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Canada's Food Guide 2019: A New Approach to Healthy Eating

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In Chapter 1 of The Well Teacher, we noted that an updated version of Canada’s Food Guide would soon arrive. Well, that time has come. The guidelines we grew up with, which told us to eat from five food groups and the recommended number of daily servings for each, have now changed.

The Government of Canada had previously announced that the new guide would revise the types of foods recommended for healthy eating patterns. This week, the government delivered on that promise. Instead of telling us which food groups to eat from and how many servings we should be having of each every day, the new guide is in some ways much broader – directing us to eat more intuitively, opt for plenty of vegetables and fruits, and choose protein-rich and whole grain foods. And, don’t forget to hydrate; water is now the recommended drink of choice.

Eat well. Live well. Snapshot

The visual materials released this week included an updated version of the Eat Well Plate, now rebranded under the slogan Eat well. Live well., that provides a visual depiction of the relative amounts of fruits/vegetables (50%), protein (25%), and grains (25%) we should be eating at every meal. Notably, dairy and dairy products have disappeared altogether as a recommended food group and our plates now have 3 sections, rather than 5. Overall, these latest guidelines promote balance in our food choices. And, like the Brazilian Dietary Guidelines outlined in The Well Teacher, there is an emphasis on limiting processed foods, being mindful of how marketing influences food choices, preparing our own food when possible, and eating with others. The information on the Health Canada website goes so far as to outline strategies to find time to eat with others more often, demonstrating an understanding of the realities of our busy lives, where we often sacrifice the social and health-related benefits of eating because of time constraints. 

Another new recommendation in the Food Guide is to “choose protein foods that come from plants more often”. The previous iteration (last updated in 2007) included tofu, legumes, and nuts in the meat and alternatives section. The significance here is that, for the first time, plant-based proteins have officially been recognized as a nutritionally important food group in their own right. This particular update falls in line with emerging food trends in Canada, where we are seeing more vegan and plant-based options in restaurants (such as the Beyond Burger at A&W) and grocery stores across the country.

Now, how can teachers put some of the recommendations made in the new guide into practice? Obviously, the shift away from daily servings takes some of the pressure off anyone who has tried to follow the guide in the past. For instance, eating 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day was a bit of a push for people, like teachers, who have a hard-enough time eating lunch at all. The new guide tells us to balance our meals in proportion, not portions, which is much more practical. And, as if they were speaking directly to educators, the new guide specifically states “take time to eat”.

There is an emphasis in this guide on preparing meals, cooking more often, and planning ahead. Many teachers struggle to find time to prepare healthy lunches and snacks, and therefore often end up with processed foods that may include words like “natural” or “healthy” in their titles but are loaded with sugar, salt, or both. The following are a few ways you can implement the new recommendations into your life:

  • Research: Doing a little research will help you identify options to make meals that are healthier and more nutritious, and that work for you and your schedule.
  • Prepare ahead: Plan to spend an hour on Sunday organizing your lunches and snacks for the week. If you cook on the weekend, make a little extra and take it for lunch during the week.
  • Don’t get stuck on labels: When you are at the grocery store, don’t buy into trendy labels and terminology – some of the best foods have no labels at all such as fruits, vegetables, bulk nuts, and water. A little more of these things and fewer bars, bags, and sugary drinks will give you more energy and help improve your overall wellness.

If you haven’t already, go to Health Canada’s website (here) and check out the new Canada’s Food Guide today. We have also included the Eat Well. Live Well snapshot and the Healthy Eating Recommendations in our resources, if you would like to print copies for yourself. Although there may be a few unhappy dairy farmers today, we think this new food guide is the best one yet. Let us know what you think about the latest updates to Canada’s Food Guide in the comments below.

2 comments

  • Hi Amanda,

    The best way to get what you need would likely be to contact Health Canada directly. Their contact details can be found on this page: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/corporate/contact-us.html

    In addition to the resources we have available for download on our site, you can also download those and others on the Health Canada, Healthy Eating Resources webpage here: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-resources/

    Best of luck with your nutrition unit!

    Andree Repta
  • Could you please let me know how I could get copies of the new Canada Food Guide sent to my school as we are learning about nutrition in Health studies? I teach Grade One and Two (50 students) and work at Crawford Plains School in Edmonton, AB. Thank you!

    Amanda

    Amanda Beier

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