After decades of strong industry influence, Canada’s new Food Guide has had a drastic update and now reflects current knowledge of nutrition and it’s impact on our health. Rather than dividing foods into groups the new food guide focuses on how to properly fill your plate.
Overall, I agree with most of the advice and the new plate format. Visually it gives people a reference point when filling their plate and will hopefully help to retrain our minds (and bellies) towards more appropriate portions. I also love that they make reference to our mindset and eating environment. These are important factors that impact our relationship with food and how our bodies process it.
Current recommendations are that at least one half of your plate is filled with vegetables and fruit. I agree with this advice and hope that most follow it. In general, Canadians consume less vegetables and fruit than is recommended and the evidence showing the health benefits of eating more vegetables and fruit is abundant. One caveat here is that I would recommend sticking with mostly vegetables and a small amount of fruit at each meal. Or having a half plate of fruit at only one meal during the day. Although fruit is packed with fiber and essential nutrients it can also be high in natural sugars which when eaten in excess at the expense of vegetables can be less beneficial to overall health.
The new Food Guide recommends that one quarter of your plate is filled with protein foods. I love that they have chosen to label it protein foods rather than meat so that – sources of protein are given equal presentation. This is good considering the evidence on the benefits of plant based foods to our health. Hopefully this will also encourage those who rely on meat as their primary source of protein to begin experimenting with plant based sources in their meals.
Canada’s Food Guide also recommends that one quarter of your plate be filled with whole grains. What I like most about this recommendation is that this portion is now more appropriate for good health and the focus is not on baked goods as a source of grains. Most baked goods are made with refined (not whole) grains, contain saturated fats, food additives, preservatives and sugar, and should not be consumed on a regular basis.
The Food Guide now recommends water as the beverage of choice. I couldn’t agree more! If all anyone took away from this food guide was to switch all their beverages to water they would likely see a benefit to both their health and waistline. Shifting the focus away from fruit juice is also a positive since fruit juices lack the fiber and have too much concentrated sugar (even though it’s natural) to be drinking on a regular basis.
I would have liked to have seen healthy oils depicted on the dinner plate however if eating from a variety of foods such omega 3 rich fish, nuts, seeds and avocado, a person would get enough healthy fats. However, the current reality is that most people eat from a limited range of foods so I usually recommend one tablespoon of healthy oils (such as olive oil for cooking or as part of a salad dressing) if there is no other source of healthy fats such as fish, nuts, seeds or avocado within that meal.
Overall, I think that this food guide is a much better reflection of what eating for good health would look like over previous versions. I feel that eating with others, enjoying your food, and cooking more often were all important to mention as these are the habits that can lead to a better relationship with food and consequently better health.
If you are interested you can view and download the full version of Canada’s new Food Guide here: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/guidelines/
Eat well. Feel well. Live well.