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Canada’s New Food Guide— What You Need to Know

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Canada’s new revamped 2019 Food Guide brought some big changes to the guide in its first update since 2007. The main change is the elimination of the four main food groups which have been around since 1942. The four food groups consisted of meat and alternatives, milk and milk by-products, grains, and fruits and vegetables. 

Canada’s new simpler food guide presents 3 main food groups.

In their place is a change of emphasis on plant-based foods and a lesser focus on meat and dairy. The 4 groups have been replaced with:

  1. Fresh fruits and vegetables,
  2. Proteins such as meats, eggs, cheeses & beans, and
  3. Whole grain foods.

“It puts more focus on what, when and how we eat, and less on food groups and servings. It gives clear, concise advice that everyone can easily apply to their everyday lives,” Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said at the guide’s unveiling event in Montreal.

The new guide is depicted by a simple image of a plate. Half of the plate is filled with fruits and vegetables, one quarter is filled with whole grain foods such as rice, quinoa, and whole grain bread, while the other quarter contains proteins made up of meat, poultry eggs, tofu, beans and nuts. It’s a much simpler approach.

Eating the right food is about more than our health, and we have become more concerned with environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

Main Takeaways for Canadians:

  • Eat a large percentage of plant-based food like fruits and vegetables.
  • Cut down on their intake of processed foods that are high in sugars, and sodium and saturated fats.
  • Drink water. There is now a heavy emphasis on water, saying it should be the “beverage of choice”, in preference to juices and sugary drinks like pop.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • “Cook more often at home” “Enjoy your food” and “Eat meals with others”
  • Pay attention to food labels.
  • Be aware of food marketing.
  • Be mindful of your eating habits.

Reaction:

The Canadian Medical Association

The Canadian Medical Association applauded the overall direction of the new guide.

Heart & Stroke and Dietitians of Canada.

The new guide received immediate acclaim from various groups of medical and health professionals, including the Canadian Medical Association, Heart & Stroke and Dietitians of Canada.

Dairy Farmers of Canada

A less positive reaction came from the Dairy Farmers of Canada advocacy group, which said it was “concerned” by the new food guide’s lesser emphasis on milk. The group also took issue with the food guide’s promotion of lower-fat milk only.

Canada Beef

Spokesperson Joyce Parslow said her organization was pleased with the food guide’s suggested meal approach of 50 per cent fruits and vegetables, 25 per cent whole grains and 25 per cent proteins.

It is a great guide, with a message that healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. We all need to be more mindful of the how, why, where and when we eat. We can all make healthier choices if we realize that some of our eating is the cause of emotional stress, or skipping meals, then being super hungry. Hopefully this guide will bring about some change in the hospitals and institutions where food is prepared in large volumes.

Biryani, an East Indian cuisine favourite, being served

There has been some criticism that the new guide does not address economic, social and cultural barriers many individuals and families face to accessing healthy food. For example, the guide shows fresh fruits and vegetables which are more expensive than frozen or canned. It also does not include any foods more common in diets of other ethnic groups such as plantain, or roast geese that indigenous peoples cook.

You can check it out at https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/food-guide-snapshot/.

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