The confusing world of Foodpolitics – Our leaders need to do better for our kids

On Wednesday, Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, made a quick statement about milk, that could possibly have a massive impact on all Canadians. 

This is the story on the CBC that caught my attention

He was at a meeting of Canadian Dairypeople. He was speaking to families that make their living producing milk.  

These families live and operate in most communities across our country (except the North). Most of them have been farming the same way for generations and work incredibly hard. They continuously reinvest in their facilities and strive to care for their herds as if they were their pets. Every Dairy Farmer will tell you that a happy and healthy cow will produce way more milk than a stressed cow. 

 

Dairy farmers produce the best quality milk they can. They’re fortunate for the Canadian quota system so that many families can live a comfortable life, afford to raise their kids, and constantly reinvest back into our communities.  

Full disclosureI worked on a Dairy Farm as a kid – the same Dairy Farm that my Grandfather-in-law worked at in the 1950’s. My family is still close friends with the Dairy Farmer and his family. I love dairy farms, and dairy cows are my very favourite animals. Dairy Farms are a big part of the community I grew up in and my love and appreciation of Dairy Farms is not going to change no matter what I believe about our food/health care system, and government policy.

Getting under my skin

What drove me to write this blog was the position of Mr. Scheer. He states that milk is all that could have saved his son from being calcium deficient.  

Our government, yes our Liberal government, just updated our food guide in a way that might, just might, help make Canadians healthier. North Americans are getting sicker, and dealing with rates of disease that is unreasonable and unmanageable. So far I’ve not seen the pharmaceutical industry curb the amount of people that are showing up at doctors’ offices with either full blown issues or early signs. It’s almost like they want people to be sick and in need of medication.

It makes sense to me, through the vast amount of research and reading that I’ve done, and the lifestyle that my family adheres to, that maybe food could be playing a big role in what’s making and keeping us sick, and that changing what we eat could help reduce the instance of sickness and illness in our population. 

Did our Government go too far?

Our government started telling us what to eat as a way to ration food during the World Wars. This was important as there was only a certain amount of food available and it needed to be used sparingly. Obviously this is no longer an issue, but the Government still updates the food guide as it feels necessary.  Mr. Scheer is upset that the Liberal Government did not consult industries before they went ahead with their new recommendations. 

This is true. They did this in a meaningful way and were directly instructed to avoid the powerful meat, dairy, and large food company lobbies which tried every way they could to influence the outcome because they knew if the science spoke for itself, then they were going to get sidelined, as they did. They are fully aware that there are loads of studies that prove that excess amounts of meat products, processed foods, and sugar, is bad for Canadians health over the long term. 

The logic was that the Food Guide should be designed to be the best food recommendations for Canadians, and not a representation of our food industry. For a few generations we’ve been eating some food in large amounts that doesn’t seem to have worked out that well for us. We now have an abundance of food that comes from a time where the sources of food were hard to come by, like a cow.

How’d we get here? 

Having cows in a village a few hundred years ago made a load of sense. The cow would spend all day eating grass and vegetation and you could simply milk that cow and get some of the nutrients from what they ate. This was not ideal nutritional value for humans but it was the best available to feed the village for most of the year.

Fast forward to 2019: we can consume as much food as we want from wherever in the world we want.  We have an abundance of what we need, from animals and the earth.

Over the last few decades, beyond the ethical issue or the environmental issues, health has become a major concern for many. I hear all the time that some people don’t believe they eat as well as the wish they could, and that they’re tired, overweight, or worse, sick. 

This is where things get confusing. It’s generally accepted that eating less sugar and less processed foods is better for us and that many of us eat too much food that makes us unhealthy. But our food system has been built on convenience as a way to make money for large business. Large business does not really care about our health and wellness – they care about their bottom line, which is the responsibility of any business.  Due to how our system works, and the marketing of food, we’ve been given lots of information over the last several generations that may have not be good for the individual Canadian.

Can we eat better?

Eating better means to reduce foods that are high in cholesterol, and sugar, and increase nutrient density, which comes from plants.  Simply cutting out foods that are low in nutrient value and increasing foods that are high in nutrients (vitamins and minerals) will make you healthier.

There are very effective ways to reduce our weight, and sometimes eliminate food sensitivities, like a Keto or Paleo Diet, but these are not forms of eating for long term health due to the focus on Macronutrients and less focus on Micronutrients. Increasing Fat in your diet while eliminating carbohydrates will put us into Ketosis, where the body changes its fuel source and you lose weight while you can feel satiated. This is a short term fix as the increase in saturated fat has been proven to have long term health implications. Heart Disease and cognitive decline are real consequences of a high fat diet.

What’s the big deal?

Mr. Scheer is upset because the Dairy Industry is under threat, and he blames the new food guide, which was produced under the watch of the Liberals. Each and every government we’ve had has applied policies that have been good and bad – Liberals and Conservatives. This is not and should not be a partisan issue – this is for the health and vitality of all Canadians. Especially our children.

