Twin Ambitions: Good Eating Habits & Money-Smarts

Last week, we were lucky enough to be invited to the first ever Nutrition Ambition Symposium at George Brown College here in Toronto. The symposium’s goal was to contribute to public awareness around the expanding field of nutrition science, which is only about 30 years old. Examining the intersection between diet, health and the culinary arts (cooking), the day was essentially spent answering the question: Can we eat well and healthily? Of course the answer is yes, but how to do it might surprise you. The bottom line is that all calories are not created equal, and poor food choices may be the #1 cause of poor health in North America.

Harvard Medical School expert and “obesity warrior”, Dr. David Ludwig wants us to eat more high quality fat as we reduce our consumption of processed carbohydrates. This decreases post-meal blood sugar surges; the kind that leave us feeling hungry just an hour after eating and therefore lead to overeating. Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Moss’ work has unveiled how food-industry manufacturers have lost sight of the original goal of providing customers with convenient nutrition. Instead, many manufacturers are producing items that taste addictively good and have a long shelf life but truly do nothing to support our health. Canadian Research Chair in Nutrigenomics, Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy is shedding insight into the trio of environmental, psychological and biological factors that lead to our individual dietary preferences, which are at least partly a function of our DNA.

Why was a nutrition symposium of interest to Gifting Sense? Because just as nutrition scientists and writers want to help people develop better dietary habits versus correct and treat poor ones, Gifting Sense aims to help immunize children against developing poor spending habits and all of the downstream financial issues those create later in life. The parallels between good nutrition and money-smarts are striking. Both offer life-long benefits and freedoms.

Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian (from the only North American graduate school in nutrition at Tufts University) explained how advances in nutrition science shouldn’t be treated any differently than advances in other branches of science, where we seem to accept new discoveries with far less skepticism. To wit, we thought lower fat diets were healthier. We now know the unintended consequence of a low-fat diet is the increased consumption of processed carbohydrates, which has wrought more damage than good. Because the suggestion of returning to a higher fat diet feels like an about-face, some people seem comfortable dismissing new nutrition science discoveries as only temporary until they too are proven faulty. But Dr. Mozaffarian points out that we wouldn’t dream of treating advances in Physics or Chemistry this way!

Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Dean Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian may have delivered the single-most helpful tidbit to laypeople by sharing work at the Harvard School of Public Health which has resulted in a simple guideline for buying legitimate whole grain foods: Avoid anything where the ratio of carbohydrates to fibre is greater than 10:1. Feel great about choices where the ratio of carbohydrates to fibre is less than 5:1.

From the outset we have maintained that Financial Literacy brings so many added benefits to society it deserves to be a free public good. We like to describe our work as immunizing kids against developing poor spending habits. With immunization, not only the vaccinated, but their siblings, playmates, classmates and neighbours benefit from avoiding diseases. Similarly, a vaccination of financial responsibility, early in life, benefits not only the individual who learns to live within their means today, but also their future spouse and children, not to mention the planet, which is increasingly spared the stockpiling of under-used items.

As public awareness of good nutrition increases, thanks to events such as last week’s symposium, we hope public awareness of the importance of teaching children to think before they buy (not only food but everything else) will also experience an upswing. Just imagine the energy that could be released to solve other future challenges if we accomplish the twin ambitions of giving our kids the ability to make healthy food choices AND manage money before they leave home. To learn how to help your kids do the latter, click on the pink or green buttons below.


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