Why I LOVE the new Canada Food Guide

Recently, Health Canada announced the release of the NEW Canada Food Guide. Dietitians all across Canada were eagerly awaiting this day. Health Canada has also launched tools that accompany the food guide that are practical and evidenced-based. The food guide is targeted to all healthy Canadians 2yrs of age and older. Please note that if you have a certain condition you may need tailored advice from your Registered Dietitian.

The food guide has diversity and uses traditional foods and emphasizes food sustainability by reducing food waste as well as growing and cooking our own foods.

The Nutrition Facts Table is also discussed and is emphasized as a key source of information to make informed choices. Choose foods lower in salt, sugar and saturated fat more often. A quick reference that I like to share with people is the 15% Daily Value (DV) or more is high for the nutrient and 5% Daily Value (DV) is low for that nutrient. We want to have higher % DV for fibre, vitamins and minerals and lower % DV for sodium, saturated fat and sugar.

Key messages from the food guide are:
1) Make water your drink of choice
2) Choose whole grains
3) Eat protein foods
4) Have plenty of vegetables and fruits

Practically speaking, instead of choosing high sugar beverages such as pop, ice tea, iced coffees with added sugar, sports drinks, energy drinks or flavored milk as a regular part of your day choose water with meals and between meals to quench your thirst. If you don’t like plain water you may want to flavor it with lemon, limes, cucumber, celery or other fruits.

Choosing whole grains includes brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, oatmeal and cold cereals with greater than 2-4grams of fibre per serving. Enjoy whole grains with meals or as a snack. When making pasta for dinner try whole wheat or mix half whole wheat with white. Try brown rice with your stir fry. Quinoa can be added to salads, used as a side dish similar to rice, or enjoyed hot as a breakfast cereal (possibly with some nuts, fruit and low fat milk if you desire).

Choose protein foods every day and regularly include them as part of your main meals. One comment I have heard regularly is that milk products are no longer on the food guide. This is not true; milk products are included under Protein Foods. Enjoy lower fat milk or fortified soy beverage, yogurt, kefir and hard cheese with your meals. There is also an emphasis on plant based protein because of the many health benefits. Plant based protein include beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds. A practical approach could be lentil stew, adding chick peas, nuts or seeds to salads, having ¼ cup unsalted nuts as a snack or enjoying hummus with cold veggies or whole grain crackers. Health Canada https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/canada-food-guide/tips-healthy-eating/meal-planning-cooking-healthy-choices/recipes.html or Dietitians of Canada Cookspiration http://www.cookspiration.com/ also has some great recipes cooking with beans or lentils. Lean beef, pork, poultry, fish and eggs can also be used to add variety and nutrition to your plate.

Having plenty of vegetables and fruits practically means including them with every meal and for a snack between your meals. Look at your plate and fill half you pate with a mixture of brightly colored vegetables and fruits. With the rising costs of vegetables and fruit I have been asked “how do I afford to eat this many vegetables and fruits”. Try choosing according to what is in season. In the fall and winter choose a variety of squash, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, oranges or a variety of frozen vegetables and fruits. In the summer choose tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, spinach, swish chard, berries, melons, corn on the cob. Growing your own vegetables in a garden box or pots on you patio if you don’t have garden space can also increase food literacy. By decreasing our portion size of protein foods to ¼ of your plate and choosing plant based proteins we can offset the cost of eating more vegetables and fruits.

The other components to the Food Guide that excite me when educating the public about nutrition is the concepts of eating together and cooking your own food at home. Both skills I feel we have lost over the years due to many compounding factors including both parents working outside the home, overscheduling and lack of cooking skills being taught. Batch cooking, crock pots, instapots and getting all family member involved in food preparation can help with these challenges. Eating out less will cut down on our food costs, along with decreasing our intake of saturated fats, sodium and sugar which are often found in higher amounts in restaurant meals.

For more information on making the Food Guide work for you contact your Registered Dietitian (RD). Stop by the Heal the Hat April 12-14th in Medicine Hat and I will be there to navigate the website alongside you and help to answer some of your questions.

Eat Well and Be Well;


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