Is The New Canadian Food Guide Enough?

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Is The New Canadian Food Guide Enough?

As you’ve likely heard by now, our Canadian Food Guide has undergone significant changes. Were they enough though?

If you know anything about JSLF’s approach to nutrition, you’ll know that we traditionally haven’t put much stock in the Canadian Food Guide. And we weren’t the only ones that shunned it…

Experts have been discounting the Guide for years, despite its significant and periodic updates. Some of the biggest issues experts had with the Guide were: portion sizes, improper classification of certain foods, recommended protein/carb/fat amounts, not considering the cost of food, meal timing, and more. And you have to admit, it’s hard taking the Guide seriously when it’s recommending fruit juice as healthy servings of fruit!

This most recent update seems very different from all the others, however.

The latest version of the Canadian Food Guide has been 2 years in the making and received contributions from over 6,000 individuals (resulting in 20,000 responses) from various backgrounds.

A breakdown of contributors provided by Health Canada.

Here’s something that stood out to me about this: the largest group of people that were consulted with are identified as “Members of the Public”. Just average people letting the government know that they want better health advice for their family and/or themselves. This definitely brought some realism into the guide making process (e.g. how expensive it can be to eat healthy, people working more these days means there’s less time to cook & prepare meals, etc).

This is great news as far as I’m concerned! There’s a huge difference between what diets work “on paper” and what actually works if, for example, you’re a busy working mother/father or are living paycheque to paycheque. There are certain realities that I see on a daily basis that weren’t addressed by the Guide. It’s nice to finally see that the Guide has received some “real world” input.

Have you seen the new guide yet? You can find it here, but let’s cover some of the major changes.

First of all, the good old “food group rainbow” is gone. In fact, there aren’t 4 food groups anymore! The “food group rainbow” has been replaced with a plate divided into 3 groups: whole grains (1/4 plate), proteins (1/4 plate), vegetables and fruit (1/2 plate).

So which group got the boot? Milk & Alternatives. To the chagrin of the dairy industry, this group has been replaced by a more exclusive proteins group. And as annoyed as the dairy industry may be at this change, imagine the surprise of the meat industry when they learned that even they were getting edged out! 

One of the biggest updates to the Canada Food Guide is that Health Canada is recommending more plant-based protein than ever before. Health Canada believes this change in focus will help reduce a slew of health concerns that are on the rise in Canada (e.g. Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, etc). Benefits of including plant-based protein include: decreased cost, decreased environmental impact, increase fibre intake, decrease saturated fat intake, and more.

On to the next update! The Guide no longer includes portion size recommendations. Health Canada claims that feedback from the public showed them that people didn’t use (or want) portion info. More specifically, they saw that Canadian respondents found the old portion information confusing.

The next big change is the Guide’s recommendation of having water with meals. Not juice, not pop, and not flavoured milk…just water. Health Canada has explained that they believe this will make a dent in the scary rise in Type 2 Diabetes. Speaking from experience, the sugary drink people have with a meal is often overlooked! So I’m 100% in favour of this recommendation.

So far, I’ve covered the major changes in what we eat. For me however, the most interesting recommendations are the ones that go beyond the plate. The new Canadian Food Guide includes recommendations like:

  • Be mindful of your eating habits.
  • Be Aware of food marketing.
  • Limit processed foods.
  • Plan what you eat.
  • Cook with others.

To me, that shows an understanding of how the way we eat is influenced by more than what’s in the fridge or on-hand.

This new guide is a good starting point for people that need to start with the very basics of better nutrition. But anyone looking to achieve results will find that there are crucial pieces of info missing from the Guide:
– How do I eat for my specific goal? Sex? Age? Fitness & activity level?
– How often do I eat?
– How much do I eat?
– Where does ____ fit? Is it a fruit/veg? A protein? A grain?
– How do I make this fit with my recommended macronutrient ratio (# of proteins / # of carbs / # of fats). What do I do?

What do you think of the updated Canadian Food Guide? Does it help you or not? Let me know below!

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