06/26/2013 12:21 EDT | Updated 08/26/2013 05:12 EDT

What I Would Change About Eating Habits in Canada

Leading up to Canada Day, the Huffington Post blog team asked prominent Canadians what they would change about one aspect of our country. We are publishing their answers in our series "What I'd Change About Canada" leading up to July 1. You can find the full series here.

My wake up call to my health came when I was 35 years old. I was publishing high-fat and high-calorie cookbooks and enjoying every minute of it! Butter, cheeses, chocolate chips and heavy cream were a daily occurrence in my cooking. I exercised daily, kept a healthy body weight and thought I was doing everything right. But the term, "don't judge a book by its cover," never was so true. My cholesterol was off the Richter scale and my family history of heart disease, Diabetes type 2, obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol became too close for comfort. I did a 360 and changed my eating habits for life as well as my families. Today I'm trying to change the face of how my fellow Canadians eat.

Continually eating at restaurants and fast food chains along with all the packaged and processed food we consume, is slowly killing us. These foods cause an addiction to fat, salt and sugar and overtime negatively impacts our health. Doctors' offices and hospitals are filled with chronically sick adults and children, with illnesses that could have been prevented by a change in diet and lifestyle.

What we are seeing now is an epidemic of poor health related to how we eat and live. I used to think that improving one's diet was a matter of personal responsibility. I have now concluded that it is also a matter of national importance. As such, a coordinated national effort is needed by everyone at all levels. This includes government, industry and agriculture; medical and education systems and grocery stores and restaurants, in order to educate the public and improve our health.

Food manufacturers and restaurants do not have our health as their priority. They're in business to increase revenues. If that means selling "addictive" foods and catering to our weaknesses, then that's what they do. They spend millions of dollars researching how to get people to eat more of their products. Many companies promote their food that contains excess fat, sugar or salt as healthy by misleading labeling.

Food corporations should focus on our health, which is a very complex issue. Companies are interested in flavour and repeat purchases. Consumers are concerned about what goes into their food and how it negatively impacts their health. The government has asked for corporations and restaurants to reduce the salt, fat and sugar in their menus on a voluntary basis. This has not been successful. We are asking restaurants for more disclosure on calories, fat, sugar and sodium at point of purchase instead of only on their website. These needs have not been met.

For example, the government should implement regulations of sodium amounts that are acceptable and limit preservatives added to food that harm our health. In addition, they must control misleading health messages that are dubious especially to children. But all of this will take time.

So we have to take responsibility and understand our own triggers for eating these foods and why we continue to put them into our shopping carts. We have to read labels more carefully and understand the guidelines for a healthy diet, so we won't get lured into these traps. This is not impossible.

For example, subsequent steps can be small such as reducing the cream and sugar taken in a coffee; eating one more piece of fresh fruit a day or preparing a meal without processed foods. Slowly but surely a change in lifestyle, to one that is healthier, will occur. Addictions to processed food, with its fat, sugar and salt, will be broken. Predispositions to chronic diseases will be enormously reduced. Energy levels will be increased. The wiring in our brain will begin to change and the journey to a healthy diet will be well on its way.

Remember, this is a domino effect; take a small first step today and overtime greater changes will occur. With public demands, overtime the government and corporations will change and get on board.

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