By Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc
On January 22, Health Canada launched the new Canada’s food guide and it’s definitely different from all the past versions. Here’s a summary of what’s new and what’s still to come.
Food groupings instead of food groups. Bye, bye, food groups. This is one of the biggest and most notable changes in the history of the food guide. Instead of categorizing foods into four food groups, the new food guide recommends eating a variety of healthy foods each day from three key food groupings: vegetables and fruits; whole grain foods; and protein foods. The foods in the former “Milk and Alternatives” and “Meat and Alternatives” food groups are now found in the protein foods grouping.
Plate, not rainbow; proportions, not portions. Gone too are the weather-related images like the rainbow and sun designs of the past. The visual image of the food guide is now an Eat Well Plate and very similar to the “plate method” concept used in diabetes education. The Eat Well Plate image provides at a glance information on what to eat: half the plate is filled with vegetables and fruits; ¼ of the plate is comprised of whole grain foods; and ¼ of the plate is made up of protein foods. There are no recommended serving sizes of foods or recommended numbers of servings to eat. Water is the recommended drink of choice.
Emphasis on plant-based proteins. The new food guide recommends that we “choose protein foods that come from plants more often”. Plant-based protein foods such as peanuts and peanut butter can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. Nuts in particular are recognized for their association with decreased LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol. Overall, choosing plant-based foods can be beneficial for heart health. When choosing animal-based foods, the food guide recommends choices that are lower in saturated fat and sodium.
Healthy eating habits. The new food guide offers advice on what to eat, what not to eat, and – for the first time ever – how to eat. Some healthy eating habits are: be mindful of your eating habits; cook more often; enjoy your food; eat meals with others; use food labels; limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat; and be aware of food marketing.
What’s next? Later this year, Health Canada plans to release the second suite of Canada’s food guide resources that includes information and resources on the recommended types and amounts of foods to eat as well as dietary guidance for life stages. Many dietitians still have questions: Are the directional statements from the old food guide still valid (e.g. eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day; eat at least two servings of fish per week)? What advice should be offered to ensure consumers get enough calcium and vitamin D? Will the food guide be translated into different languages? Stay tuned for more!
By Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc., President & Founder – Nutrition Solutions Inc. & Co-Founder – Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists. Sue is an award-winning dietitian, dynamic speaker and nutrition consultant to the Peanut Bureau of Canada