Canada’s New Food Guide

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Canada’s new Food Guide is on the right track for healthy eating. The Food Guide promotes whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and both animal- and plant-based proteins. Rather than using serving sizes, the Food Guide uses the “Eat Well Plate” to show proportions of food.

Canada's Food Guide Eat Well Plate: Half vegetables and fruits, one quarter whole grains, one quarter protein

In the Eat Well Plate:

  • Half of the plate is vegetables and fruits.
  • One quarter of the plate is whole grain foods.
  • One quarter of the plate is protein foods.

 

The Food Guide has received some negative responses for losing the meat and dairy food groups and for emphasizing plant-based foods. Meat and dairy are still included, however, as a source of protein. It is helpful, therefore, to have an understanding of the macronutrients that different foods provide. Macronutrients are protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Protein

Protein is important for a number of reasons. First, it helps repair muscle during strength training and spares muscle during weight loss. Second, it is satiating; it helps to keep you from getting hungry between meals. Third, protein helps manage blood sugar and insulin; the body is less likely to store protein as body fat. For healthy eating, muscle building or weight loss, it is important to have protein with every meal.

Protein can come from both plant-based and animal-based sources. Under the category “Protein Foods”, the Food Guide lists:

  • legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yogurts, lower fat kefir, and cheeses lower in fat and sodium.

If your goal is weight loss, you should aim to eat Protein Foods higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. Lean animal-based protein is the most efficient source of protein. It provides the highest protein per total food calories. Some dairy products, such as unsweetened cottage cheese and unsweetened Greek yogurt, are higher in protein than in carbs. This makes them an efficient source of protein. Plant-based protein such as legumes are relatively higher in carbohydrates, but they are healthy carbs and contain important nutrients and fibre. The Food Guide advises choosing plant-based protein more often. Therefore, we should consume both types of protein sources to provide variety.

Raw nuts are a source of protein. More so, they are a good source of unsaturated fats. For the amount of protein they provide, they are relatively high in fat calories. As a result, we only need small amount. They are great for a snack or sprinkled on a salad for a little extra protein and good fat.

Fats

Fats are essential for cell formation and for transporting fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat is also important for hormone function, nerve transmission and protecting organs.

Contrary to popular belief, eating fat does not make us fat. Excess calories makes us fat. Fats are energy dense, so we may have to watch our portion sizes. However, dietary fat is helpful in weight loss because it helps us to feel full longer. This can help prevent cravings for nutrient-void foods such as refined carbs.

Dietary fats can be trans, saturated, or unsaturated.

Trans Fats

Trans fats have been identified as harmful or “bad” fat when industrially produced. Partially hydrogenated oils used to be the major source of trans fats. Food manufacturers used these oils to improve the shelf life of products. These trans fats are now banned from use in Canada.

Saturated Fats

The Food Guide advises: “Choose foods with healthy fats instead of foods with saturated fat.

This seems to imply that saturated fats are unhealthy. However, naturally-occurring saturated fats are not bad. In fact, we should consume 10% of our energy and 1/3 of dietary fat as saturated fats. This includes meat, butter, dairy and eggs, ideally from grass-fed (pasture raised or free range) animals.

The aim of Canada’s Food Guide is to reduce added saturated fats from highly processed products. The added fats in highly processed products make it too easy to over-consume dietary fat. If we eat whole, natural food, excess fat should not be a problem.

Unsaturated Fats

It is important to eat foods containing unsaturated fats such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocado, salmon and sardines. Experts agree that omega-3 fat from fish and fish oils are very important to health. We should be eating more fish.

The Food Guide lists vegetable oils and soft margarine as healthy unsaturated fat; however, this is debatable. These products are highly processed and industrially produced. Some experts believe that omega-6 fat from vegetable oil is overly abundant in our foods and may be a cause of chronic inflammation.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy and fibre. Naturally occurring, unprocessed, high-fibre sources of carbohydrates are beneficial for health and weight loss.

The Food Guide does well to promote vegetables and fruit as the main sources of carbohydrate, filling half the plate, and limiting whole grains to only a quarter of the plate. If weight loss is your goal, eat more vegetables than fruit.

Vegetables and fruit are excellent sources of healthy carbohydrates because they are occur together with fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and anti-oxidants that are essential to health. Each fruit and vegetable contains biologically active components that may interact together in beneficial ways we do not yet understand. It is important to eat the whole food in the way God designed it rather than try to extract the anti-oxidants of say, blueberries, and inject them into, say, gummi candies. Eat blueberries! Eat the whole fruit! Consuming a variety of colours is important as each colour has different health benefits.

Whole grains are also a source of carbohydrates.  The fewer the ingredients, the better. For example, the ingredient in brown rice: Whole grain brown rice. Quinoa ingredients: Quinoa seeds. Steel-cut oatmeal: Whole grain oats. Compare this to the ingredients on a box of cereal!

Refined carbohydrates, such as breads, breakfast cereal, cookies, crackers, pasta, etc., tend to be nutrient-void. They are usually made with refined flours and with added sugar, salt, and preservatives. They can also be addictive as they do not satisfy and can lead to over-eating. Refined carbohydrates lack fibre, are too easily digested and can too easily be stored as fat.

Processed foods

In addition to promoting whole foods, the Food Guide advises to reduce added sugars, reduce highly-processed foods, and drink water as the main beverage.

According to the the Food Guide, the term ‘highly processed products’ refers to processed or prepared foods and beverages that contribute to excess sodium, free sugars, or saturated fat when consumed on a regular basis. This includes processed meat, deep-fried foods, sugary breakfast cereals, biscuits and cake, confectioneries, sugary drinks, and many ready-to-heat packaged dishes”, potato chips, pop, crackers, fruit roll ups, fruit snacks, some granola and protein bars, cereal and breakfast bars, pudding cups, ice cream and other sweetened desserts.

We should eat real foods and stop buying highly-processed foods. Then maybe they will stop making them. In our grocery stores, the aisles of packaged foods will shrink and the sections of organic whole foods will grow!

Healthy Eating Habits and Food Skills

The Food Guide gives good advice to be mindful of our eating habits, enjoy our food, and eat meals with others. It is important to be aware of  hunger cues. Take note of when you are hungry and when you are full. It is also important to be mindful of your emotional state. Try not to eat out of boredom, fatigue or stress. Finally, the Food Guide also promotes food skills such as menu planning, shopping, and preparing your own food.

For help with menu planning and grocery shopping, check out my blog Weekly Meal Planning for Healthy Eating Success.

If you need help or advice in the area of healthy eating, planning and food prep, please contact Vital Active Living for healthy eating coaching! Contact

For the interactive consumer version of Canada’s new Food Guide: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

For the full Dietary Guidelines, follow this link: https://food-guide.canada.ca/static/assets/…/CDG-EN-2018.pdf

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