Creating balance is key as Digby commits to healthy eating

Published on April 6, 2013

Don't expect to find pop at the Digby Canada Day celebrations this year. Party-goers will instead find their carbonated drinks replaced by juice and water.

This is one of many possible changes that residents may notice as both the town and municipality of Digby work to adopt a healthy eating policy following presentations made to councils both on March 25 and April 2.

Lisa MacAlpine, health promoter with Public Health Services in Digby County, told councils that living in a car culture with busy lives mean less time to think about what we’re eating and how we're exercising,

“We move less, our children move less. Time that used to be spent playing outside is now spent in front of a screen,”said MacAlpine.

A common argument is that if kids burn off enough energy, they can eat whatever they want, said Heather Bailey, public health nutritionist.

But this isn’t necessarily the case.

For instance, an 80 pound 12-year-old boy playing hockey for an hour will only burn 290 calories. With statistics like this, it’s easy to see how 1 in 3 Nova Scotian kids is overweight or obese.

“We can’t necessarily rely on media and marketing messages to take care of our health for us. They have other priorities and their priority is making money,” said Bailey.

It’s no accident that junk food ads are targeting kids with bright colours and friendly mascots. For instance, the 2012 advertising budget for Coca-Cola was $11 billion - this is more than double the total 2011-2012 budget of the World Health Organization with $4.5 billion.

But the power to enact change on a large scale begins locally.

In the South Shore, four out of the six municipalities have already adopted healthy eating policies.

For instance, the municipality of Clare has taken healthy eating to heart for it’s annual Canada Day celebrations by swapping hot dogs for hamburgers on whole wheat buns, cupcakes for watermelon and mini-sips for juice.

In fact, these changes were expanded to include both summer camps and March Break as well, said Andrea Gaudet, recreation director with the municipality of Clare.

A healthy eating policy may also look at what is available at community centers and arenas.

While newer facilities tend to have healthy eating policies already in place, vending machines in existing facilities don’t have healthy food options, which is counterintuitive in places like recreation centers.

“Healthy eating has to start at canteens at arenas,” said Coun. Jimmy MacAlpine.

“I remember years ago when oranges were given to hockey players.”

He thinks making a healthy eating policy a provision of the lease for renting the arena is a good idea.

“Our goal is for the town and the municipality to adopt similar or identical policies to increase healthy food practices over the next three years while decreasing access to unhealthy foods,” said Cara Sunderland, representing Digby Area Recreation Center.

The proposed changes are not likely be expensive.

“Healthy food can be big, cheap and easy,” said MacAlpine. She noted that the wholesale cost is more for unhealthy foods than it is for their healthy counterparts.

Coun. Danny Harvieux agreed.

“Looking at Canada Day budget, healthy foods are pretty close to cost,” said Harvieux.

Harvieux was later appointed as the town’s representative on the liaison committee in charge of developing a policy for healthy eating, said Mayor Ben Cleveland.

Such a policy would be phased-in over three to four years.

Municipal warden Linda Gregory was pleased with the presentations.

“It’s been well received. We’ve discussed the matter and we’re going to work with the group to develop a policy.”

The municipality will be making their choice of representative at the next Council of the Whole meeting on April 8.

The liaison committee will be comprised of the healthy eating presenters as well as representatives from local government. They'll be meeting monthly to discuss details for a health eating policy for Digby.


Epidemic of unhealthy people

SouthWest Health claims the second highest obesity rate in N.S. 65 per cent of adults over the age of 18 in Southwestern Nova Scotia are overweight or obese.

The district also has the highest rate of heart disease in the province with 9.8 per cent, and the second highest rate of diabetes at 10.5 per cent.

To put this in perspective, the average fast food meal is about 1440 calories (nearly the daily recommended intake of 2000 calories).

If you wanted to work that off with exercise, it would take eight hours walking slowly or five hours at a brisk walk for that one meal alone!