Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ottawa Citizen Nutrition Watch Week 10 - And?

Still nothing out of the Citizen and at this point my cautious optimism is starting to wane. If indeed they were test driving a nutritional analysis program then certainly by now they ought to have an impression as to the doability of the initiative for them and given that here I am calculating calories again, I wonder if they've deemed it not doable.

(for a recap - click over here to understand what this is all about)

Certainly from a public health perspective the support for the initiative is there. To date we've heard from the Director of Partnerships at the Canadian Stroke Network, the Canadian Institute of Health Research Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control, a prominent Canadian dietitian and the Communications Director of Quebec's federation of Kinesiologists who have all weighed in on the value and benefits of the publication of nutritional information with Citizen recipes.

Who's up this week? This week is CHEO's own Dr. Mark Tremblay.

Mark currently leads CHEO's Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group and his biography is impressive to say the least as he's certainly an internationally acclaimed expert in healthy active living and child obesity research, was the Senior Scientific Advisor on Health Measurement at Statistics Canada between 2003-2008, is an Adjunct Professor at the Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy at the University of New Brunswick, Chair of Active Healthy Kids Canada, former Dean of Kinesiology and Professor of Pediatric Exercise Science at the University of Saskatchewan and Executive member of the Board of ParticipACTION.

Mark was kind enough to cc me on his letter to the Citizen,
Gerry Nott
The Ottawa Citizen
1101 Baxter RoadBox 5020Ottawa, Ont.K2C 3M4

July 16th, 2009

Dear Mr. Nott,

It has recently come to our attention that The Ottawa Citizen is considering providing nutritional information for the recipes it publishes. We are pleased to hear this and feel that it would be a positive addition given the important role that nutrition plays in achieving and maintaining a healthy active lifestyle. We feel that this decision would help readers make healthy, informed decisions about the foods they and their families choose to eat, and could benefit their long-term health. For these reasons, we support the full disclosure of nutritional information for recipes published in The Ottawa Citizen and we commend you for demonstrating leadership in your industry in this regard.

Mark Tremblay, Ph.D., Director, on behalf of the
Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group
Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

If you haven't yet written the Citizen to politely encourage them on this initiative and thank them for their attention, please take a few moments today to do so. Please send kind words of encouragement to Editor-in-Chief Gerry Nott, Food Editor Ron Eade and Wendy Warburton by clicking here.

Here are today's recipes' nutritional breakdowns (Theme of the day? Salt!):

Vietnamese Pho for Phriends
(per serving if serving 6 with NO added salt): 549 calories, 2gr saturated fat, 6,018mg sodium, 86g total carbs (Perhaps you can serve this to phriends, but I'd avoid serving it to friends)

Paella for Paddling
(per serving if serving 6): 484 calories, 4g saturated fat, 2,821mg sodium, 73g total carbs.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Salad
(per serving): 492 calories, 4g saturated fat, 767mg sodium, 31g total carbs.

[All recipes calculated using Mastercook 9.0. Today it took roughly 4 minutes per recipe]

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  1. Anonymous10:02 am

    Hi! My name is Nathalie.
    And as my name indicates it, I’m a Quebecer, and first of all I apologize for my mistakeSSSS in English, BUT if we want to bring closer two “solitudes” as P.E. Trudeau had to say. We have to start somewhere. This is MY start :o)

    Permit me to make a suggestion on your topic...
    In a previous life, I was a Public Relation (PR) person in sport event and I specialised in press relations. NOW I’m a medical sociologist and CON member. I am studying link on overweight and SES … I put content in my containing :o)

    My point is: IF you want to interest a journalist….head editor…publisher….Etc
    YOU have to show them WHAT is in THEIR interest to change…

    They already have power, influence, reputation WHITHOUT your point.
    WHY they should do more work [add nutritional information’s] (and still earn the same benefit!!!) and WHAT for ?!!!! What they do, already pleased their readers. WHY they should change a winning formula?

    And THAT is your job to justify the “WHY” and “WHAT” part. (If you still wanted…)

    Thanks for your chronicles,
    Sincères salutations,
    Nathalie :D

  2. I read your blog every day, but I think this is my first time commenting. I'm nowhere near Ottawa, but the salt theme seems to apply to just about every recipe I've ever read. I have high blood pressure and a heart condition, and I'm trying, trying, TRYING to lower my sodium intake. It's just about the most discouraging thing I've ever done! I avoid processed foods and try to make just about everything I eat from scratch (although not bread - yet), and I don't put salt on my food. But it sneaks into everything and it ends up feeling almost pointless.

    Do you ever recommend low-sodium cookbooks to your patients? What's your favourite?

  3. Hi Helen,

    Unfortunately I don't have a cookbook that's specifically low sodium to recommend though the cookbook we tend to recommend does have many lower sodium dishes - it's Eat, Shrink and be Merry by the Podleski sisters.


  4. I don't have access to the original Pho recipe, but looking at the nutritional info on the Asian condiments on the supermarket and specialty-food-store shelves (including some brands aimed at the Asian community rather than the Euro community dabbling in Asian cooking), many sauces and bastes start with more than 1 gram sodium per "serving" of anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon. Most recipes call for the liberal use of one or more of these condiments -- that is to say, multiple packages-servings per prepared-meal serving. "Low-sodium" versions are not always acceptable replacements -- the lowest-sodium soy sauce I have seen still comes in at 350 mg per tablespoon!

    My own response is to use these preparations sparingly rather than liberally, and to mix up my seasonings as I need them, from basic ingredients such as mirin (sweet rice wine), unseasoned rice vinegar, five-spice powder, fresh ginger and garlic, dried chilis, and toasted sesame oil. It's still not perfect (still too dependent on "low-sodium" soy sauce and on oyster sauce), but it's much better than it could be.

  5. Anonymous12:01 am

    I thought about what Nathalie said, and here's what comes to mind. Regarding why the Ottawa Citizen would want to add this information, isn't it journalism's job to inform? Given the health issues and struggles that so many Canadians deal with due to dietary factors, wouldn't the addition of this information seem valuable, very relevant, and worthy of attention? Not to mention the fact that surely some of the powers-that-be considering whether this is in fact worthy of space in their newspaper, personally could benefit from this information if not for themselves then for their loved ones. That is a good question to pose Nathalie: why? I wonder also: Why Not??? Why do they resist??? Seriously.