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Canada’s New Food Guide

By MarthaFitat55

Health Canada released its long awaited update to its food guide this week and the response has been swift. Overall I quite like it, and I wrote about it here in my bi-weekly column. The old food guide was prescriptive (eat something from these four food groups and here’s how much). The new food guide is much more aspirational and as I wrote, it reflects diversity in food choice and food culture.

I thought I would pull together a bunch of responses to the guide in this post. The Globe and Mail has several pieces I liked, with the first from one from Andre Picard, the Globe’s health reporter, in which he looks at food insecurity and the food guide’s recommendations. Leslie Beck, the Globe’s dietitian commentator, offers up her thanks for Health Canada’s building a guide on science while Ann Hui also of the Globe and Mail, provides a good overview of the key changes here.

Cassandra Lszklarski from the Canadian Press focuses on the guide’s position on alcohol. Health Canada has stepped away from recommending milk as the preferred beverage and tells us to drink more water. At the same time, it is also came out strongly against alcohol consumption (non drinkers shouldn’t start for example). Previous guides highlighted the sugar and calories in alcohol, but this version talks about the links between alcohol and obesity, cancer, and addiction.

Yoni Freedhoff looks at the implications for institutional change. On Weighty Matters, Freedhoff’s blog, he wrote how the new food guide is a radical departure from previous more modest iterations:

“Whether it was consequent to past criticisms, or the insulation of the revision process from the food industry, or a change in leadership, or some combination of those and more factors, the 2019 Food Guide is incredibly different from all of its predecessors. Gone is dairy as its own food group (that doesn’t mean the guide is recommending against dairy consumption), gone is wishy-washy language that excused refined grains, gone are explicit recommendations to consume 2 glasses of milk and 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oils daily, gone is overarching fat-phobia, gone is juice being a fruit and vegetable equivalent, gone is the notion that sugar-sweetened milk is a health food, and gone is an antiquated nutrient-focused approach.”

Freedhoff also talks about what to do next, now that the food guide is out without its dependence on food-based marketing recommendations. In this post, he looks at what needs to change for good healthy food policy to happen. Freedhoff describes them as hills but they include removal of fast food from schools, a national school food policy, a ban on food marketing to children, implementation of a soda tax, removal of front of package claims, and an overhaul of supplement regulation.

The food insecurity issue is one that I will be looking at in the future, but in the meantime, I am excited by the new food guide and what it means for reflecting diversity and health on my plate.

What do you think? How important has the food guide been in managing your nutritional needs? What do you like or dislike about Health Canada’s guide?

— Martha Muzychka is a writer living in St. John’s who swims, lifts and walks as much as she can.

6 thoughts on “Canada’s New Food Guide

  1. There are some good recommendations here, but as usual, the Canada Food Guide promotes a white, Euro-centric, Westernized approach to food and nutrition. I see no attempt to incorporate food from other cultures, and I find it hard not to interpret that as “only white people food is healthy.”

    1. Thanks for pointing that out Steph. There is still lots to critique about the new guide. I will be adding a few more links I have found including a great post that goes into detail on the observation you made. I live in a province where it isn’t easy to get ingredients for making food from other cultures, and if you can, it costs a lot. Accessibility, affordability and acceptability of available and desired foods should be discussed more deeply.

  2. I like the new food guide a lot. I also like the associated website which has great, easy recipes to accompany the food guide. They are quite ethnically diverse, too. There is even at least one recipe that uses country food. I was surprised to hear the concerns about food insecurity because I think the new guide is actually much better than the old one on that front. Dried beans, for example, get more play in this guide, and you can buy a kg of dried beans for under $3 (as I did today – it is one of the ways I am already paying more attention). Basic frozen or canned vegetables and fresh local vegetables that winter well (onions, cabbage, rutabaga) are all very inexpensive. Food insecurity is definitely an issue in Canada, but let’s not lay too much blame on the food guide.

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