‘They do want healthier choices’: Lethbridge city facilities receive poor nutritional review

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Lethbridge city facilities receive poor nutritional review
In a new report from the group Healthy Lethbridge, City of Lethbridge facilities are being scrutinized for the poor variety of nutritional options available for purchase. As Emily Olsen reports, Healthy Lethbridge officials are hoping to see that change – Sep 8, 2020

City of Lethbridge facilities are back in business as sports teams begin to resume practices and kids get back into their usual schedules.

A new report by the group Healthy Lethbridge is giving those facilities a poor grade when it comes to offering healthy food options.

Read more: First weekend back: Lethbridge ATB Centre rinks open for bookings as swimmers head to Stan Siwik

“Seventy-five per cent [of available options] should be ‘choose more often’ and 25 per cent should be ‘choose least often.’ We’re actually exactly opposite of that right now in Lethbridge,” explained Heather Mathur, public health dietitian with Alberta Health Services and president of Healthy Lethbridge.
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The report includes direct feedback from the community.

“We wanted to hear from Lethbridge residents: do you actually want healthier choices in the rec centres?” said Mathur.

Healthy Lethbridge members represent a number of major community players, including Treasurer Shawn Pinder, who also owns the Lethbridge athletics store, Runners Soul. 

“We have a wide number of partner organizations that are part of the group,” Pinder said. “Runners Soul being one, and there’s other ones like the University of Lethbridge, Be Fit For Life Centre from Lethbridge College and many others.

Pinder says all of partners are interested in seeing things change so that busy families that forget to pack ahead aren’t limited in their options.

“I would just like to see more choices so that if people would like to make a healthy choice for what they’re going to be eating for lunch or a snack at one of our facilities, that that’s available for them, and with a little variety too.”

Read more: Lethbridge students want healthy choices at public facilities

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Lethbridge nutrition coach with Impact Nutrition, Justin Wilson, says he works with young athletes regularly to help them make better choices.

He says parents should aim for these choices to be conversations with their kids about which options are better and why.

“If there are healthier options — like Tim Hortons has yogurt cups with granola; albeit it’s generally more sugary yogurt — that’s still better than a hot dog,” he said.

He adds that when it comes to snacks, simpler is often better.

“Dried fruit, almonds, cashews, things of that nature,” Wilson said. “It’s up to the parents’ discretion.

“Look at the ingredients. If there’s a bunch listed where they don’t know what it is, maybe don’t pick those ones. Choose something that has more familiar ingredients.”

Mather says the Alberta Health Services website offers resources for parents and recreation facilities looking to up their nutritional game.

She adds the Healthy Lethbridge group has already had a small victory with the new ATB Centre facilities including alternative vending machines.

“We’ve been working on this for a while and city council actually has implemented some changes.

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“Our west leisure centre actually has a lot more healthier choices but I’m hoping to move the needle further.”

Read more: Canadian students eating less nutritious food during school hours: study

Tuesday’s city council presentation was postponed due to a delay in proceedings, but is expected to be back on the agenda on Sept. 21.

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