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#ParentingWins: Understanding the Importance of Healthy Eating

July 25, 2017

By Ellen Gregg, Public Health Nutritionist, Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services

Often people believe that diet quality is not important as long as children are physically active. To clarify messages around the importance of healthy eating and physical activity, and to increase support for making changes to retail food environments, Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services (ROWPHE) launched four animated videos in May 2017. A description of each video follows:

Eat Well, Be Active: Highlights the importance of physical activity AND healthy eating for optimal physical and mental health.

Food Rewards: Highlights the importance of rewarding children with something other than food after physical activity.

Moderation for Children: Provides an objective definition of moderation to put current eating habits into perspective and explains how to eat favourite food and beverages without significantly compromising diet quality.

Sports Snacks for Kids: Conveys the message that water is all that is needed after physical activity.

The videos are shared on the Region of Waterloo Public Health YouTube page and have been promoted through a #parentingwins social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Some municipalities in Waterloo Region are also showing the videos in their recreation settings.

Background: ROWPHE has participated in the Food Retail Environments Shaping Health Intervention Toolkit (FRESH-IT) research project since 2015. Dr. Catherine Mah and Dr. Leia Minaker are the project leads for the study, which is funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research. This knowledge translation project aimed to find out what it takes to get decision-makers to say “yes” to giving priority to healthy food and beverages in food retail settings.

Previous work by Dr. Minaker found that Waterloo Region is a food swamp. There is too much exposure to less healthy food and beverages, which makes it difficult for individuals to maintain a healthy eating pattern. Only 0.3% of the population in Waterloo Region follows healthy eating recommendations.

We invited members of the Waterloo Region Healthy Kids Community Challenge Steering Committee to take part in the study focused on retail food settings in municipally funded recreation settings in Waterloo Region. Each municipality received an assessment on each of their retail food settings including information on: access to tap water (based on Bright Bites Water Access Scan Tool), the presence of marketing less healthy food and beverages, availability of healthier choices in concessions and vending machines (based on Nutrition Standards for Workplaces) as well as the relative price of healthier compared to less healthy food and beverage choices.

After presenting the results to each municipality, stakeholders were invited to a forum. Forum presentations included: Frank Prospero on changes he made in his recreation centre in North Dumfries, Dr. Kim Raine on the importance of healthy food and beverages in retail food settings in recreation centres, Katie Neil on the promising financial results from a pilot in Oxford County and Dr. Leia Minaker on how the food environment influences individual food choices. Since the forum, some of the municipalities in Waterloo Region have been working towards creating healthier retail food environments in their recreation settings.

For more information, contact: 

Ellen Gregg, Public Health Nutritionist
Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services


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