As a newcomer, shopping for and cooking food in Canada can be a little confusing as there may be many new choices that are unfamiliar to you. It’s also easy to get trapped into unhealthy choices, as there are many convenience and pre-packaged foods and drinks available. Confused? The new Canada’s Food Guide, released on January 22, 2019, can help.
Canada’s Food Guide has focus on eating habits
In Canada, the federal government has provided a Canada’s Food Guide in one form or another since 1942, previously focusing on types of foods and serving sizes. The most recent update focuses on not just food, but eating habits, leaning more toward traditional ways of eating and cooking that immigrants may be more familiar with, including cooking at home and eating together as a family.
The update doesn’t feature the specific food groups or serving suggestions included in the last iteration in 2007; rather, it creates a foundation for healthy eating and food skills. “Healthy eating is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and helps prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer of Canada, upon the release of the new guide. “The new Canada’s Food Guide not only encourages healthy eating for all Canadians, but also teaches us that healthy eating is more than the foods we eat — it includes such important aspects as sharing meals with others, cooking more often and eating mindfully.”
The new food guide also advises Canadians to be more mindful when it comes to eating, read food labels and be aware of food marketing.
What Canadians should eat
For the food recommendations themselves, the new Canada Food Guide advises us to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, making plant-based food a priority. Eating protein foods is also important, but now the guide combines meat, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds into one category — further emphasizing plant-based protein options. Although Keto diet proponents might disagree, choosing whole grain foods is also important, with an emphasis on whole grains. When it comes to drinks, the food guide says to make water your drink of choice. There’s also a shift away from a focus on dairy products as well as a new absence of fruit juices, which were suggested in the last version of the guide. There is also a new advisory about alcohol consumption in the new guide.
The 2007 Food Guide focused on types of foods and serving sizes, which were often confusing and hard to measure.
While the guide no longer contains serving sizes, Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, director general at Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, told reporters we should follow a ratio similar to the guide’s cover image, where half of the plate is comprised of fruits and vegetables.
“The baseline message of making half of your plate fruits and vegetables would be a very good one,” said Hutchinson. “It’s not about portion, per se, but perhaps about proportion in terms about what you take onto your plates and how you incorporate that into your family meals, into your snacks, into your gatherings.”
The guide also stresses choosing natural fats over saturated fats, limiting processed foods, foods high in salt and sugars, and sugary drinks.