The Canadian Food Guide: No longer a prescription diet
The push towards a plant based diet
Canada’s Food Guide
We are constantly changing the way that we are eating. It could be because of something you read in a weight loss magazine, heard through the grapevine, or maybe even a new trending diet on Instagram. In today’s technological era it’s tough to determine what’s authentic and what’s just straight-up fake. One resource that you can trust has just presented us with a new guide to healthy living. Enter – the new and improved Canadian food guide!
It’s getting three cheers from some and eye rolls from others.
Canada’s Food Guide: So what has changed?
It is no surprise that the Canadian food guide has seen its fair share of changes since its publication in 1942. That being said, the guide has been in a 12-year hiatus and Canadians are eager to see what changes are being made.
The process has so far taken three years, with Health Canada hiring various market research companies to consult with more than 26,000 Canadians. Health Canada has also held briefing sessions with various health associations and industry groups. – CBC News
As Canadians, we rely on the national food guide to decrease the number of nutritional deficiencies and increase overall health. In the past, it has provided us with portions sizes, food groups, cooking tips, and scientific research. It helps us ensure that our loved ones live long and healthy lives. We can see that the updated guide is exploring a new direction that reinforces a vegetarian style diet (plant based) and kicks the food groups to the curb.
That being said, the food guide is a one size fits all approach. It may not be considering your personal deficiencies, body type, lifestyle choice(s), and you should use it as a reference when planning meals. The best course of action is to consult a nutritionist or specialist before making significant changes to your own diet.
Here are the changes that we have identified
- More focus on a plant-based diet(s)
- Dairy and meat are being pushed out
- No more four food groups
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- No more portion sizes
- Increase your water consumption
- Food philosophy (eating together)
Canada’s Food Guide: Time to take action
The new food guide image conveys a simple message according to Health Canada: Eat a diet made up of roughly half fruits and vegetables, and half of the remaining two categories — easy as that.
“It doesn’t need to be complicated folks,” Petitpas Taylor said. “It just needs to be nutritious, and, might I dare say, fun.”
However, the overall simplicity of the new guide is still receiving mixed reviews and skepticism.
If we look back at the previous prescription approach it was unachievable and quite frankly, directed towards children (you remember the four food groups rainbow in elementary school). The new food guide has simplistic yet powerful imagery that encourages people to make realistic changes to live their best life.
We can now say goodbye to the recommendations to eat a specific number of serving sizes across each of the food groups. Gone is information about what makes up a serving size for different types of food. Let’s be honest, did you ever weigh, scale, and categorize your foods so that you ate the prescribed amount of food for each food group? Of course not, nobody has the time for that!
Dairy Products: So long milk, it was good while it lasted
Milk, for as long as we can remember, has always been a staple of the Canadian diet. Its nutritional benefits were linked to bone and dental health, diabetes prevention, and heart health.
As the times are changing we are entering a new era of healthy eating and health professionals are putting dairy under the microscope. Not just milk is under scrutiny, its the entire dairy category! That includes items such as cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, and ice cream, just to name a few.
Many people are disgruntled with the removal of dairy as an independent category. It has been placed into another category that we can agree may be less visual, but it’s still a part of the food guide. It has become a misconception that dairy is deemed “unhealthy”. Dairy products still offer a variety of different benefits but the traditional dosage or “3 pints per day” is just unnecessary. To follow suite, dairy consumption/sales have also been decreasing for the last 10 years according to the government of Canada.
Dairy Products: The alternatives are getting more attention
For those of you that love dairy you are in luck. A variety of alternatives are at your disposal that are extremely competitive with cows milk when it comes to nutrients, fats, and calcium. If you are intolerant and allergic to cows milk you can still consume some of the alternatives (almond milk). You may have already identified the significant changes happening in the United Kingdom. Non-dairy sales were three times bigger than dairy sales at Whole Foods Market in the UK this year (2019). This means that dairy is not completely disappearing but consumers are focusing their attention on many other alternative forms.
- Almond milk
- Soy milk
- Coconut milk
- Rice milk
- Oat milk
Depending on which alternative fits your lifestyle, you may be able to decrease costs by making it at home and, therefore, decrease damaging environmental impacts while maintaining sufficient nutrient intake.
Milk Nutrition: What are Caddle members saying about milk?
You spoke up about milk consumption and the changes to the Canadian food guide. The majority of our respondents were millennials (in their 30’s) and from Ontario. Here is what we gathered:
- Out of the 92% that consume dairy, 62% disagree with the new food guide
- Large percentage of the respondents had small children at home (increased milk consumption)
- 50% consume milk for the taste and 43% said that they consume milk for its nutritional value
- 73% of members said they didn’t consult anyone about their dairy consumption
Dairy Products: Decreased consumption comes at a price
Changes that have been made to the Canadian food guide have outraged dairy farmers and rightfully so. Milk has been removed as an independent category and grouped into proteins. With milk consumption decreasing in general, it’s worrisome for stakeholders in the dairy industry.
The Canadian government places significantly high tariffs on importing milk into Canada. This is preventative measure attempts to decrease the market saturation of American products and protect local dairy farmers.
“The Canadian dairy industry is a key driver of our national economy and represents one of the largest agri-food industries in the country,” said Wally Smith, President of Dairy Farmers of Canada.
Canada’s dairy industry brings in about 20 billion in GDP, 3 billion in tax contributions and over 200,000 full-time jobs. The question that we have to ask ourselves as consumers is, are we willing to ignore new research findings in order to support the dairy industry?
Did you say a Plant Based Diet?
Some of you are wondering, what is a plant based diet? Others might be thinking how can this diet be sustainable long term?
No, a plant based diet doesn’t mean that you have to go into your fridge or freezer right now and get rid of that steak or chicken.
It means that you should consciously prioritize fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, legumes, beans, seeds, and oils. Aside from the array of health benefits that are associated with this diet it also comes with environmental sustainability.
When switching to a plant based diet it comes with a bit of homework. You need to understand what nutrients you receive from the foods you plan on giving up and ensure that you are receiving the equivalent in the foods you plan on consuming.
The best way to get started is just allocating one day of the week to strictly eat plant based foods. Following food guides or industry professionals online to get the best recipes and up to date information doesn’t hurt either. Check out the example!
Plant Based Diet Example:
Breakfast: Breakfast wrap with whole grain tortilla, scrambled egg(s), black beans, peppers, onions, and your choice of sauce.
Lunch: Mediterranean salad with fresh lettuce, cucumbers, chick peas, lentils, goat cheese, avocado, and dressing.
Dinner: Grilled veggie kabobs with green and red peppers, grilled tofu, spinach salad, and zucchini.
Canada’s Food Guide: What you should takeaway from the changes
Canada’s updated food guide has retired the traditional rainbow and four food groups in order to appeal to a wider audience. It has demoted meat and dairy by placing them into categories with a wider range of proteins.
The new food guide accurately reflects the existing research about human anatomy and healthy living, while limiting the biased input from special interest parities.
Some of the main reasons people are cutting milk are connected to the environment, health, and ethics (religious beliefs). If you want to keep milk as apart of your daily routine consider the array of different alternatives that offer great taste, nutritional benefits, and no environmental impact.
This food guide does not spoon feed you like it has in the past. It requires you to take action by showing you what your plate should look like when you sit down to have a meal. It is apart of Canadian culture to cook, talk, laugh, and eat together.
It’s time to put down the processed food that have become so accessible and convenient. We should give the new food guide a chance and see if it can have a positive impact on society and our wellbeing.
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