Mr. Scheer joked that his child is still alive because of chocolate milk. He explained that his child was a picky eater and that made him concerned for his son’s well being. This makes me feel very sympathetic to how hard it must be for them to raise their kids to eat a healthy diet, but picky eaters need to be understood and helped to understand how important it is to eat a wide range of whole food. Their future is at stake.

Mr Scheer was the Speaker of the House under Prime Minister Harper and is now the Leader of the Opposition. I can’t imagine the stress of his job; if he does not deliver this fall, he’s turfed. I can only imagine how hard it must be for them with their schedule and responsibilities – but it’s his choice.

My point here is, Mr. Scheer is a man who wants to lead all Canadians. He believes that if his son did not drink tumblers of chocolate milk then his son may have been negatively impacted because he was not getting enough Calcium. I’m sorry Mr. Scheer, but in 2019, that’s plain ignorant. 

It’s not for me to tell him not to feed his child so much sugar (6 tsp per cup) and cow’s milk, but what I want to point out is that our leaders, and the people that are shaping policy for our children, must get their head out of the sand and do their homework.  

What to do?

I appreciate that Dairy Farmers are concerned about the next generation, who seem to be moving away from dairy for dairy alternatives.  It’s very common now to find Oat, Hemp, and Almond milk in many coffee shops. I’m finding that even families that aren’t that concerned about the issue of eating meat, are considering if dairy is right for them due to someone in the family who’s developed a sensitivity. I’m hearing this daily.

You can read all you need about the pro’s and con’s of milk here, but the science is clear that every nutrient you get from dairy comes from plants. If you need to add an excess of sugar to your child’s food to get them to eat it that is your choice, of course, but it’s critical that we know the long term effects of our actions.

Calcium also comes from green plant based sources, which are proven to be easier to digest and contain even more nutrients than dairy. I know first hand what it takes to convert away from dairy and I have my own surprising story of how positive it was for me and my family.

Raising and feeding kids is not simple, and making food choices can be very challenging, but I believe that we have a responsibility to them to do better.  That is to do better than our parents, who raised us in a time where we did not have the abundance of very accessible information about health and wellness, like we do now.  

Calling them out

I take issue with politicians, especially ones that think they can run our country, that talk to a topic that they obviously have spent little time researching.  In my opinion, admitting that they raised their son on mostly chocolate milk should be a point of extreme remorse, but he stated it as a proud parenting moment. He stated that he would take a ‘close look’ at the new Food Guide as Prime Minister, which greatly concerns me.   I’m only judging him because he made a public point to state that (chocolate) milk is fine for us and we should continue to consume it because we have for thousands of years. 

This is misleading: Yes, some humans have consumed animal milk for many generations but for 1) they did not add chocolate syrup, and for 2) we did not pasteurize it, and buy it by the gallon.   

I believe that we must do better by our kids, and for ourselves. What we did a generation ago does not mean that it’s right, or healthy. I do not want to see the dairy industry go away, but I want Canadians to be as healthy as possible, which I believe is more important.  This will make us more productive, reduce our dependence on responsive medicine, save us money, and hopefully make us happier.

I challenge anyone who wants to affect health policy to do their homework and research before they talk publicly. There is no longer a question regarding the negative health effects of food that was commonplace on our dinner plates in 1985.   As long as heart disease remains the #1 killer in North America, as long as the rate of kids with ADHD and other attention disorders continues to rise, as long as our aging population continues to lose so much from horrible diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons, I will take issue with how we got ourselves into this situation, and those that tell us to stay the course.

For those that are looking for more information about feeding kids, there is limited quality information however Dr. Fuhrman produced this book a few years ago. It’s deep but on point.

More information from Cook Culture on feeding your family:

Kids and the Green Smoothie

Kids making Green Smoothies

Being Healthy and Staying Healthy

Modern Eating?

When does replacement food become regular food?

More to come! 

Jed

Want to get Calcium into kids? Try blending greens with a Vitamix and adding yummy fruit! See the two top blog posts above.

 

 

11 responses to “The confusing world of Foodpolitics – Our leaders need to do better for our kids

  1. Thank you, Jed for a very thoughtful, informed and balanced article. I was horrified when I heard Mr. Scheer’s chocolate milk comment. I welcomed the new Canada Food Guide, and I fear that if Mr. Scheer is elected prime minister our food policy will be unduly influenced by the food industry and its lobbyists.

    1. Thanks Allie. I really try to keep politics out of our business but I could not shake it after I read his statements, and felt compelled to write about it here. I do agree with you that on this topic, due to Mr. Scheer’s statements, the conservatives are probably the least prepared to lead our country.

  2. What a non-issue.

    The Canada Food Guide (https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/) is one of thousands of publications which discuss food. It has limited distribution and, I suspect, limited influence as to what Canadian families eat.

    Scheer’s remarks to the dairy group were obviously not intended as scientific or even nutritional advice. He simply noted that the Food Guide made some choices. And, shocker, he said that one of his kids liked chocolate milk – so do both of mine. Given that he was speaking to dairy farmers it is hardly a surprise that he would have noted this fact and that he noticed that dairy does not feature prominently in the Food Guide.

    You state, “There is no longer a question regarding the negative health effects of food that was commonplace on our dinner plates in 1985.” without a whole lot of evidence. Which is forgivable as the evidence is all over the place. In 1985 we were in the midst of the “fat will kill you” scare which has left us with boneless, skinless (tasteless) chicken ever since. And eggs were little ovals of death. Butter was replaced with dollops of lovely, trans-fat, margarine. And we now realize that none of this was actually true.

    Nutrition science is very, very uncertain. It changes from month to month. Pretending that the Canada Food Guide is somehow a scientific document which includes only the healthiest foods is more a matter of faith than science.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Jay. There is no doubt that 3 tsp of sugar per cup of any liquid consumed daily is harmful to humans, especial children.

      Jed

  3. According to Michael Polen, the current eating disorder is our unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. To say Mr. Scheer is unfit to be a leader because his kid drank chocolate milk is utterly ridiculous. But I’m sure your $800 blender will fix everything.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Susan. I appreciate that you refer to one of the most knowledgeable food writers in modern history. Michael Pollan writes that his greatest fear is the advent of the reductionist food system. He’s specifically concerned that we’re making the lowest common denominator the status quo and that we, as the general population, eat too much that is not ‘food’. Here’s a link to one of his most popular articles regarding his thinking: https://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/unhappy-meals/

      I’ve read all of Michael Pollan’s books, and many of his other published work, and I’ve not interpreted anything that he’s ever stated or written to mean that there is an issue with healthy eating – for whatever that means to each individual. I believe in his most famous saying from his book, the Omnivore’s Dilemma: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”.

      The point of my Blog is that there is other food, besides (chocolate) milk, that offers calcium, and many other micro-nutrients that are not available in milk. I use an $800 blender that makes the delivery of these nutrient dense foods easier.

      My opinion, in my Blog, is that I believe that in 2019 it should be understood that not all Canadians want, or can, get their nutrients from Milk and that people that are wanting to lead our country should have a modern understanding of basic nutrition. There is no doubt that drinking tumblers of chocolate milk is an inappropriate way to meet our daily micro-nutrient requirements and to promote it to Canadians as a good way to nourish kids is harmful.

      Jed

  4. Hello Jed,
    It was probably improper for Mr. Sheer to make this statement. But your response is overblown and you make false, Trump-like statements. There is no data to show that “North Americans are getting sicker and dealing with rates of disease that are unreasonable and unmanageable”. This is just false. The same applies to your statement: “the amount of people showing up at doctors offices with either full blown issues or early signs”. This is false as well. Please show your data.
    The bottom line is that milk is a very healthy and nutritious food. That does not mean that you have to eat it every day or even often and there are healthy alternatives. There is no need to stigmatize milk. The calcium in milk is harder to absorb but it does absorb and can fulfil the body needs. Milk allergy is rare and lactose intolerance is easily overcome by taking lactase when you ingest milk products.
    Despite your statement: “there is no longer a question regarding the negative health effects of food that was commonplace on our dinner plates in 1985”, that generation is enjoying a longer and healthier lifespan than the previous one….
    Using some common sense and looking at data/evidence before writing an inflammatory article is good practice.

    1. You are not allowed to change my comment! Your site does not say that you will edit any comment you don’t like. You may correct grammatical errors if you want. If you change what I wrote I will lodge a complaint.

      1. Hi Raphael – your original comments have not been changed or edited. Our blogs are posted for all to read and take as they want. We feel passionately that small changes in diet can yield large health improvements. Anyone is welcome to post whatever they’d like, as long as it’s kind and considerate. Jed

    2. Hi Raphael – I spend a lot of time and resources to make sure that my statements, and opinion, are based on fact. There are many misleading and false sources of information available so I have been very diligent to understand how research is conducted and tested.

      The best source of unbiased, fact based, information is from Dr. Gregor at Nutritionfacts.org. I did link to this in my blog post as my source of data but here it is for you again. This one resource can help anyone better understand the current health crisis and how a SAD has, and continues to, negatively impact our children.

      The points of my blog are:

      1. Masking micronutrients in sugar for kids to eat them could have negative long term consequences
      2. Milk is a source of Calcium, but not the only source of Calcium
      3. Parents require more education and resources on what to feed kids to help them not develop health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Our current government understands this but has done a poor job following through on promises to continue to educate the general population.
      4. Heart disease, which in most cases can be managed through diet, is the #1 killer of North Americans – which has not always been the case
      5. Anyone who wants to lead anyone should have a better understanding of their topics

      Jed

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