Our much-anticipated new food guide is officially out, and while not perfect, it is a giant step in the right direction.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
Whenever I’m working with clients, I teach them to look for what’s right rather than what’s wrong as a way of developing an abundance – or growth – mindset.
In that spirit, I’m going to start with everything I love about the new guide.
- Its focus on colourful plants & whole, unprocessed food taking up half the plate.This sounds like sensible advice, right?
- Water is the beverage of choice. Juice is no longer a suitable substitute for fruit (hooray!), but rather another sugary beverage. Dentists will be rejoicing, and our children will benefit tremendously from this change.
- Healthy eating includes more than just the food. How it’s prepared (getting back into our kitchens), being mindful (paying attention to hunger & satiety signals), and enjoying meals with others (part of virtually every culture) are important too.
- It’s easier to follow. Without the food groups and serving recommendations, it’s less “prescriptive” and provides broader, more practical guidance for people to embrace and make their own.
- Where are the healthy fats and oils? In order to feel our best, we need clean protein, nutritious carbohydrates, and healthy fat. This guide overlooks the role of healthy fat from sources like olive oil, avocados, fish, butter, ghee, coconut products, nuts and seeds.
What would I modify?
- Distinguish between vegetables and fruit. Fruit is naturally sweet, so when left to our own devices we often choose it over nutritionally superior vegetables. In my courses I advise students to think of vegetables as “mandatory” and fruit as “optional.”
- Offer nutritious carb options besides grains. Sweet potatoes, quinoa, and wild rice, for example, have superior nutrient profiles to grains. They’re also better from a gut health and inflammatory standpoint, plus they’re far less likely to over-consume.
- Focus on animal over plant proteins*. We get a lot of bang for our buck with clean animal protein (meat, fish, poultry, eggs). With fewer calories and minimal insulin production compared to plant proteins like legumes and tofu, animal protein has a superior amino acid profile and B vitamins, leading to healthy bone, muscle, and brain development. High fat dairy, such as butter, cream and full-fat yogurt, can also have a place for dairy tolerant folks in protecting against various diseases including diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Full-fat dairy has also been linked to a healthy body weight.
*I think the bigger issues going on are the access to ethically raised animal products (at affordable prices) and environmental sustainability. And that is certainly a valid criticism, as most of our meat – unless carefully sourced –comes from feedlot animals and delivers substandard nutrition, as well as hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and other objectionable agents. The animals often live in crowded, inhumane conditions, and are stuffed with grain-based foods that they have not evolved to thrive on. If you can source cleaner animal protein options, they are often too expensive for many to afford.
Food For Thought
There is certainly a case for this being an “elitist” way of eating, but I wonder if the drastically new guidelines released by the federal government are the first step toward a national food strategy that will ensure everyone can afford real food?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and tell me one thing you love about Canada’s new Food Guide. Anything you’d change?