Canada’s New Food Guide: what you should know

The much-anticipated Canada Food Guide has been released and is very different from its previous version.  Does it live up the claim by the Federal Minister of Health that it “serves the needs of Canadians coast to coast?” Let’s take a look. 

For this article, I had local Registered Dietitian, Sharon Fast of Healthstyles Solutions weigh in.

There’s a lot of positive changed to the food guide from the last edition:

  • The plate illustration is clear and much easier to understand than the previous rainbow template.
  • Water is shown to be the best choice of fluid, with juice no longer considered a “healthy fruit” choice.
  • Also, the guide recommends avoiding refined processed foods and recommends consuming whole unprocessed foods.
  • The guide also includes some lifestyle advice to support better nutrition such as cooking meals at home, eating mindfully and reading food labels.
  • There is an emphasis on filling your pate with vegetables.

While the food guide is a big step forward, it still has a flavour of the antiquated high carbohydrate, low fat recommendations. “The recommendation to avoid saturated fat in our diet is no longer supported by current research,” says Sharon. “Foods higher in saturated fat, such as animal proteins and dairy products, are excellent options for high quality protein and fat.” Grass fed or organic meat and poultry provide the highest quality of protein and fat. Full fat dairy is the best option if tolerated.

According to Sharon, the higher carb, low fat and low protein macronutrient profile will not support the health of the majority of Canadians. She states ‘balancing blood sugars is the key to supporting the health of anyone with metabolic issues such as diabetes, insulin resistance or inflammation. A diet embracing a moderate to high percentage of healthy fats, adequate high-quality protein and a moderate to low percentage of carbohydrates (coming predominantly from vegetables and fruit) is more supportive in the management or improvement of these conditions.”

Sharon’s practice is in line with a growing number of dietitians, physicians and other health practitioners recommending- and getting results- with a more balanced profile of protein (including high quality animal proteins), healthy fats (including high fat dairy if tolerated, nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, omega 3 sources such as sustainable caught fish, and high fiber carbohydrates (predominantly from non-starchy vegetables and high fiber fruits). In many individuals using a moderate protein, low carb, and higher fat profile best supports optimal health. At Ascend Fitness and Lifestyle, we also recommend that our clients adopt a more balanced macronutrient profile. And while I love the emphasis on home cooked meals, water as the drink or choice and more vegetables, most of our clients get better results with a more modest intake of starchy carbs than the new Canada Food Guide is recommending.

Another change to the new food guide is the emphasis on plant-based proteins. “Plant proteins provide additional carbohydrates, this makes it even more challenging to balance the blood sugar response to meals.” Sharon contrasts that “consuming high-quality animal proteins has the additional benefit of providing valuable nutrients (such as B12, Zinc, Heme Iron, and omega 3) that are generally more bioavailable than in plant sources.” Getting adequate protein and essential nutrients from a plant-based diet is possible but requires intention and knowledge to ensure optimal health. 

While the Canada Food Guide is an upgrade from its previous edition, we will not be leaving our nutrition coaching programs at Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle for the new food guide.

Although Canada’s Food Guide can be a helpful baseline tool for nutrition, the truth is we are all unique individuals and where we are in life with regards to age, gender, activity level, family history, medications, stress level all play a role in how we optimally fuel our bodies.

How and what we eat is just one small piece of the equation when we’re talking about optimal health and fitness. At Ascend Fitness + Lifestyle our Whole YOU Transformation Project can help you take your health and fitness to the next level for life long change. Click here to learn more. 

Yours in Health,

Tanja X

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