Canada's Food Guide Receives First Major Revamp in 12 Years

Health Canada released it's new food

Health Canada released it's new food

The picture is of a plateful of food, divided neatly into one-half vegetables and fruits, one-quarter whole-grain foods and one-quarter assorted protein-packed foods.

But while dietitians and health organizations lined up to praise this new approach, industry organizations that represent dairy and beef producers say they worry Canadians might see the new guide as a suggestion to limit their intake of red meat, cheese and milk.

According to Bronson, four million Canadians are considered food insecure, defined as lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Back then, it recommended milk, fruits, vegetables, cereals and breads, fish, meat and eggs. The resource is based on scientific research and consultation and is meant to be implemented in schools, promoted by doctors and used as a reference guide in public institutions like daycares and long-term care facilities. "It's really about nutrition and quality of life, much more so than providing a pamphlet for Canadian agriculture".

Canada's new guide for healthy eating has removed the concept of food groups, instead giving general diet advice that includes eating more plant-based proteins. "This is why these foods should not be consumed regularly".

While previous food guides were static documents, this 2019 version will continue to be updated with the latest dietary knowledge throughout the coming years.

Nikole Goncalves was a digital marketer for RBC in Toronto until two years ago, when she quit her nine-to-five job to become a full-time YouTuber. "These foods aren't totally interchangeable, for example, you can't get vitamin B12 from plant-based sources of protein". She believes plant-based eating is here to stay.

"It's a structural sign that there are shifts in the food industry", Bacon said.

Today, the movement has led a range of companies to espouse, directly or indirectly, the benefits of plant-based eating.

The changes have been praised by advocates for plant-based diets, but have raised the ire of the dairy lobby.

The dairy industry is - not surprisingly - less than thrilled about these changes.

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Predictably, the Dairy Farmers of Canada said it was "concerned" with the de-emphasizing of milk and milk products in the food guide, while the Society for the Protection of Animals and Animal Justice both rejoiced, calling the new guide a "triple win" for health, the environment and animals.

In eliminating specific food and portion recommendations, the guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group.

Meanwhile, the dairy association has been using social media to share information about the environmental impact of dairy.

Lemon said beef has an unfair reputation, due partly to concerns around the amount of fat in red meat, but that it's still an important source of protein for Manitobans.

Asked how these Canadians will afford the fruits and vegetables the food guide recommends, Petitpas Taylor said the food guide took affordability into consideration.

The third section is perhaps most interesting, as it encourages Canadians to think about how they eat.

"It's not particularly new to say eat more fruits and veggies, people have been saying this for a while", Dr Jenkins says. "I understand if people don't want to eat meat because they don't want to eat an animal".

He says Canadians are lucky to have the abundance of healthy food choices that we have, and debating what's "the best" food for us, is a luxury many people around the world don't have.

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"The only thing I can say is that these many groups have made their positions known, and it is their right to do so", Taylor told the Globe and Mail. And it's using the hashtag #beefbelongs as a rally cry for meat lovers across Canada. But Health Canada does work with the provinces, and is expected to unveil a "Healthy Eating Pattern for Health Professionals and Policy Makers" this year.

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