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Canada’s New Food Guide Favours Plant-Based Diets, Eliminates Meat and Dairy as Food Groups

Canada’s New Food Guide Favours Plant-Based Diets, Eliminates Meat and Dairy as Food Groups

Meat and Dairy Are Out, Nuts and Vegetables are In

The long-awaited revision to Canada’s food guide was published this week and there are some pretty significant changes that have people talking. Most notably, dairy and meat are no longer recommended food groups. These changes aim to steer Canadians towards a more plant-based diet, especially when it comes to protein. The updated version of the food guide is less prescriptive than the one we’ve been following for 40 years, focusing heavily on making healthy lifestyle choices that include cooking more and being mindful of eating habits. Overall, the new evidence-based recommendations laid out in Canada’s food guide are a big win for plant-based food advocates.

Three food groups instead of four

Health Canada’s revisions to the food guide does away with the “four food groups” that have long been used to structure Canadian diets, replacing them with three categories: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and protein. No more “meat and alternatives.” No more “milk and milk products.” “Protein” now encompasses both animal and plant-based proteins. However, there is an emphasis on the latter, with the new guide recommending to “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”

The new food guide explicitly tells Canadians that “the regular intake of plant-based foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and plant-based proteins – can have positive effects on health.” As The Globe and Mail says, “The message in that change is clear: Eat more plants, and less meat and dairy.”

No more structuring your daily diet around serving size

One criticism of the former guide is that its rigidity made it difficult to follow. In the new guide, there’s no more stressing over how many blueberries make up a serving or counting how many servings you’ve had from each category. The new guide attempts to be much more actionable by laying out the recommendations in an easily digestible way.

IMAGE: COURTESY OF HEALTH CANADA • ILLUSTRATIONS BY TRISH MCALASTER

The guide is summed up by an image showing a plate, made up of half fruits and vegetables, and half whole grains and protein. The written instructions are equally simple:

  • Have plenty of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Eat protein foods
  • Choose whole grain foods
  • Make water your drink of choice

Water now a part of Canada’s food guide

Health Canada wants you to stay hydrated. Water now appears in Canada’s food guide as the only drink of choice. Juice has even been banished from the new food guide, and is no longer considered a source of fruit or vegetables. In fact, the guide goes so far as to reverse their previous recommendation, warning against drinking juice due to its high sugar content. Sugary drinks are to be avoided as they contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes. The new guide also warns against alcohol consumption.

A new focus on healthy behaviours

The new food guide makes recommendations based not just on what we eat, but how we eat. It advocates for a holistic approach healthy eating, that centers on making lifestyle choices that contribute to one’s overall health and wellness. Canada’s food guide advises Canadians to:

  • Choose healthy fats
  • Limit highly processed or prepared foods
  • Eat meals with others
  • Cook more often
  • Enjoy your food
  • Be mindful of eating habits

Taken together, these recommendations are impressive! We think it’s refreshing to see a food guide that is free from industry lobbying, based on the best evidence available, and which focuses on healthy eating habits that extend past just the food we choose. At Spread’Em Kitchen we’re big advocates of being mindful of our dietary choices and of sharing good, healthy food with others. It’s validating to see that the values we’ve built our company on align with what expert nutritionists and researchers are saying. And, it motivates us to keep doing what we’re doing!

What do you think of the new Canada’s food guide? Are you happy with the changes? Do you like the way it’s presented? Do you think that it’s easily actionable? Let us know in the comments below or join the discussion on our Instagram page

Here are a few resources to accompany the new guidelines laid out in Canada’s food guide: