The Food Guide offers a national yardstick of what we should aim for as a nation, rubber stamped, government approved, and posted all over schools and doctor’s offices across the land. The problem is that most of the information has been proven flat out wrong.
Canada’s Food Guide has been a thorn in my side for years. The Food Guide is not something most people feel passionately about - I freely admit I’m a bit of a nutrition geek on this front. But Canada’s rainbow guide is not only hokey, it’s also hopelessly out of date.
Our current guide urges a low fat, high carbohydrate diet that makes zero mention of avoiding processed food. Suggested snacks include cheese cubes, peanut butter, white bread, or a glass of chocolate milk. Fruit can be swapped out for fruit juice, and powdered milk and canned vegetables are the gold standard.
There is scant mention of alternative grains or a preference for whole foods, and none at all of the benefits of good fats. This despite the fact that a ‘low fat’ diet has resulted in skyrocketing rates of obesity and diabetes in this country.
The good news is that Canadian doctors, health professionals, and even the Senate are demanding change. While Health Canada lingers in the nutritional landscape of decades gone by, momentum is building to bring our Food Guide into this century. (If you’d like to join the petition, you’ll find it here).
Inspiring Guides From Around the World
A shining example of where we should be headed is Brazil’s recently revamped Food Guide. It takes into account the importance of eating whole foods, emphasizes the avoidance of processed foods, warns against believing food marketing, and in a revolutionary leap forward, includes a reminder of the social importance of eating meals together. The 'Golden Rule' is stated thus,
"Always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed foods. In other words, opt for water, milk, and fruits instead of soft drinks, dairy drinks, and biscuits, do not replace freshly prepared dishes (broth, soups, salads, sauces, rice and beans, pasta, steamed vegetables, pies) with products that do not require culinary preparation (packaged soups, instant noodles, pre-prepared frozen dishes, sandwiches, cold cuts and sausages, industrialised sauces, ready-mixes for cakes), and stick to homemade desserts, avoiding industrialised ones."
Other inspiring guides include those of Sweden, Greece, and Japan (not incidentally, among the longest living populations in the world). While each naturally highlights cultural differences and a distinctive food landscape, they uniformly emphasize fresh foods, healthy fats, and daily exercise.
As a country, Canada shines on many fronts, but it’s a sad fact that our national food guide is stalled in a bygone era. Let’s hope that public pressure moves us forward to embrace the newest and best that nutritional science has to offer:
Eat fresh, whole foods.
Cook them yourself as much as possible.
Drink plenty of water.
Avoid processed foods.
Eat healthy fats and alternates to white grains.
Reduce sugar dramatically.
And perhaps just as important, as often as you can, eat your meals in a relaxed setting, with appreciation, surrounded by the people you love.