Eating habits reflect changes in Canadian society

A new study found young Canadians cook less, probably because they have less time.

A new study shows big differences in how Canadians eat depending on their gender, generation and incomes. Researchers at Dalhousie University surveyed 1,019 people over 18 years old across all the provinces for three weeks in April.

Many women, low-income earners skip breakfast

They found that women are three times more likely than men to skip breakfast, possibly because they are so busy preparing food for their children and they work.

People who earn less than $40,000 and are less educated are more likely to eat fast food and to skip breakfast, which is considered the most important meal of the day.

Young Canadians eat out often.
Young Canadians eat out often.

Some cook, some don’t

The study found that baby boomers, that is those born between 1946 and 1964 cook more, likely because they have more time. Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1976 generally don’t cook, don’t know how to cook and feel guilty about it. Millennials, those born after 1976, want to cook but don’t have much time, so they cook and eat out.

“I think there are a number of factors impacting the way that we eat traditional meals and snacking,” says Simon Somogyi, associate professor in Dalhousie’s faculty of agriculture and co-author of the study.


“We are now busier. We have poorer work/life balance in that we’re doing more work than free time. So, that means we have less time for those traditional sit-down meals. People are eating more alone, eating more snacks.

“The traditional role of women is changing. Twenty, thirty years ago women were more in the household taking care of that. But now they’re working more and now they’re trying to balance providing for their families but also working as well which means that families are time poor, they have less time to prepare fresh meals and that’s particularly true during the working week.”

Prof. Simon Somogyi says business can cater to eating habits by providing healthier snacks and ready-to-eat meals.
Prof. Simon Somogyi says business can cater to eating habits by providing healthier snacks and ready-to-eat meals. © Dalhousie Media

Habits can affect health

There are several implications of these habits. Lower-income people eating “health poor” fast food will have an impact on obesity rates, says Somogyi. Employers may want to take note that employees are eating more at their desks, going out less and are less likely to use lunchrooms.

He also says businesses may want to take advantage of the increased consumption of snacks to offer healthier alternatives as well as high-quality, ready-to-eat meals at low prices.

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