Canada Food Guide draft

What this naturopathic doctor loves about the new Canada Food Guide draft

The Canada Food Guide is being revamped for the first time in 10 years! This is the first time I might look at the guide and actually agrees with it (or at least, here’s hoping). The food guide is currently in phase two of its revamping process which is a public consultation phase asking for input from Canadians. This phase will close on July 25th, with the new guidelines set to be released in early 2018. You can view the guiding principals here.

This is what I like about what I’m seeing so far:

WATER is being recommended as the beverage of choice and sugary beverages, including 100% fruit juice and sweetened milk beverages like chocolate milk, are being discouraged. Previous guides have included fruit and vegetable juices as part of your daily fruit and veggie servings without regard for how much more sugar they contain than a whole fruit or veggie, and how they are devoid of fibre. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will change what are seen as acceptable beverage choices for children at daycares and schools. All of this is being done in an effort to decrease rates of obesity and type-2 diabetes, which is on the rise, even in children.

An emphasis is being made on eating foods that can be “gardened, hunted, trapped, fished, or harvested” as opposed to processed foods. I love this initiative of moving back to a way of eating that was more like our ancestors. The food guide is by no means advocating for a Paleo diet BUT it is recognizing that far too many Canadians are relying on prepackaged foods to make up the majority of their diet. Just look at the aisles of canned, boxed, and frozen foods at a typical grocery store—processed and prepackaged foods are plentiful. In the spring/summer/fall, we should be out in our gardens, visiting the farmers’ market or at the very least, focusing on the peripheral aisles at our grocery stores (i.e., produce, meat, eggs). It is mentioned that frozen and canned goods may be nutritious options when certain foods are out of season, and I can’t totally disagree with that as a Canadian where winter is a reality.

The idea of mindful eating was actually mentioned. Mindful eating is so essential for proper hormonal signaling to take place to let our bodies know when we are full. This helps to avoid over-consumption and subsequently contributes to overall hormonal balancing. It is also a practice that helps you appreciate your food and savour its flavours. I’ve been an advocate for mindful eating for years and it’s so cool to now see it mentioned in this Canada Food Guide draft.

Eating in community is advocated for as a way to help children learn healthy attitudes towards food. This is another great addition to the guide that goes beyond simply how many foods to consume from each so-called predetermined food group. Our children learn so much about life by watching the adults around them, and they also need time at the end of each day to debrief about what they experienced. What better time to do that than sharing stories around the dinner table instead of having our eyes glued to the TV or eating on the run. This is precious time that we should be spending with our families around the table—even the Government of Canada says so! So unless you are an anarchist, you better pay attention.

The impact our food production has on the environment is considered. There is actual mention of the environmental impact of food waste, greenhouse gases, and wildlife loss in this rendition of the guide. The thoughtful inclusion of the importance of our Mother Earth in this discussion is so important. We too easily take for granted what she bears for us without also realizing how we mistreat her and what impact that will have on our future food supply.

There is consideration for balance. It is recognized that sugary drinks or high sodium foods will be consumed sometimes but health-promoting foods should be consumed regularly. I’m all for balance in life and I try not to have extremist views when it comes to health and nutrition (although some may beg to differ) so I can get behind this.

Of course there are a couple things I still don’t totally agree with, like the fear we have about saturated fats and red meat, for example. However, I do realize that this is a guide for the general population who is likely consuming too much of these foods in the context of an unbalanced diet. So recommending decreasing saturated fats and red meat to make more room for fruits and veggies is probably a good idea. I also don’t really feel that dairy or grains need to be included in the diet for it to be balanced on a macro and micronutrient level, but I I’ll save that for another day. Overall, though, I am quite pleased with the guiding principles that the Government of Canada has put forth and I look forward to seeing the finished product in 2018.

In conclusion, I want to mention that the Canada Food Guide is just that, a guide, and that it doesn’t take into account the individual needs of the each person in Canada. There are specific nutritional plans that might be appropriate to treat a particular condition or nutritional deficiency. This is where working with a healthcare provider such as a naturopathic doctor or functional medical doctor to determine your best nutritional plan to meet your goals can be very valuable.

Until we meet again, be well,

[Insert Dr. Erin, ND signature here]


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