Canada’s new Food Guide – What’s it all about?
by: Melissa Murray, Registered Dietitian
After well over a decade, Canada has a new food guide! With no further counting or trying to understand what a portion is, the focus is on the ideal balance of foods at your plate to obtain adequate nutrition. It also focuses on healthy food behaviours, as a healthy diet is so much more than just what we eat. I’ll break down a few of its recommendations below.
Focus on plant-based foods and plant-based protein: Plant-based proteins, such as legumes, are a good source of protein, while being higher in fibre and lower in fat than animal-based proteins. Many evidence-based diets, such as the Mediterranean and DASH diets, promoted for heart health, also emphasize plant proteins. Consuming more plant proteins can also help with weight management and are associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer. When consuming animal proteins, trim off the visible fat, choose healthy cooking methods (grill, bake, steam) and include poultry and fish more often.
What about dairy: Dairy is not emphasized in the new guide, but this does not discredit it, being one of the richest foods in calcium, important for bone and dental health. When choosing dairy or its alternatives, consume 2-3 servings daily, for adequate calcium intake. Did you know that canned fish with bones is also a rich source of calcium.
Cook more often and eat meals with others: We live in a fast-forward society, and finding the time to cook regularly can be challenging, especially with the growing array of grab-and-go options. Pre-planning meals and snacks, and having the necessary ingredients on hand is a good way to stay on track. Batch cooking on the weekend, pre-preparing fruits and vegetables or using a slow cooker can save a lot of time and money later. Foods prepared at home are often lighter in sodium, fat and calories and is a rewarding process when you’ve made a meal yourself. Cooking at home helps to instil healthy habits in our children and eating together can help us to enjoy our food more, and be more mindful of what and how much we are eating. It is also a good time to share our day with others and may even expose us to new foods!
Limit processed food and be aware of food marketing: Many processed (restaurant, canned, packaged) foods have higher levels of sodium, fat and/or sugar and can lead to an increased risk of chronic disease and certain cancers. Limiting processed food also allows us to taste the more natural flavours of a food and possibly obtain more nutrition from it. Be aware of marketing though; just because a food seems healthy, doesn’t mean that it is. If a food is lower in fat, it may be higher in sodium or sugar to maintain similar flavour profiles. Use the nutrition facts panel to assess if a food fits what you’re looking for. 5% DV (daily value) or less on the nutrition facts label means there’s a “little” of that nutrient, where 15% DV or more is a lot.
Be mindful and enjoy your food! Take time to eat, and really savour your food! Use all your senses when eating and when trying new foods. Try not to eat when distracted, such as when watching TV, in front of the computer, or on the go; most people eat more than intended in these situations. When you do eat, enjoy your foods, guilt-free! All foods fit into a healthy lifestyle.