Eat Smart!® Choices Calculator

Organization Sponsor: Nutrition Resource Centre

Organization Partner: Ontario Public Health Association


Program Description

Eat Smart! is an Ontario Public Health program with a goal to enhance people’s health by promoting healthy eating in smoke-free places and preventing food-borne illness.

The Eat Smart!® Choices Calculator is a user-friendly tool to help evaluate single-serving packaged food products to determine whether or not they qualify as Eat Smart!® choices for the Eat Smart!® Workplace and Recreation Centre Programs.

Packaged food products can be sold in vending machines, snack bars, cafés, tuck shops or “grab-and-go” stations in cafeterias. The Calculator is designed to be used by public health staff, food service staff, workplace or recreation centre staff, and consumers.

Eat Smart!® is an Award of Excellence program that recognizes Ontario schools, workplaces and recreation centres for providing healthier environments to their customers. Your local Public Health Unit, along with the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division) and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, award Eat Smart!® locations that provide:
* A variety of healthier food choices, on the menu and by request, including vegetables and fruit, foods prepared using healthier preparation methods and substitutions
* An excellent track record in food safety and at least one employee who is certified in safe food handling
* A 100% smoke free environment which does not promote the use of tobacco

Eat Smart!® consists of three programs:
* Eat Smart!® School Program
* Eat Smart!® Workplace Program
* Eat Smart!® Recreation Centre Program

These programs and calculator resource grew out of an integrated, provincially supported award program for restaurants started in 1997 called Eat Smart! The restaurant program gained popularity very quickly and, as a result, it was introduced into schools and cafeterias. For 12 years, this program provided support for a healthier environment. In 2009, the provincial support for Eat Smart! Ontario’s Healthy Restaurant Program was discontinued. It is survived by its siblings Eat Smart for Schools and Eat Smart! for Workplace Cafeterias. An outcome evaluation was never conducted for The Eat Smart! restaurant program; funding constraints did not make this critical process possible.

Program Approximate Cost: 

Free for participants

Funding Sources: 

An initiative of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), and is run by local public health units across Ontario. This program is financed by the Government of Ontario.

Strategies For Sustainability: 

Eat Smart!® is implemented locally by Ontario public health units and their community partners. Interested food premises apply to the program and are assessed by the public health unit to determine eligibility. Food premises that meet the three program standards receive the Eat Smart!® Award of Excellence and are listed on the Eat Smart!® website. Additional promotions are determined locally.

Impact Of Program: 

Over the past 10 years, the Eat Smart Program has significantly changed the community awareness standards and practice of healthy eating in restaurants, schools, recreation centers and the workplace.

Evaluation Tools: 

The Eat Smart! Recreation Centre Program Pilot Project (‘the ES! Recreation Centre Pilot’) took place between January and June 2008. The following health units participated in the project:
• Eastern Ontario Health Unit • Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit • Halton Region Health Department • Ottawa Public Health • Peel Public Health • Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit • Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Key Elements Towards Success: 

Program promotion is key and the following list of suggestions have proven success:
1. Take a population based approach;
2. Be a program (as defined above) and not a resource;
3. Focus on primary prevention of chronic diseases;
4. Be grounded in sound behavior change theory;
5. Address common and relevant population nutritional needs, such as those included in Ontario’s Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines for Public Health;
6. Address an approach beyond awareness-raising;
7. Do not focus on prenatal nutrition, food security, curriculum based school programs, those reviewed by Cancer Care Ontario in their “Best Practices” project, and/or food safety;
8. Have a primary emphasis on nutrition if they are multiple risk factorprograms;
9. Do not act as a private sector intervention; and,
10. Have sufficient supporting materials available to provide adequate information for review.

Eat Smart!® is a program supported by the Nutrition Resource Centre (NRC), an initiative of the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA), Eat Smart! is a good example of integrated programming. It combined elements of food safety, healthy eating, and smoke-free environments.

Challenges To Meet Them: 

One major limitation was inadequate funding for a province-wide social marketing campaign to raise public awareness about the program. Public health units also struggled with resources for implementation.

Length and Stage of Project: 

Initiated in 1997

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