Big Changes Coming To Canada’s Food Guide

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January 11, 2019

Major changes are coming to the way Canadians are being told to fill their plates. Canada’s Food Guide is being revised again, and this time, it’s suggesting people eat more veggies and get a lot of their protein from plants.

Shifting Away From Meat & Dairy

Health Canada will release a final draft of the new guide in the coming weeks or months. But we’re getting an early glimpse of what the agency thinks constitutes a healthy diet these days.

The current rainbow consists of four food groups. The new one will drop to three categories: “vegetables and fruits,” “whole grains,” and for the first time, a “protein foods” group.

Food Guide

The latter of the three groups is replacing what was formerly two separate ones; “milk and milk products,” and “meat and alternatives.” By no means are these products being excluded from the guide, but their importance is being significantly reduced.  

Serving suggestions are also reportedly being eliminated. A Canadian Press story says Canada’s Food Guide will take a page from others released around the world, such as Brazil’s, which advises people to limit their intake of processed foods and to make natural ones the basis of their daily diets.  

Also, the pretty rainbow is out. The new guide is going to be a boring, square grid. Dang!   

Here’s how it will likely look:

Protein Foods

  • Tofu
  • Chickpeas
  • Peanut Butter
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Pork

Whole Grains

  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Quinoa
  • Pasta

Vegetables and Fruits

  • A variety of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and veggies

It will also be recommended we take in most of our daily calories from fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Health Canada says it’s a well-known fact that Canadians don’t get enough of the good stuff, and that needs to change.

Time for a Makeover

Since 1942, Canada’s food guide has been revamped seven different times. A CBC News report says the original draft was designed to build burly soldiers ready to fight in the Second World War.  

While those initial recommendations needed to change, unfortunately, over the years the guide fell victim to pressures from the food industry. In 1992, for example, big meat and dairy companies were successful in lobbying for increased serving suggestions from their categories.

Health Canada admits that the previous lobbying tactics have hurt the credibility of the food guide, and so for this latest makeover, it promised not to meet with any members of the food and beverage industry.  

It’s about time.

Widespread Reaction

Many Canadian industries are terribly disappointed with the new nutritional recommendations.

A lobby organization representing Canada’s farmers says the updated guide will have a negative impact on the economy and on future generations who depend on dairy and livestock for their livelihoods.

Furthermore, dairy and cattle farmers say the actual nutritional value of their products is being diminished. For example, they say putting milk in the same category as all protein is misleading. It contains calcium, which many other protein sources lack. As for beef or pork, it certainly provides a higher iron content than protein derived from plants.

The Canadian National Millers Association is worried the “whole grain” category will turn us away from white bread including hotdog and hamburger buns, or other products made with enriched flour.

The food guide, of course, is referred to by most doctors, schools, and daycare centers. Will Canadians turn their backs on dairy and meat altogether?

I doubt it. I for one, am all about opting for a mostly plant-based diet, but it’s unlikely I’ll ever quit dairy and meat. With flexitarianism on the rise, many people feel the same way.

The point is, nutritionists and dieticians have been recommending we eat more plant-based foods and less meat for a long time. Not only for our health but to sustain the environment for future generations as well.  

For those upset by the new recommendations, Health Canada promises this is not yet the final version, and that changes will likely be made as reactions start to roll in. But times are changing, and so are our dietary needs.   

It’ll be interesting to see where we end up.

Catherine Sherriffs
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Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her two young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.
Catherine Sherriffs
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