods that are high in sugars may or may not be vegan, so more research would need to be done to determine if these new labelling requirements would actually benefit animals.

The consultation is now closed, but if this is a topic that interests you, you might want to check out the live-streaming of an upcoming meeting with stakeholders on the subject. You can get your free tickets on Eventbrite.

Have a nice day!

Our Voices Are Being Heard!

By Carolyn Harris

(This blog post is also posted on Carolyn’s personal advocacy blog.)

Many of you may recall that last year, Health Canada was holding Phase 1 of its public consultation on revising Canada’s Food Guide. Canadians were invited to submit their opinions and experiences with the Food Guide using an online form on http://www.foodguideconsultation.ca. In total, 19,873 submissions were received (although participants were able to make submissions more than once). Of those, 14,297 were from the general public, 5,096 were from professionals, and 461 were from organizations (the NCVA was one of those organizations!). Now, several documents have been released, including one reviewing the input that has been heard from the Canadian public; an “Evidence review for dietary guidance”; and a proposed description of “Guiding Principles, Recommendations, and Considerations” for healthy eating.

These documents are very encouraging for those of us who are working to spread the vegan/plant-based/vegetarian message! I am saving the best news for later on in this blog post (under the subheading “Guiding Principles”), but I recommend that you read the whole post to get a more complete picture of how the proposed dietary recommendations relate to plant-based eating.

Public Input from Phase 1 of the Consultation

First, let’s look at the document, “Canada’s Food Guide Consultation – Phase 1 What We Heard Report”.

Happily, veganism, vegetarianism, and plant-based diets are mentioned in the document a few times!

The document can be found in full on the Government of Canada website. Below, I have included 7 excerpts from the document that mention veganism, vegetarianism, and related issues.

1) When asked how useful the current Four Food Groups were, participants expressed the following: “Current food groupings (such as Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives) were considered useful, to at least “some extent”, due to their simplicity, however less useful to some because of their departure from the nutritional components, lack of applicability to all circumstances and needs such as for a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle or dietary restrictions.” (found in Section 4.0)

2) “Other personal interests in healthy eating recommendations that were mentioned by participants include:

  • improving the health of all Canadians in general;
  • having a focus on dietary choices such as vegetarianism and veganism;
  • managing food intolerances/allergies;
  • disease management/managing health conditions, such as diabetes;
  • concerns about the environment or animal welfare;
  • support for educational study; or
  • to aid their own involvement in a social or community group related to personal wellbeing, such as:
    • a healthy lifestyle
    • fitness
    • weight loss” (found in Section 5.1)

3) “Participants were very positive about the prospect of revisions to Canada’s Food Guide. For some, the current format offers a simple way to structure thinking about healthy eating and encourages Canadians to think about healthy eating principles. Others felt that the current recommendations are misleading and that revisions would be helpful to ensure the recommendations are useful to a broader audience.” (found in Section 5.2)

4) “Generally, participants from the public, professionals and organizations felt that dietary guidance should cover a broad range of needs. Feedback received from contributors on potential content of the guidance included:

  • more focus on audience specific recommendations, particularly for those with lower incomes, elderly Canadians and children;
  • inclusion of guidance addressing a range of lifestyle choices/dietary restrictions; and,
  • more details related to the nutrient requirements for positive health outcomes, such as a focus on macronutrients and micronutrients essential for health.

A few participants also commented on a need for broader changes to the food industry beyond guidance materials to more specific policy changes to improve the health of Canadians by limiting options that negatively affect human health.” (found in Section 5.2)

5) “Many general public participants indicated that the current food groupings were useful to them, to at least “some extent”. They often cited the simplicity of the groupings as a good foundation for building awareness of healthy eating habits. Others felt the groupings were not useful due to their:

  • departure from the nutritional components (micro and macro nutrients) in foods essential for positive health outcomes; and
  • lack of ability to apply the groupings to all circumstances and needs, such as for:
    • vegan or vegetarian lifestyles
    • other dietary restrictions” (found in Section 5.4)

6) “A greater emphasis on (or de-emphasis of) certain foods was recommended by participating professionals as a way to improve the usefulness of the food groupings. For example, some contributors suggested this could include:

  • a greater emphasis on vegetables, rather than fruits; or
  • a de-emphasis of meat or milk” (found in Section 5.4)

7) “While there are mixed perspectives, both positive and negative, on the value of Canada’s Food Guide in its current format (including the content and recommendations specifically), many general public and professional/organizational participants agree that Canada’s Food Guide may no longer be reflective of the increasingly varied diets of Canadians today.

There are different, more varied food types on the tables of Canadians than ever before, due to the rise of trends, such as:

  • community gardening;
  • gluten-free products;
  • an emphasis on whole foods and plant-based diets; and
  • the greater variety of traditional cuisines of Canada’s multicultural population.

