Some Brief Thoughts on Canada’s New Food Guide

“Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. It is also about where, when, why and how you eat.”

I’m not one to normally reflect on this kind of thing but in my recovery, I have been working with my are team to take my eating “back to the basics”, which included the construction of a meal plan based around Canada’s Food Guide. Something I learned back in elementary school but had largely dismissed since.

Our society is constantly inundated with diet fads, and “super foods”, and health trends but these are no less geared towards soliciting money from consumers than any other industry. They profit off our (natural and human) weaknesses and insecurities. No other scientific field takes information and runs with it as far as the diet industry does. While nutrition science is an entirely legitimate field of study, diet culture unscientifically grasps at anything “new” and interesting with small shreds of evidence and pumps them out on magazine covers and store shelves.

It’s none of our faults however, it’s a consequence of the larger society to which we belong. We tend to look outwards for cues we would have otherwise found within ourselves because we are social beings. If you think about it, how different is it really from taking breathing advice (Yes I said breathing advice..) from someone on the internet? What if someone told you that you were breathing too much. Or not breathing the right composition of air and that it would make your chest look wrong or unappealing. Nobody knows how much you need to breathe more than your body does. We just happen to be better at listening to our bodies asking for air than we are at listening to our bodies asking for food.

We are born being able to intuitively listen to our bodies – we cry when we’re hungry, thirsty, lonely, tired – but as time goes on we lose the ability to understand what our bodies need. It’s sad that we live in a society where we have to be taught how to tune back in to ourselves but constructively, the new guide addresses this in a small way. It supplies general resources about how to listen to your hunger cues, how to enjoy eating socially, and mindfully.

I think far too often we get caught up in thinking that because we can be so specific in our production and consumption of food nowadays that we should. But let’s get real, your body isn’t going to shut down because you had 1g more of fat than your recommended intake in a day. Your health, let alone your physical appearance, won’t change overnight if you have something atypical or that’s more calorically-dense.

Generally the national food guides are scientifically-based and well-researched while still also trying to adapt to the times and its audience. The only “rules” around food you need should be general, sustainable, and reasonable guidelines – nothing strict, or restrictive, or anxiety-provoking. Just prompting conscious awareness of how our body feels and what we’re putting in it (in general!) which is what I think this new guide tries to emphasize more.

The general take-aways (notice not “specific-instructions on how to live your life” or “how to count every calorie or macro nutrient”) from the new food guide are simple and reasonable (in my opinion):

  • Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.
  • Eat highly-processed foods less often.
  • Make water your drink of choice
  • Be aware that food marketing can influence your choices.

The new food guide steers away from portion sizes and focuses on the general distribution of where you should be getting your nutrients from. It introduces three categories: Fruits & vegetables, whole grains, and proteins.

“The new guide is distilled into one strikingly simple image: a plate of food filled with roughly half fruits and vegetables, and the remaining half divided into whole grains and proteins. The image is meant to convey a simple message, according to Health Canada: Eat a diet made up of roughly half fruits and vegetables, and half of the remaining two categories.

Gone are the specific recommendations to eat a specific number of serving sizes across each of the groups. Gone too is information about what makes up a serving size for different types of food.”

Additionally, the food guide notes how our approach to food has a significant role in living a happy, healthy, and balance lifestyle: (Which I personally think is a fantastic idea).

“…The new Canadian guide also includes instruction on behaviours associated with healthy eating patterns: “Be mindful of your eating habits;” “cook more often;” “enjoy your food;” and “eat meals with others.”

Because food is so much more than macro and micronutrients. It’s even more than just plain “fuel”. It’s social, cultural, and based around tradition and enjoyment. To some its art and expression while to others it’s healing and therapeutic. The point is – it’s not just black and white or “good” and “bad”. There are no “clean” or “dirty” foods – it’s not moral. The way we externally define it may not change the number of WW points it has labelled but it certainly changes the way you feel about it, and that’s what matters.

If you want more information the updates can be found here

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