It’s official! Health Canada released their new food guide. The previous one, which dates from 2007, was outdated and not very useful. This is the one most people remember, with the lovely (lol) rainbow and suggested (also lol) portion sizes for each food group (fruits & vegetables, grain products, dairy products, and meat and alternatives) depending on age and gender.

You don’t need to be a health professional to see that the old guide only applies if you are the typical male or female who eats 1500-2500 calories per day, exercises according to their guidelines, has access to every food out there and are mainly a meat eater. Sorry athletic vegans!

Out with the old, in with the new

This morning, the new guide came out and what a delight! Below are a few snapshots. No food groups and no portions sizes. Instead, suggested proportions and more emphasis on the way we eat.

What’s better

  1. There is a lot more focus on mindful eating. They’re not only looking at how much we eat, but rather where, how, why we eat. The talk about appetite vs hunger and the importance of emotional eating!
  2. More home cooked meals. Not only do they list the benefits of eating homemade meals, they give tips to save time! Of course this allows us to reduce the amount of processed foods, but it also allows us to develop a better relationship with food.
  3. Enjoyment. They acknowledge another important reason why we eat – pleasure from food. Previous versions have always been focused on fueling and ensuring we meet our nutrient requirements. In this newer version they mention developing a healthy attitude towards food and this is emphasized with their recommendation of eating with others! YES, YES, AND YES!
  4. More focus on plant-based foods. You’ll notice this in the foods depicted on the healthy plate image where most of the protein-rich foods are of plant origin. This is again mentioned in their text online Another YES for both health and the environment.

What could be improved

Although I generally like this newest version, they’re still missing a few things.

  1. Quality of food. In their recommendations, they say to “eat vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods often to develop a healthy eating pattern and maintain your health.” They’re not wrong, but still have to be careful with the quality of these protein-rich foods as they could range from fruit-flavored high sugar yogurts to salty processed cold cuts. I understand their reasoning as yes, protein is important to have with most meals to keep us satiated and maintain our muscle mass, especially as we age. But this is where giving more information as to quality and types of foods would come in handy. Although they mention reducing foods rich in sodium, sugars, and saturated fats (see below), I think they should’ve put more focus on reducing processed foods, even if they don’t contain high amounts of said nutrients.
  2. Saturated fats. For the longest time, we were at war with saturated fats. So much so, it was reduced in the food industry, yet we still have a high incidence of cardiovascular disease. Part of the reason is that we replaced them with refined sugars and partly because saturated fat’s role in health and disease is controversial. What we’re seeing is that different saturated fats have different effects on markers such as blood cholesterol. Is low fat dairy really that much better for us? To be discussed.
  3. Starchy vegetables. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and squash should be in the “whole grains” category instead of the fruit and veggies.
  4. Language. They still categorize foods as healthy or not. Of course, some foods are more nutritious, but using naming foods as healthy or not healthy makes it difficult to create a healthy relationship with food.

Are dairy products out?

Nope. They simply don’t have their own category anymore as they’re now part of the protein-rich foods.

So, what do you think of the new guidelines? For more info:

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I was curious about the new food guide. Overall, I like it, especially since it does not appear to be sponsored by a food company or lobby group. For me, the key to eating well is two-fold: cooking and eating foods I ENJOY and avoiding processed foods. There are so many healthy, easy to make and inexpensive options instead of reaching for processed stuff. I also agree with your other points about the quality of the foods we ingest. Sugar is sneaky. It’s everywhere and it’s not easy to cut down. Not easy, but it is possible as I learned from you. 🙂


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