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Canex launches healthy food choices program to promote healthier options

Whether you’re counting calories, watching your sugar or just want to live a healthier life, the newly launched program by Canex and Personnel Support Programs, BeneFit Healthier Choice, can help you to make the right choices next time you go grocery shopping.

“When we look at military families, and really civilians in general, we are faced with a really interesting food environment right now where we see a lot of health-washing of foods. And what we mean by health washing is essentially a food manufacturer will take a very small, insignificant health benefit of their food, like made with whole grain, and try to gloss over the fact that this food also contains three days worth of fat and sugar. They figure if they make the table green and call it ‘nature something’ people will fall for it; and, sadly, a lot of us do. And what we wanted to provide to CF personnel and their families is an honest, objective measurement tool that takes into account all components of the food,” said Dr. Mike Spivock, Senior Manager Health Promotions Delivery.

In partnership with Canex, a team of PSP dieticians, led by Dr. Spivock, created a calculator that takes into account nutritional information, such as sodium, sugar, fibre and calories, from any food ideas from more than 30 food categories. The foods that pass the calculator test get the stamp of BeneFit Healthier Choice approval.

“What we’re very clear to say is that we’re not necessarily putting our stamp of approval and saying that these are health foods. What we are saying is that if you are looking for a healthy snack or salty snack, for example, you want something salty this is your better option. If you ‘re looking for a cereal bar, this is your better option,” explained Spivock.

Examples of foods that support the BeneFit logo include Quaker Chewy Bars, with fruit; Belvita Breakfast Bars, the chocolate and banana flavour, Quaker Harvest Ancient Grains Honey Cranberry Almond granola bars and some flavours of Lays baked chips.

It’s important to be mindful, notes Spivock, that some flavours of the same brand can pass the test while others may not.

“They tend to look the same on the package, but there are significant differences in nutritional information between different flavours, of what looks like a very similar product,” warned Spivock.

PSP has been working on the program since Canex first approached them in the spring of 2016 to partner in creating a program to better identify and promote healthier options within Canex stores.

“As senior manager Health Promotions, to me, this was one of those prime opportunities to get to try to align the food environment with our key messaging in health promotion. So, not just giving people the information to make healthier choices, but to actually provide an environment that facilitates those choices,” said Spivock.

The BeneFit Healthier Choice program launched in early January and military members and their families can now find the logo on approved foods in Canex stores across the country. Over time, more products are expected to bare the BeneFit seal as they are tested.

In the coming months, Canex and PSP will also be launching vending machines with BeneFit approved foods.

According to Spivock, the program was created simply to help make the healthier choice more noticeable to consumers, and the BeneFit seal is something military families can trust.

“We don’t have anything to gain by people buying a certain food or another. And a lot of the other food classifications out there do tend to come from the private industry, where there may be interest in buying one food over another,” notes Spivock.

PSP is now working with partners to change the way military members eat across the base and make it easier for them to make healthier choices.

“Our dream eventually would be to have this seamless experience where whether somebody is in the mess looking at a vending machine, in a Canex, at the unit canteen or at the restaurant of the golf course, that we could have this BeneFit logo so that people would know to look for that BeneFit logo across all of their food choices on the bases,” said Spivock.

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