By Katherine Mayer, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre
After undergoing extensive research, engagement, and consultation, Canada has a new Food Guide. The new Food Guide has made some significant changes from the previous 2007 version, but the goal remains the same—encouraging Canadians to eat a variety of healthy foods.
Sheri Maltais, registered dietitian at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, highlights the improvements made from the 2007 version. “The new Food Guide approaches healthy eating in a whole new way,” she says. “Instead of the historical four food groups with recommended daily servings, the new messaging is designed around healthy eating principles. These include recommendations to eat more vegetables and fruit, look to plant-based proteins, choose whole grains, and make water the drink of choice.”
In regards to the emphasis on plant-based proteins, Maltais has some explanations. “Regular consumption of plant-based foods, such as dried beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds, are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and diabetes due to the high fibre content,” says Maltais. “Encouraging more plant-based foods also encourages a lower intake of processed meats, such as hot dogs and bacon, which have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Plant-based foods also help us to consume more unsaturated fat, which helps to control cholesterol levels.”
Additionally, Maltais mentions that as our meat consumption increases, so does its climate impact. “Eating more plant-based foods can help to conserve soil, water and air, including reducing greenhouse gases created by livestock.”
If you look through the entire new Food Guide, you’ll notice that it takes a more holistic approach to food. “Healthy eating is much more than just the food we eat… The healthy eating habits that we adopt support the foods we eat and our relationship with food,” says Maltais. “The basics of healthy eating include mindful eating, cooking food at home, enjoying meals with others, embracing cultural and traditional aspects that food has to offer, and limiting consumption of convenient processed and prepared foods and beverages. Together this creates a healthy eating framework to support healthy habits at work, school, and home.”
The new Food Guide has made some significant changes from 2007, which opens the door for many opinions. “Whether you agree or disagree with the new Food Guide, just remember that that food is personal and individual, sometimes making it difficult to find one size that fits all solutions,” insists Maltais.
Like many other organizations in Canada, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is working to change their retail food environment. The initiative, titled “Eating Healthy Together”, aims to provide a supportive, informative, and healthy food environment for consumers at the hospital. This is accomplished by removing ultra-processed foods and beverages to ensure nutritious items are available. Eating Healthy Together will launch June 2019.
To view Canada’s new Food Guide, find recipes or learn new cooking tips, go to food-guide.canada.ca.