There is a call for healthy eating recommendations to be expanded to:

  • reflect this greater variety;
  • provide a basis of scientific evidence;
  • provide more details to Canadians about the foods they are consuming; and
  • create guidance to inform healthy eating behaviours.” (Section 6.0)

It seems that the government is starting to hear the logic of our movement. That’s not all the good news, however. There’s more!

“Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance”

The document “Evidence review for dietary guidance” does not mention plant-based eating, vegetarian diets, or vegan diets. However, they did make some comments about how some people are concerned about industry influence on Canada’s Food Guide:

“Another reported challenge was that there remains a perception among some groups of consumers and organizations that food industry representatives exerted influence on the development of the recommendations in the Food Guide. This adversely affects the credibility of the guidance from a scientific standpoint in the eyes of these stakeholders.” (Page 5 of the PDF)

I wouldn’t be surprised if concerns raised by vegans about the influence of the meat, dairy, and egg industries on the Food Guide are part of the reason why Health Canada makes this statement. I myself expressed this concern in my Op-Ed on the Epoch Times’ website last year.

Guiding Principles

Health Canada has also released a document outlining the proposed Guiding Principles, Recommendations, and Considerations for healthy eating.

Here is a summarized description of the principles:

(Source: Government of Canada)

A detailed description of the Guiding Principles is also available on the Government of Canada website. The word “plant-based” is used 6 times in the Guiding Principles document, and in 5 of those times it is used positively! Here are 4 excerpts from the document that mention plant-based food:

1) “Health Canada recommends:

  • Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich foods* – especially plant-based sources of protein
  • Inclusion of foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat, instead of foods that contain mostly of saturated fat
  • Regular intake of water

*Protein-rich foods include: legumes (such as beans), nuts and seeds, soy products (including fortified soy beverage), eggs, fish and other seafood, poultry, lean red meats (including game meats such as moose, deer and caribou), lower fat milk and yogurt, cheeses lower in sodium and fat. Nutritious foods that contain fat such as homogenized (3.25% M.F.) milk should not be restricted for young children.”

Note that plant-based sources of protein are mentioned first on the list of protein-rich food sources! It looks like the plant-based/vegan/vegetarian message is doing better than many of us may have thought!

2) “What is needed is a shift towards a high proportion of plant-based foods, without necessarily excluding animal foods altogether.”

While the second part of this sentence may initially seem a bit disappointing, they do seem to be making progress in the right direction. Also, consider the fact that Health Canada actually mentions the idea of excluding animal products altogether; the way they phrase the sentence (“without necessarily excluding” (italics added by me)) makes me think that they don’t think that excluding animal products is at all far-fetched.

3) “A shift towards more plant-based foods can help Canadians:

  • eat more fibre-rich foods;
  • eat less red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat); and
  • replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat (e.g., cream, high fat cheeses and butter) with foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat (e.g., nuts, seeds, and avocado).

To help meet these recommendations, Canadians can choose nutritious foods and beverages, including:

  • foods and beverages that require little or no preparation such as fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruit, canned legumes or fish, tofu, plain milk or fortified plant-based beverages;
  • foods and beverages that are pre-packaged for convenience (such as pre-washed salad greens, pre-cut fruit) or to increase shelf-life (such as powdered milk);
  • foods like nuts, seeds, fatty fish, avocado, and vegetable oils instead of foods like high fat cheeses and cream; and
  • foods obtained through gardening, hunting, trapping, fishing and harvesting.”

Apart from the last bullet point and the recommendations of fish and milk, and, I am encouraged by with the progressive thinking in terms of plant-based eating that is demonstrated here.

4) “In general, diets higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods are associated with a lesser environmental impact, when compared to current diets high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat.”

Overall, I am quite impressed with the receptiveness to vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based eating that the government has shown in this first phase of the consultation. However, there is still definite room for improvement.

Next Steps

Our job is not over yet!

Phase 2 of the public consultation is being held from June 10 untilJuly 25, 2017. In this new phase, Canadians are being asked to submit their input on the proposed Guiding Principles for healthy eating.

I have already submitted my input. Although I did suggest that plant-based eating be further emphasized (and that meat, dairy and other animal products be further de-emphasized), I chose to focus my comments on the positive aspects of the proposed new recommendations, as they appear to be a major improvement from the current Food Guide. I want to encourage the government to keep the progress they have made, at the very least. It is likely that many groups will be submitting their comments to the government on the proposed recommendations, so it is important for vegans and vegetarians to speak up and let the government know that we care about this issue.

 

You can submit your comments at www.foodguideconsultation.ca. Thank you for caring!

Links:

Canada’s Food Guide Consultation – Phase 1 What We Heard Report

Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance: Summary of Results and Implications for Canada’s Food Guide

Summary of Guiding Principles and Recommendations

Guiding Principles

Canada’s Food Guide Should Recommend a Vegan Diet (my Op-Ed)

Join us at our screening of “What the Health” on May 24, 2017!

