As the population ages, our obsession with health intensifies. The relationship between the two is clear and, in recent years, we’ve become über-focused on healthy food — as witnessed by the growth of vegetarianism, ethically produced meats and organics. In our quest to live longer, we’re working harder at staying out of the hospital. For their part, hospitals and institutions are working to reinvent themselves and become progressive in their attempt to offer food that’s fresh, healthy and not boring (see story on p. 20).
For some reason, we’ve accepted the notion that food in hospitals and schools doesn’t need to be exciting. But isn’t it time we shed those antiquated notions by breathing new life into menus?
In recent years, there’s been a few examples of hospitals that have attempted to do so and produced good results. For example, five years ago, chef and food advocate Joshna Maharaj proved that the quality of food in hospitals and schools could be vastly improved by changing up the kitchen routines of both Toronto’s Scarborough General Hospital and Ryerson University. In her mission to do so, she focused on purchasing more local food, changing the make-up of the menu to reflect the food culture of the community the institutions served and offering up more scratch cooking and less frozen, processed foods.
Change is also happening in schools. Recently, the province of New Brunswick decided to ban chocolate milk, as well as other flavoured milks and juices, in schools. And, while the move may seem extreme — as a recent story in the Globe and Mail pointed out — given obesity rates hover at 30 per cent for Canadian children between five and 17, it’s not unreasonable that governments and schools are encouraging the consumption of less sugary drinks and foods.
As a society, don’t we owe it to ourselves to teach our children to make sound food choices from a young age and to understand the relationship between food and their bodies? As parents, if we arm our children with healthy-eating options from a young age — and then strengthen that approach by providing healthy choices in the home, restaurants and the school system, including universities and colleges — we ensure a healthier society. We also need to better understand the healing power of food. As an example, according to a new JAMA Oncology study, cited in the summer issue of Cooking Light magazine, by lowering their fat intake to about 20 per cent of their daily calories (instead of the average 30 per cent) and eating more fruits, veggies and whole grains, women with cancer reduced their risk of dying from the disease by 22 per cent. Clearly, healthy eating benefits all of us and we all have a role to play in understanding that and promoting it.