We find out which healthy foods you should be eating.

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If your household was like mine growing up, the food guide was taped to the fridge as a constant reminder to eat the right amounts of fruits and veggies, dariy, protein and grains on a daily basis. Although the trusty Canadian Food Guide remains largely the same over the years, the foods now available to us are increasingly more processed and unhealthy, which bears us to ask: Is the Canadian Food Guide still accurate by today’s dietary standards?

Is the Canadian Food Guide Working?

Shauna Lindzon, a Registered Dietician practicing in Toronto, notes that when she first meets her clients “I find that hardly anyone is following the guidelines. It’s difficult to tell if this is because the Canadian Food Guide is out of date, or because there are so many fad diets out there that people are confused about what to eat.”

Canadian Food Guide Qualms

The Canadian Food Guide was last updated in 2007, and trendier foods, such as quinoa and kefir have been added, but some issues still raise concern. Adult females between the ages of 19 to 50 years should consume six to seven servings of grains per day, and males of the same age group should consume eight servings per day—but what kind of grains? The Canadian Food Guide suggests making half of your servings whole grains. Lindzon disagrees: “I think that we should aim to choose ALL of our grain choices as whole grain. Why should half of our grains be processed? This doesn't make sense to me.”

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The fruits and vegetable serving suggestions include room for improvement, too, since one cup of pure fruit or vegetable juice still accounts for one serving. Lindzon explains: “There is a big difference between whole fruit and fruit juice. In order to make fruit juice, it takes at least 3 to 4 times the amount of fruit to make a glass of juice and you don't get the benefit of the fibre. The end product is higher in sugar, calories, and since it lacks the fibre it isn't as satisfying.” If you are drinking fruit juice, be sure that it is 100 per cent juice, and not a sugary cocktail beverage.

How to Improve the Canadian Food Guide

“First of all, I would make it mandatory to change [the Canadian food guide] at least every five years like the Americans do,” begins Lindzon. “Nutrition is a science that is continually changing and we should change our recommendations to align with newer research that comes out.” Food guides vary from country to country, and just as some diets are known to be healthier (a Mediterranean diet, for example), some food guides hit the mark better than others. 

Lindzon notes, “If I could make changes, I would model our food guide after the Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population. Their food guide was updated in 2014 and the guidelines are very realistic.  They suggest to choose natural or minimally processed foods and to avoid ultra-processed foods. They give examples of healthy meals and talk about cooking food from scratch. They also discuss eating regularly and with company when possible. I really like how they emphasize the concept of 'planning' where you eat, how you eat and to be wary of food advertising and marketing.”

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Making Conscious Choices

The Canadian Food Guide is meant to be just that—a guide. Ultimately it’s up to you to make your own healthy diet and lifestyle choices. By being conscious of your portion sizes, daily servings and by choosing whole foods, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.