Helping Ontarians Make Informed Nutritional Choices
Ontario is requiring large chain food service premises, like fast food restaurants, to post calories on menus to help Ontarians to make well-informed choices about what they eat and feed their children. The Making Healthier Choices Act:
- Requires calories for standard food and beverage items, including alcohol, to be posted on menus and menu boards in restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and other food service premises with 20 or more locations in Ontario
- Requires regulated food service premises to post contextual information to help educate patrons about their daily caloric requirements
- Authorizes inspectors to enforce menu labelling requirements.
The new legislative measures will be implemented over the next two years to provide ample time for public education and to ensure compliance.
The menu labelling legislation is a key component of the government's Healthy Kids Strategy, which responds to the Healthy Kids Panel's recommendations for reducing childhood obesity.
Ontario's Healthy Kids Strategy
In May 2012, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care assembled a group of experts to serve on a Healthy Kids Panel and provide advice on how to achieve the government's goal of reducing childhood obesity.
In response to the panel's recommendations, the government created Ontario's Healthy Kids Strategy, which supports healthy child and youth development at every stage.
The Healthy Kids Strategy is focused on three pillars:
- Healthy Start-supporting preconception health, healthy pregnancy and early years to build the foundation for healthy childhood and beyond.
- Healthy Food-promoting healthy eating, achieving healthy weights and healthy childhood development.
- Healthy Active Communities-building healthy environments for kids in their communities.
Ontario has implemented recommendations from the Healthy Kids Panel for each pillar of the strategy:
To help babies get the best start in life, Ontario is helping families by providing telephone access 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to expert support for mothers who are breastfeeding.
The province is supporting Ontario's hospitals and community health care organizations with training, tools, guidance and resources to help them achieve the World Health Organization's Baby-Friendly Initiative designation and adopt clinical best practices in infant feeding.
The government is also funding new community-based supports for mothers in population groups that have lower rates of breastfeeding, such as women having their first baby, Aboriginal women and women who plan to return to work within six months. Work is underway to develop evidence-informed prenatal educational information to promote healthy pregnancies and babies, as well as positive parenting.
Ontario has also funded the development and distribution of key prenatal education messages to be distributed to parents, families, prenatal educators and health intermediaries.
The Centre for Effective Practice in partnership with the Ontario College of Family Physicians developed a Preconception Health Care Tool for primary care providers to use during regular visits for persons in their child-bearing years.
Ontario is committed to make it easier for families to make informed and healthier food choices. The Making Healthier Choices Act makes Ontario the first province to require food service premises to post calories on menus.
The ministry has also consulted with industry and health sector leaders on restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children.
Through the Healthy Kids Strategy, the government increased support for Ontario's Student Nutrition Program by $3 million. As part of this investment, more than 250 new breakfast programs were created over two years so that an additional 61,000 children and youth in higher needs communities, including some First Nations will benefit from Ontario's Student Nutrition Program.
The government also supports the Northern Fruit and Vegetable Program. Delivered in partnership with the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and local Public Health Units, the program provides no-cost servings of fresh fruit and vegetables, in combination with education about healthy eating and physical activity, to school-aged children in Northern Ontario communities. Since January 2015, the program has reached 194 schools and over 36, 500 students in the Porcupine, Algoma and Sudbury districts, including approximately 6,600 children of Aboriginal and First Nation descent.
Healthy Active Communities
Through the Healthy Kids Community Challenge, Ontario is offering community resources to help families and children lead healthier lifestyles
The Challenge is providing 45 participating communities with funding, training and other resources over four years to implement community programs and activities. Local programs focus on behaviors that can prevent overweight and obesity among children and youth, including healthy eating and physical activity.