3 Main Take-Aways from the Latest Canada Food Guide (2019)
Did you know that prior to 2019, the Canada Food Guide had not been updated since 2007? I don’t know if y’all remember that rainbow-coloured pamphlet that circulated around your class back in the day, but it was in serious need of a face-lift!
Granted, the whole process for changing national nutrition recommendations is super political. However, in a rapidly evolving field like nutrition, it seems almost negligent to not update it at least once or twice a decade, y’know?
To their credit, I will say that even though we’d been waiting for an update for way too long, they sure delivered!
Many problematic elements of the 2007 guide were stripped away. Most notable were the removal of recommended number of servings and serving sizes. This is something worth celebrating for two reasons:
It was far too prescriptive…not to mention that the prescriptions were based on weak evidence at best and do not adequately consider differences in individual need. I also found the structure to be innately overwhelming to the point that it was an immediate deterrent for most people.
The serving sizes did not align with typical portion sizes. For instance, a bagel was actually considered two servings of grains; this is hardly intuitive.
In addition, the 2007 guide placed a skewed emphasis on dairy and meat (“and alternatives”), no doubt due to political pulls. It also failed to be culturally inclusive.
Therefore, in my oh-so-humble opinion, the latest Canada Food Guide stepped up and delivered on providing recommendations that are more evidence-based, health-promoting, and easy to understand and implement.
Here are some key take-aways:
1. Consider the whole eating experience
Food is more than just a collection of nutrients; it is culture and it is social; it is comfort and pleasure; it is bonding and learning.
The new guide really made an effort to acknowledge these important elements by encouraging us to truly enjoy our food. This includes finding pleasure in shopping for food, cooking at home more, exploring new foods, and eating and sharing food with others.
They also promote mindful eating, something that has truly become a lost art in our society. It is the practice of being aware of how, why, what, when, and how much you eat. It may sound silly, but how often do you sit down to eat and just focus and enjoy the eating process without a phone in your hand or the TV on? We end up eating out of habit, boredom, or just to keep our hands and mouth busy. We end up not even truly enjoying the food or ever feeling truly satisfied.
The benefit of mindful eating is that by checking in with yourself about your hunger and needs, you are more likely to make healthier choices. If you want tips on how to incorporate mindful eating into your life, check out my post here.
2. Use the plating method
The plating approach is a convenient model that is easy to remember and can be applied in almost any situation, whether you're preparing food at home or eating out.
When planning out meals and plating up food, aim to have half your plate be vegetables and/or fruits, quarter of the plate be whole grains, and the final quarter be protein.
We all know that veggies and fruits are incredibly nourishing for us. They provide fibre, vitamins, and minerals, all of which help support gut health, heart health, bone health, and mental health. Aim to include a variety of them in your diet; a good indicator of variety is when there is a lot of colour in your meals!
Whole grains are also a source of fibre and B-vitamins. Whole grains refer to grains that have all of their components intact; namely, the bran, germ, and endosperm. In refined grains or "white" grain products, the bran and germ are removed because doing so can improve the texture of food items and also help extend shelf-life. The problem is that the process also strips away a lot of its nutritional value. This is why it's best to choose whole grain products more often than refined grains.
Protein supports hormone function and lean muscle mass. I know we have a tendency to think of meat when we hear the word ‘protein’, but protein can be found in a wide variety of vegan and vegetarian options as well: think legumes, cheese, grains, lentils, tofu, quinoa, etc.
3. Be cognizant of general nutrition principles
I appreciated the general nutritional advice provided in the guide because it promotes nutritional literacy without being overly restrictive or intimidating. For instance, they say to limit foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar, or salt. It is also recommended to make water the beverage of choice.
Take advantage of the information provided on food labels, such as the ingredients list and the nutrition table, to help guide purchasing decisions.
Stay tuned for my future post on how exactly to read a Nutrition Facts table!
Until next time, stay nourished my friends.