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Price, access make it difficult for Atlantic Canadians to eat healthy

The latest Eating Patterns in Canada study shows that Atlantic Canadians are more concerned about nutrition but price and access to fresh foods may be affecting their diets


Toronto – Atlantic Canadians may be more concerned about nutrition, but only a small number feel they know a lot about it.

According to the 15th edition of Eating Patterns in Canada, only 14 per cent of Atlantic Canadians feel they know more about nutrition than most, compared to an average 20 per cent for the country.

The study, from The NPD Group, says this sentiment is reflected in the Atlantic Canadian diet.

When these consumers go looking for a snack, they’re more likely to reach for potato chips or chocolate (both seven per cent), whereas the rest of Canadians are more likely to reach for fruit.

In a region where the population skews older on average than the rest of the country, Atlantic Canadians only include store-fresh vegetables in 13 per cent of meals, and according to Health Canada, have at least 65 per cent overweight/obese citizens in three our of four provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

Limited access

“Though they seem to be having a more challenging time managing their eating habits, our research shows that Atlantic Canadians are actually more concerned about nutrition than other regions,” says Joel Gregoire, Foodservice industry analyst at The NPD Group.

“Consumers here are trying to include more fruit and vegetables, fibre and vitamin-fortified foods in their diets, but I’ve learned that a possible limited access to fresh produce and the tendency to snack in the evenings could be making this difficult.”

As a result, more adults living here are on a diet (23 per cent) and almost half would like to lose at least 20 pounds (44 per cent).

Following this, 32 per cent are conscious of the calories they serve, an awareness that is also higher here than in the rest of the country.

Old habits die hard, however. Despite the desire to consume fewer calories, Atlantic Canadians are more likely to eat hot and hearty breakfast meals, which consist of eggs 15 per cent of the time and bacon five per cent of the time.

Further, these consumers include breads in 30 per cent of their meals and potatoes in 13 per cent, whereas rice, for example, is enjoyed more in Ontario and western Canada.

Lack of ethnic fare

“It’s no secret that the dietary staples across the country are greatly influenced by a region’s demographics, so an area with fewer visible minorities, such as Atlantic Canada, will not experience the alimentary impact that comes from living amongst various cultures,” says Gregoire. “Consequently, we’ve found that ‘foreign’ foods – many of which tend to be healthier than Canadian fare, such as with Asian cuisine – are less likely to resonate here.”

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are well developed as a share of foodservice traffic in the Atlantic region, as seven out of 10 visits are to fast-food establishments.

Also, when deciding what to prepare on a weekday evening, price is more of a concern in the Atlantic region than it is in other provinces, as noted by 28 per cent of consumers here.