The new version of Canada’s Food Guide offers a holistic view of eating. Nutritionist Catherine Levfebre explains the recommendations.
What is Canada’s food guide?
Canada’s Food Guide provides healthy eating guidelines for the general public. The purpose of this reference tool, based on the results of recent independent scientific studies, is to help Canadians choose foods that improve overall health and thereby prevent the risk of chronic, non-communicable diseases that can be addressed through lifestyle changes, including healthy eating.
What approach was taken for Canada’s new food guide?
Health Canada was supported by an expert committee comprising various health professionals. The food industry was not invited to take part in the discussions about the new guide, which was published in January 2019. However, two public consultations were conducted to better understand the needs and expectations of Canadians who participated, including members of the food industry.
What are the main changes?
The biggest change is the removal of food groups and recommended daily servings. The new guide focuses on proportions and has a clear, simple message: eat your fill, and enjoy a variety of nutritious foods.
The guide also (finally!) talks about how we eat, including the importance of cooking and eating together as a family.
In the protein section, which includes meats, fish, legumes and dairy products, the guide places the emphasis on plant-based protein. The aim is to encourage Canadians to eat more plant-based protein because this is good for our health and the environment. However, nowhere does it say we should never eat meat or dairy products. They are still part of the guide. But it includes nutritious alternatives with undeniable benefits.
Where drinks are concerned, Canadians are recommended to choose water and avoid sugary drinks like juice, which is no longer considered to be the same as fruit.
How will these changes benefit the health of Canadians?
Like Brazil’s food guide, from which it drew inspiration, Canada’s new food guide goes beyond recommending what foods we should eat, by recognizing that healthy eating encompasses the social, environmental and human aspects of agriculture and livestock farming.
The guide encourages people to cook more often, using fresh or minimally processed ingredients. Cooking can certainly promote healthy eating and helps us to appreciate and enjoy our food. What’s more, we learn or improve our cooking skills in the process—the key to reducing reliance on ultra-processed foods.
Canada’s Food Guide also highlights the benefits of eating as a family or with friends. Studies show that, on the whole, sharing meals encourages healthy eating and can help children (and adults!) develop positive attitudes towards food.
What importance is placed on plant-based food?
The new guide certainly places greater emphasis on plant-based food. Considering recent evidence highlighting the benefits, this is not surprising. The new food guide recommends Canadians regularly fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables, and add legumes, nuts and seeds as a source of protein. Plant-based food is certainly in the spotlight. This is a great chance for newbies to discover a variety of foods they can use to cook local recipes, as well as ones from other countries. And there’s no shortage of recipe books and blogs for ideas!
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