It’s been 12 years since Canada’s Food Guide was last updated. But the latest version, which was unveiled on January 22, 2019, is well worth the wait. In addition, the two-page ‘Food Guide Snapshot’ offers Canadians a fresh approach to eating by focussing on both what to eat and how to eat.

What’s Changed?

Quite a bit, and the changes are drastic. The old “four food group” rainbow has been replaced with a much easier-to-understand plate model which advises Canadians to:

  • Have plenty of vegetables and fruits (visually: half your plate)
  • Eat protein foods (visually: quarter of your plate)
  • Choose whole grain foods (visually: quarter of your plate)
  • Make water your drink of choice

If you were familiar with the previous Food Guide, the most obvious change here is the elimination of the “Milk and alternatives” and the “Meat and alternatives” food groups, in exchange for a “protein” category.  Now, to be clear, the “protein” group still includes foods such as beef, chicken, cheese, and milk. However, Health Canada also suggests getting protein from plant sources such as beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.

This change is drawing high praise from Canadians who knew that previous Food Guides were heavily influenced by the food industry, and powerful beef, eggs, and dairy lobby groups.

How did it happen?

To develop this new version of the guide, Health Canada closed the door to industry groups, and based their decisions solely on the most up-to-date nutritional science.

They looked at over 100 systematic reviews on food topics and excluded industry-commissioned reports in order to reduce any conflict of interest. The food pattern that was chosen is based on years of research that shows that eating this plate model can help decrease the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

If you’ve ever wondered how Health Canada came to their decisions, the details are all packed into the 62-page resource “Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers” that comes as a companion piece to the two-page Food Guide Snapshot.

How is it better?

The overall guide has a welcome push towards eating more whole foods and cutting back on ultra-processed foods, especially foods that are high in sodium, sugars, and saturated fat. It also reminds Canadians to be aware of food marketing – something the food industry is likely not happy to see.

Once your plate is packed with vegetables, whole grains and beans, it’s time to sit down with friends, colleagues or family to share a meal. Yup – eating meals with others is advice right out of the new Food Guide! The guide smartly advises that “Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat” and recommends that Canadians enjoy their food, be mindful of their eating habits, and cook more often.

It’s a breath of fresh air to know that in addition to considering health, the new Food Guide also considered environmental sustainability, food waste, cost of food, special dietary needs, cultural food preferences, and food traditions.

We agree!

From the beginning, Carrot’s health messaging has closely aligned with all of the information and advice in the new Guide. Just like Health Canada, we also base our blogs and offers on the most trust-worthy nutritional science, and we’ve covered topics that include cutting back on sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. The new Food Guide also suggests making water your drink of choice, and notes that other healthy drink options are milk, coffee, and tea. Cutting back on sugary drinks like pop, juice, and chocolate milk is also highly recommended.

We’ve been saying the same thing too! And since day one, we’ve been huge advocates of replacing sugary drinks with water. This popular post offers nine ways to add a little attitude to your water. We’ve also been recommending the plate model for a while, and we’re thrilled that it now represents the nation’s food plan!

Now the question is…will Canadians heed this advice? Sweet beverages are the number one source of sugar in the diet; we fall short on vegetables, and few of us eat whole grains. This plate is a marked departure from where we’re at, but it’s certainly good advice to follow.

Cara Rosenbloom

Author Cara Rosenbloom

Registered Dietitian Cara Rosenbloom is the president of Words to Eat By, a Toronto-based nutrition communications company specializing in writing, recipe development and nutrition education. Read her blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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