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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 23;9(1):e86000. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0086000. eCollection 2014.

Canadians' perceptions of food, diet, and health--a national survey.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Food, Agricultural, and Resource Economics Department, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Business and Social Sciences, Dalhousie University, Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada.
Division of Biostatistics, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Poor nutrition is harmful to one's health as it can lead to overweight and obesity and a number of chronic diseases. Understanding consumer perceptions toward diet and nutrition is critical to advancing nutrition-related population health interventions to address such issues. The purpose of this paper was to examine Canadians' perceived health and diet status, compared to their actual health status, and general concern about their own diet and beliefs about health. Also analyzed were some of the perceived barriers to eating "healthy" foods, with a focus on the availability of "healthy" processed foods.


Two surveys were administered online to a group of Canadian panelists from all ten provinces during May 2010 to January 2011. Thirty thousand were invited; 6,665 completed the baseline survey and 5,494 completed the second survey. Panelists were selected to be nationally representative of the Canadian adult population by age, sex, province and education level, according to 2006 census data.


Approximately one third of Canadians perceived their health or diet to be very good while very few Canadians perceived their health or diet to be very poor. While the majority of Canadians believed food and nutrition to be very important for improving one's health, fewer Canadians were concerned about their own diets. The majority of Canadians reported difficulty finding "healthy" processed foods (low in salt and sugar and with sufficient vitamins and minerals). Many also reported difficulty finding healthy foods that are affordable.


Although consumers believe that nutrition is one of the most important factors for maintaining health, there are still a number of attitudinal and perceived environmental barriers to healthy eating.

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