Health Canada’s new food guide isn’t quite as simple as author Michael Pollan’s mantra of “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants”, but it’s not that far off.
Canada’s Food Guide has five key messages: Eat a variety of healthy foods each day. Have plenty of fruits and vegetables. Eat protein foods. Choose whole-grain foods. Make water your drink of choice.
Gone are the rainbow and the illustrations, replaced by a photo of real food, including everything from beans and salmon to almonds and tofu to broccoli and blueberries.
The image is to show Canadians how to load their plate: fill half of it with vegetables and fruits, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with whole grains. (The former guide's portion sizes are also a thing of the past.)
There’s less focus on meat and dairy, with categories of “meat and alternatives” and “milk products” eliminated.
Reaction has been swift, and mixed.
Mercy For Animals applauded Health Canada for “modernizing the food guide to encourage Canadians to eat more plant-based protein”.
“Plant-based diets are correlated with reduced incidence of breast, cervical, and ovarian cancers; lower blood pressure and cholesterol; and lower rates of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” Courtney Dobbin, special projects manager at Mercy For Animals in Canada, said in a statement. “These recommendations will not only lead to better health outcomes for Canadians but mitigate the harmful effects of factory farming on our environment and animals.”
The Dairy Farmers of Canada stated that there is “no scientific justification to minimize the role of milk products” in the Canadian diet and that two to four servings of milk products daily can help promote bone and muscle health.
“Lumping milk products together with other protein foods will lead to inadequate intakes of important nutrients,” the Dairy Farmers of Canada’s Isabelle Neiderer, a registered dietitian, said in a release.
Canada’s Food Guide also comes with several recommendations:
Be aware of food marketing; Cook more often; Enjoy your food; Use food labels; Limit foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fat; Eat meals with others; Be mindful of your eating habits; and Be aware of food marketing.
“As the food guide became more sophisticated with what we should be eating, it also got a little smug on the behavioral aspects of our diet,” said Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University. “The insensibility of treating Canadians like 5-year old children is very obvious. Since the food industry spends billions on marketing and the average Canadian will see roughly 1500 advertisements per day, Health Canada seems to suggest Canadians can hide from all of this for the sake of eating better. A bit of a stretch on Health Canada’s part."