On May 24, 2017, the NCVA (in partnership with Strawberry Blonde Bakery) will be screening the documentary What the Health!

You may have heard about this documentary before– it’s by the creators of the well-known documentary Cowspiracy. What the Health is about “the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick”, according to the documentary’s website.

After the documentary screening, there will be a panel discussing the issue further.

For more information on the event and to get your tickets (admission by donation), please see the Eventbrite Page. Additionally, you may wish to share the event through the event page on Facebook.

Canada Food Guide Consultation

Health Canada is consulting with the public as part of the revision process of the Canada Food Guide. They’re encouraging Canadians to fill out an online questionnaire about what should be changed about the Food Guide and the way it is presented.

Currently, the Canada Food Guide doesn’t even mention vegetarian or vegan diets. If you think that the Food Guide should do more to accommodate and emphasize the benefits of a plant-based diet, why not tell them that in their online public consultation survey? This stage of the consultation will remain open until December 8, 2016.

Here are some quotations that you may wish to give in your responses to the open-answer questions:

  • Dietitians of Canada: “A healthy vegan diet has many health benefits including lower rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.”
  • American Dietetic Association: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
  • World Health Organization: “Specific recommendations for a healthy diet include: eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains; cutting down on salt, sugar and fats. It is also advisable to choose unsaturated fats, instead of saturated fats and towards the elimination of trans-fatty acids.”
  • A study conducted by students at the University of Oxford found that if the world went vegan, millions of human lives would be saved due to dramatic reductions in the incidence of chronic disease: “A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save up to 8 million lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion (U.S.). … They found that adopting diets in line with global dietary guidelines could avoid 5.1 million deaths per year by 2050. Even greater benefits could come from vegetarian diets (avoiding 7.3 million deaths) and vegan diets (avoiding 8.1 million deaths).”

You may also wish to suggest that Health Canada look at Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s “The New Four Food Groups”.

Carolyn

Giving Kids a Plant-Based Education

By Carolyn Harris

A new school year is starting, and kids are going to be learning about health and nutrition at school. Unfortunately, much of the nutrition information taught in schools today is based on Canada’s Food Guide, which is biased in favour of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. In fact, when the 1992 version of Canada’s Food Guide was released, the meat, dairy, and egg industries successfully lobbied the government to increase the recommended number of servings of these products. More recently, the 2003 version of the Food Guide was revised by a panel that included food industry lobby groups. More information on this subject can be found in this article.

With pizza days, Subway sandwich days, and milk delivery being considered the norm in elementary schools, it can be helpful for veg teachers and parents to take some time to teach their students and children about healthy plant-based nutrition.

Both scientific studies and anecdotal evidence show us that people at all stages of life– including children– can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet. Moreover, vegans and vegetarians are less likely to suffer from various chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, and more. Raising kids on a plant-based diet, as long as it is done properly, is a great way to teach them healthy living, compassion, and sustainability– values that will guide them throughout their lives.

If you’re an educator or a parent looking to teach your kids or students about plant-based eating, there are many educational resources available. Here are just a few of them.

The Physician’s Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM) provides resources for schools that promote a healthy vegan diet. Elementary school students can enjoy these “Power Plate” colouring pages that illustrate the elements of a healthy meal, along with this word-search puzzle and extra colouring sheet.

Teachers and parents can educate themselves on the ins and outs of vegan nutrition for children in PCRM’s adorable “Nutrition for Kids” PDF booklet. (Seriously, the way they’ve styled the fruits and veggies is so cute– check it out for yourself and you’ll see what I mean!)

More materials to use in the classroom, including printable posters, can be found on PCRM’s “Resources for schools” webpage, and resources for parents can be found under “Resources for Parents”. PCRM also gives advice to those looking to introduce more vegan options in their cafeterias. Students can follow these tips, while parents and educators can find advice on the resources pages mentioned above.

For older (high school age) students, “The New Four Food Groups” poster can be printed out and distributed to students, or used as a wall chart.

The Vegan Society (in the UK) also provides resources that can be used in schools, such as vegan food guide posters that kids can colour. The posters can be ordered from The Vegan Society’s online store— each pack contains a black-and-white poster to be coloured in, as well as a full-colour poster, and on the back of the poster are nutritional recommendations.

The Vegan Society also sells a colourful vegan nutrition chart that shows from which foods one can get different vitamins and minerals– a great thing to have on the wall of a classroom, playroom, or kitchen to encourage kids (and adults) to eat a wide variety of vegetables and other healthy vegan foods!

In addition, vegan parents may find that getting kids involved in preparing vegan meals– and explaining in depth to the kids why the family is vegan– can help kids become committed to veganism in the long term.

What resources and strategies do you use to educate kids about plant-based nutrition? Let us know in the comments below!