Heart Healthy Menus in LTC?
What will the future hold for baby boomers?
With the rise of baby boomers entering retirement, and the ever increasing epidemic of diabetes type II among Canadians, intended or not, Canada’s Long Term Care industry will start to see more of a growing trend leaning toward heart healthy / or nutrient dense menus, versus the former conventional comfort foods, such as the deep dish macaroni pie-heavy-on-the-cheese and deep fried chicken. Why? Because government regulations will enforce it and consumers will demand it. Yesterday’s baby boomers are no longer the same. Sixty is the new forty and forty is the new twenty. As the Canadian population is aging, they are holding on for dear life to their fountain of youth. A growing portion of today’s baby boomers are more informed and concerned about the nutritional contents of their meals, and these are the people that are and will be occupying LTC facilities across Canada in the near future.
In an effort to help Canadians make healthier food selections in what they eat and purchase, the introduction of mandatory Nutrition Facts labeling was brought forth by Health Canada’s Food & Drugs Act (Health Canada, 2014).
According to the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy (NCCHPP), nutrition labeling on restaurant menus and pre-packaged foods, is a public policy proposed to address the problem of obesity. Obesity is currently affecting a growing portion of the Canadian population, of which is largely composed of baby boomers, and is correlated with a vast number of health problems. The problem of obesity and other health related issues linked to unhealthy food consumption has resulted in a heavy financial strain on the economy (NCCHPP, 2011). This will be a reoccurring problem until these problems are addressed head on with *consumer advocacy groups, various government departments and agencies, health-focused non-governmental organizations,health professional organizations, and the scientific community.
Recently the Sodium Working Group, a collaboration of the affiliations mentioned above* has taken on this challenge. When looking at the heart healthy component of sodium consumption alone, according to recommendations of the Sodium Working Group, SWG (2010), if sodium intake was reduced by 1,840 mg per day (approximately brought down to an intake of the AI of 1500 mg per day, the prevalence of hypertension would be diminished by thirty percent (SWG, 2010). This would translate to roughly 1 million less laboratory tests, hypertension visits, drug tests, and significantly less physician visits (SWG, 2010). SWG also states that this kind of decrease in sodium intake would prevent 23,500 cardiovascular disease events per year in Canada, which represents a reduction in thirteen percent in Canada’s 2010 numbers. The result would contribute to an annual direct savings of $949 million (SWG, 2010).
How does all this relate to long-term care? As aging consumers become more informed about the affects of making
healthier food choices, for example reducing sodium, and they realize the health benefits of doing so, they will be more likely to choose more nutritious food options wherever life may lead them, i.e. LTC. In the near future we’ll also see more government intervention for LTC menu standards, in an effort to maintain and uphold quality of life for residents and patients. In supporting this move, the Ministry of Health may be motivated to realize a significant health cost savings for the Canadian economy. We’re already seeing this trend. According to Standards Compliance and Licensing Branch Alberta Health (2013), Nutritional Analysis is now required for LTC menus to ensure nutrient needs are met for all LTC residents.
Congratulations to Nikkita Cox the winner of Burlodge’s Blog Article Writing Contest for the Food and Nutrition Program at Humber College.
Government of Alberta. (2013). Long-Term Care Accommodation Standards And Checklist. Retrieved from http://www.health.alberta.ca/documents/CC-Long-Term-Care-Standards-2010.pdf
Health Canada. (2014). Food Labeling. Food and Nutrition. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/label-etiquet/index-eng.php
National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy. (2011). Public Policies on Nutrition Labelling: Effects and Implementation Issues – A Knowledge Synthesis Highlights. Retrieved from http://www.ncchpp.ca/docs/Synthesis_nutrition_labelling_highlights_EN.pdf
Sodium Working Group and Health Canada. (2010). Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/pdf/nutrition/sodium/strateg/reduct-strat-eng.pdf