Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Health Check makes it easier for Ontarians to make healthy choices at Pizzaville"

That was the wording of the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Health Check program's proud press release headline on Monday.


I suppose now eating out at Pizzaville is a healthy, good for you, endorsed by the Heart and Stroke Foundation's own dietitians thing to do.

Never you mind that Health Checks on menus might in fact encourage people to eat out at restaurants more frequently. Never you mind that even health conscious, spurred by Health Check's involvement folks, once in Pizzaville may decide to order something else off the menu. Never you mind that there are no Health Check appetizers, desserts, or kids' meals at Pizzaville. Never you mind that research has shown that simply having healthier options on a menu inspires less healthy choices. Never you mind that most people don't hit restaurants alone and their not as health conscious friends, spouses or children will likely order some other nutritionally god-awful fare. It's all good, right?

So what could Health Check's dietitians possibly be thinking?

Basically their argument is that people are eating out anyhow so why not help them make healthier choices?

In fact in her blog post titled (I kid you not), "Making a difference one Pizza at a time", Health Check dietitian Samara Foisy spells this out quite explicitly. She points out that,

"Canadians eat out. A lot. About one of every ten meals we eat comes from a restaurant. According to Stats Can one in four Canadians consume an item from a fast food restaurant daily. And what are we choosing? About 40% of the time either a sandwich, hamburger, hot dog or pizza."
So rather than have the Heart and Stroke Foundation actually try to discourage such frequent meals out Samara wants, "to be practical",
"If I can help people make healthy eating choices when they are eating out, then I have definitely made a difference. By working with restaurants to get some healthier items on their menus and identifying these healthier items for customers I have the opportunity to help a lot of people. And as a dietitian, this is an opportunity I don’t want to miss."
By this logic I'd expect that knowing that lots of folks still drink and drive should have MADD celebrating the creation of a MADD sponsored 2% alcohol brew, or find the Canadian Lung Association knowing that there are still a great many teen smokers proudly stamping their seal of approval on a package of half length cigarettes.

Ultimately while I think it's great that Pizzaville is trying to offer less bad for you fare, I find it horrifying that going to Pizzaville for dinner is effectively being encouraged by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Ok, so you folks certainly know where I stand on this, but I'm curious what the dietitians and non-health professionals reading my blog think.

Is the Heart and Stroke Foundation an enormous, hypocritical, nutritional sellout by enabling Canadians to justify eating out at restaurants and in so doing further normalize regular meals out (one of the major contributors to growing rates of obesity and chronic disease in Canada) , or are they in fact rising to an opportunistic challenge?