Canada’s Food Guide has changed—and for the most part, the Registered Dietitians at Copeman Healthcare couldn’t be happier. This 2019 update is less prescriptive than past versions and uses the healthy or balanced plate model which dietitians have used for many years as a guideline for their patients.
Of course, it’s hard to create a guide that works for everyone. While it’s difficult to tick every box, our team gives the new and improved guide the thumbs up for the following reasons.
1. It’s less complicated
The plate breakdown highlights how we should build every meal. The visual is great because it doesn’t involve portions or counting, and it works with all varieties of diets, cultures, and whether you’re eating out or cooking at home.
2. It focuses on proportions, rather than amounts
Every person is different, and everyone needs to eat different amounts of food to fuel themselves properly. Rather than setting a prescriptive amount of food, the guide makes it clear that regardless of how much one eats, we should all be filling half our plates with veggies (or fruit) at every meal.
It also emphasizes that we should always include a good source of protein at each meal and encourages high-fibre starches (the grain section of the plate).
3. It emphasizes plant protein
Whether or not you’re an omnivore, plant-based proteins are a healthy choice. Plant proteins provide us with a rich variety of micronutrients and fibre, in addition to protein. This guide clearly shows plant proteins equally as prominent as animal proteins.
4. Water is front and center, and it gets rid of juice!
Dietitians everywhere are rejoicing — finally, we’re not counting juice as fruit.
While fruit juice may contain some vitamins and minerals, it’s also a concentrated source of sugar, which is something most people could reduce.
5. It emphasizes how to eat, as well as what to eat
Believe it or not, but there’s more to healthy eating than just what you eat.
Cooking, mindfulness, eating socially and actually enjoying your food are all very important when it comes to having a healthy relationship with food. In North America, cooking is often viewed as a chore.
Learn to enjoy food preparation, eating with friends and family, and slowing down to be mindful of your eating habits. This comes naturally to our European counterparts — many of whom report lower levels of obesity and health issues than in North America.
6. It discusses food labels and marketing
It’s a great reminder that we all need to pay more attention to the ingredients list and nutrition facts on food labels. The updated guide highlights that as a society, we need to be aware that pretty packaging and commercials don’t tell us much about the quality of the food we’re buying. If we want to be healthier as a population, we need to start paying attention to what’s going in our body, and voting with our dollars.
And the one thing that’s missing?
Unfortunately, Canada’s Food Guide avoids one crucial point — food insecurity.
All across Canada, thousands of children and adults struggle to afford to eat in the ways recommended in the guide. For many rural or northern regions, buying vegetables and fruit can be unaffordable, even in frozen or canned varieties. Unfortunately in these cases, eating a healthy plate half full of vegetables or fruit may not be realistic. We can only hope that this update stimulates discussion to improve this societal issue.
Canada’s Food Guide isn’t perfect, but overall, we’re thrilled to see the changes. Our only question — how did it take 12 years to get here?