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Have Your Say: How do we put healthy eating ahead of cheap and easy alternatives?

Craig and Marc Kielburger founded Free The Children and Me to We. Their biweekly Brain Storm column taps experts and readers for solutions to social issues.

Poor broccoli. Not only does it suffer in comparison to salty poutine and greasy pizza, but its nutritious green florets double the cost of a meal, take time to chop up and don't satisfy the cravings created by our modern North American diet. No wonder it's so bitter.

Meanwhile, Fed Up, a new documentary executive produced by Laurie David, who won an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth, Indigo CEO Heather Reisman and Regina Scully (Miss.Representation), blames excessive sugar in our processed food for the soaring levels of obesity, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses that are taxing our health and our health care systems. It argues that the best answer is a return to fresh, homemade meals (starring broccoli, no doubt).

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But how feasible is such a switch in today's single-parent and both-parents-working households? Tight family schedules and budgets make it hard to justify the extra time and money healthier eating requires. Five dollars can get you a microwavable, belly-filling dinner. Twenty dollars can fill a family of four with fast food.

There's even less choice for the almost one million Canadians who rely on food banks and other emergency food programs.

Even if the price and ease of home-made meals and convenience foods were even, we're addicted to salt– and sugar-filled offerings, and constantly confronted with temptation. Just ask the high-school students in Canada's cities who flock away from school cafeterias to nearby fast-food joints, cleverly located to capture the teenaged traffic.

We risk long-term crises in health without a shift back to fresh, healthy food. Our experts this week unanimously voiced that tackling poverty is the best way to ensure our less fortunate neighbours can afford basic nutritional needs. But what can we do in our own lives to give broccoli and its nutritious friends their rightful place on our plates?

This week's question: How can we make healthy eating easier for ourselves, our families and our neighbours?

THE EXPERTS

Anita Stewart, food laureate at the University of Guelph

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"Learn to cook and all else will follow. If we understand ingredients, we will understand seasonality and flavour, provenance and price, food processing and preservation. We will also become infinitely more self-sufficient – more food and water secure."

Nick Saul, president and CEO of Community Food Centres Canada

"Support community kitchens and gardens, food education and advocacy programs that empower people to make the best choices they can within their circumstances, share a meal with their neighbours, and use healthy food to start a conversation about mobilizing for real social change."

Pat Vanderkooy, manager of public affairs for Dietitians of Canada

Create "supportive food environments. …At home, stock only healthy foods and make it a priority to cook and eat together. At work or school, bring your lunch from home. For pot lucks and parties, bring healthy choices to make it easier for everyone to eat healthy with you!"

Marzena Gersho, director of communications and national programs for Food Banks Canada

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"Involve children in the process of shopping, preparing and cooking meals that incorporate Canada's Food Guide guidelines. They will develop an interest in good food and gain the skills necessary to make healthy food selections."

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