It’s been ten years since Health Canada released the current Food Guide and with all the health and nutrition research done since then, it’s safe to say it’s a little out of date. In the past decade, we’ve learned a lot more about our bodies, how they process food, which foods give us the nutrients we need and which ones we should really avoid. We’ve learned that all dairy and meat products are not created equal and sugar is way worse than we could have imagined. So it’s about time Health Canada took a look at all that new research and revamped the Food Guide. Enter the 2018 Canada’s Food Guide, which is going to look way different than any prior iteration.
The Guide has been around for 75 years now and critics say that it has never really had the overhaul it needed to cater to post-post-war Canada. The guide is tailored to the malnutrition and rationing of the times immediately after WWII. With our current nutritional concerns being more about obesity and heart health, we need a guide more tailored to curbing the over-consumption and unhealthy eating of our culture rather than encouraging people to get enough fat in their diet (we definitely do that).
So what does this new revamp mean for the food guide? Health Canada has released ‘Guiding Principles‘ that they will be using to create the new document. These will take into consideration not only what the average human needs to eat, but what the average Canadian is eating currently and how they should improve their diet.
For example, the new guide will encourage Canadians to eat a more plant-based diet; lean proteins (like fish and eggs); more fiber and whole grains; lower-fat dairy products; and limit foods high in saturated fat (like high-fat cheese, butter and cream); red meat; and sugary beverages. It will also warn against processed foods, especially those high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat. The guide will also acknowledge the difficulties you may come across trying to shop for healthy non-processed food and offer tips to make it easier.
That all sounds pretty good if you ask us, but the new guide may do some rearranging of the food groups too, which could make for some confused (and ill-informed) Canadians. According to Isabelle Neiderer, director of nutrition and research with Dairy Farmers of Canada, the new guide might lump all types of protein–including dairy–into one category, sending the message that all proteins give you the same health benefits. That’s just not true. Remember calcium? That’s pretty crucial to your bones and found in abundance in dairy, not meat.
‘It would be a disservice to the Canadian population and frankly, a recipe for disaster in terms of bone health,’ Neiderer told CTV of the food group amalgamation. The Canadian dairy industry would also take quite a hit if people suddenly stopped drinking milk or buying butter. Milk sales have already been in decline and the industry, which employs 220,000 Canadians, is a little uneasy about the new recommendations. The same goes for the meat industry. Since the guide will encourage Canadians to consume less red meat and more plant-based proteins, meat sales might also see a decline.
While Health Canada is listening to the considerations of farmers in composing the new guide, it is unclear how much of an influence they will have. As Hasan Hutchinson, director general of nutritional policy and programs at Health Canada said, ‘We have to ensure the development of the guidance is really free from any conflict of interest.’ We’re all for Canadian farmers, but it’s good to know that the new health guide will be created with more consideration for facts than industry interests.