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Health Canada Releases Revamped, Evidence-Based Food Guide



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Health Canada Releases Revamped, Evidence-Based Food Guide

While not everyone is happy with Canada’s revamped food guide and its new stance on dairy (it’s no longer its own category), many have praised Health Canada for delivering a guide they say is more “evidence based.”

The newly-launched food guide takes a fairly common sense approach to food and eating. The guide says that Canadians should consume plenty of vegetables and fruits, eat protein-heavy foods, choose whole grain options and make water their drink of choice.

The guide also says that how you eat is just as important as what you eat, reminding Canadians that cooking at home is typically healthier than relying too much on takeout and restaurants for daily meals. The guide also calls on Canadians to enjoy food, be mindful of their eating habits, and eat meals with others.

As anyone who eats food and lives on the earth no doubt knows, fruits and vegetables should be a staple of any healthy diet, so it makes sense that fibrous foods make up more than half of the plate pictured above.

The guide says Canadians should try to eat more pears, apples, berries, broccoli, peaches, cabbage and leafy greens. It also advises against thinking of fruit juices as healthy alternatives to real fruit, as juice tends to be high in sugar (which is true, as a glass of orange or grapefruit juice might boast almost as many calories as a can of pop).

The guide also says it’s fine to eat frozen and canned fruit vegetables, but advises consumers to look for items without added sugars, sodium, sauces or seasonings.

As far as grains go, Canadians are advised to choose whole grains over refined ones. Some recommendations include quinoa, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, whole oats or oatmeal and whole grain brown or wild rice.

When it comes to protein, the guide says Canadians should enjoy eggs, lean meats (some cuts of beef, pork and wild game) and poultry, nuts and seeds, fish and shellfish, lower-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, low-sodium cheese), beans, peas, lentils, tofu, soybeans and fortified soy beverages.

As far as fat goes, the guide says Canadians should choose foods with healthy fats, including nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, vegetable oils and soft margarine. Some healthier oils include olive, corn, canola, peanut, sesame, soybean, flaxseed, safflower and sunflower oils.

Residents are advised to limit foods high in saturated fats, including cream, higher fat meats, processed meats, canned coconut milk or cream, some frozen desserts like ice cream, some desserts and bakery products, most deep fried foods and cheeses and foods containing a lot of cheese (which is sad news for cheese lovers).

The guide also advises Canadians to limit highly processed foods (sugary drinks, chocolate and candy, ice cream and frozen desserts, fast foods, frozen pizzas and pastas, muffins, buns and cakes, sausages and deli meats).

Other bits of advice? Use food labels, be mindful of food marketing, be aware of how and why you eat in order to make more conscious and healthful food choices, take time to eat (don’t rush or eat while distracted whenever possible, as that’s more likely to lead to overeating), cook more often, enjoy your food and eat with others. 

“Dietitians are passionate about the potential of food to enhance lives and improve health. We commend Health Canada on taking a broader approach to eating by providing evidence-based guidance on not only what to eat but how to eat,” says Nathalie Savoie, CEO, Dietitians of Canada. 

“We are also pleased to see inclusion and consideration of traditional foods, cultural diversity and environmental sustainability. Health promotion is an essential pillar in food policy and the new Food Guide tools and resources will support the creation of healthier food environments for Canadians.” 

To read the guide in full, click here.

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