Canada’s new food guide was released Tuesday morning, and it marked a dramatic departure from the government’s suggested eating habits of years past. Most notably it encourages plant-based eating and reduces the emphasis on meat and dairy.
Since the debut of the 1977 Food Guide, Health Canada has instructed Canadians that a healthy diet consists of “four food groups”: milk and milk products; meat and alternatives; grain products; and fruits and vegetables. While also instructing specific serving sizes and numbers.
The new design shows a plate of food filled halfway with fruits and vegetables, and the remaining half is divided between whole grains and proteins. It does away with recommended serving sizes and removes dairy as a stand-alone category.
“Canadians deserve an easy simple source of advice they know they can trust,” said Canadian Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor during the unveiling of the new guide in Montreal.
The revamped guide also goes beyond what Canadians should eat, and tackles how they eat. Encouraging people to cook more often, eat “mindfully” and with others.
Many aspects of the new dietary guidelines are reflective of movements that are gaining momentum globally. Including, increased awareness of food security, prioritizing unprocessed foods and homecooked meals, as well as consideration of food sustainability.
Access to affordable and nutritious food remains an issue for Canadians, and for people around the world. In fact, global hunger is on the rise, with 821 million undernourished people in the world in 2017, up from 784 million in 2015.
The new guidelines take into consideration the financial constraints that many people face when purchasing food. Recommending cheaper alternatives to fresh produce, like certain varieties of canned and frozen vegetables that can be included in a healthy diet.
Food Secure Canada, an organization that is working towards the advancement of food security and food sovereignty, praised the new guide. Saying that it’s a step in the right direction toward a more accessible food system.
“The new dietary guidelines open the door to important next steps, addressing how poverty and food insecurity influence diet and health, and beginning to consider cultural dimensions and the environmental impact of our food choices,” read a release from Food Secure Canada.
The Experience of Eating
The guide suggests being “mindful” of your eating habits, cooking more often, sharing meals with others and drinking water. It shares similarities with several dietary guidelines around the world, particularly Brazil, and Sweden.
Mindful eating is described as “paying attention to an eating experience with all of our senses (seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, feeling); witnessing the emotional and physical responses that take place before, during and after the eating experience,” according to The Psych Professionals.
Brazil’s guide focuses on encouraging citizens to cook unprocessed foods at home and to be critical of food industry marketing practices. The guide also contains a chapter that emphasizes the importance of eating with friends and family.
“The sharing of meals at home is a precious and important time for family members and others who may share their lives together, to cultivate and strengthen their ties,” states the guide. “For adults of all ages, shared meals consolidate co-existence, sympathy, and mutual support.”
The dietary guidelines in Sweden also provide advice on how citizens should be consuming food. “Eat slowly, pay attention to what you’re doing and experience all the flavors! If you eat too quickly, you won’t have time to enjoy your food and it’ll be easier for you to eat too much,” the guide reads.
Practicing a more mindful approach to eating is also credited with reducing overeating and creating a healthier psychological relationship with food.
The shift away from meats and dairy and towards plant-based foods as indicated in the guide is also beneficial for the planet. Eating more plants means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller environmental footprint.
Awareness of food sustainability has become an increasing priority for people, as more consumers begin to understand the impact their eating habits have on the world.
“Among protein foods, consume plant-based more often,” the new guide says. “The regular intake of plant-based foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and plant-based proteins – can have positive effects on health,” including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
This trend is evident in the growing number of companies producing plant-based meat alternatives, like the Impossible Burger.
“Encouraging a shift to more plant-based diets that are good for both health and the planet, it is a golden opportunity for sustainable agriculture. The more that Canadians think about their food and where it comes from, the better it is for farmers,” said Diana Bronson, Executive Director of Food Secure Canada.
The growth of the sustainable food movement, mindful eating, and food security are all reflected in Canada’s latest dietary guidelines. Resulting in recommendations that are being praised as combining perspectives and priorities from all over the world.