Tell me what healthy food Canadian men eat and I’ll tell you how far away they live from a grocery store.
That’s the conclusion of a UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al study of Canadians’ diets published in Preventive Medicine.
The study found men’s eating habits are closely associated with the availability of healthy food near their homes than women’s.
Women are more likely to travel greater distance in order to find healthy food, namely fruit and vegetables, the study found.
It was based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey and looked at the eating habits of 49,403 Canadians in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa/Gatineau, between 2007 and 2010.
Researchers used postal codes to examine what food outlets were close to participants’ homes. Supermarkets, fruit and vegetable stores and natural food stores were considered as potential sources of healthy foods, while convenience stores and fast-food restaurants were considered less healthy food sources.
After accounting for factors that influence eating habits, such as age, education and income, the researchers concluded that women eat an average of 4.4 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, almost one portion more than men.
However, those numbers are far below the portions recommended by various food guides. Canada’s Food Guide, for example, recommends seven to eight portions of fruit and vegetables for women aged 19 to 50, and eight to 10 for men in that age group.
Yan Kestens of the UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, who directed the study, said women are generally more knowledgeable about nutrition than men. As a result, they “may engage in different food shopping strategies than men,” which includes factors not limited to the number of local food stores.
Women rely less on what is available nearby for their food choices while men tend to gravitate to whatever is available locally, even if that means an over-reliance on convenience stores and fast-food outlets.
More study needs to be done on the effects of healthy food sources in neighbourhoods on men and women, the researchers concluded.
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