Quick: what are the five main food groups?
If you grew up in Canada, you’re probably raising your hand and bouncing in your seat already. The rainbow-coloured Food Guide has taught generations of Canadian kids all about the benefits of fruits, veggies, meat, grain, and dairy products. It’s as ingrained in our minds as the multiplication table.
But recently, Health Canada announced that Canada’s Food Guide will get a complete overhaul in time for its 75th birthday – and the new guide might not look like the one you grew up with.
Where Did the Food Guide Come From?
The Food Guide has its origins in the second world war. The first guide sought to achieve two important goals: first, to help Canada’s fighting men and women become strong and healthy; and second, to help the rationing families back home stave off malnutrition. To give you a taste of the times, the original guide recommended a half pint of milk and 4 to 6 slices of bread a day.
Health Canada’s modern food guide serves a different dual-purpose. Doctors, dieticians, and teachers use the guide to teach kids and patients how to cook healthy, nutritious meals. It also encourages people to support Canadian farming industry, emphasizing the importance of dairy, grain, and meat products.
Why It’s Getting an Overhaul
Today, the guide is the government’s second most requested document. It’s printed in a dozen languages and taught in classrooms across the country. It also informs what gets served in school cafeterias.
Given how many people use it, it’s important the guide reflects accurate, up-to-date research on healthy eating. And according to many nutritionists, the current guide is outdated. For one, it fails to acknowledge common alternative diets like veganism and vegetarianism; it also ignores dietary differences between cultures.
Perhaps most trouble is the impact of industry lobbyists on the current guide, which makes room for processed foods like margarine, cheese, breakfast cereals, and fruit juice. That has an impact on what kids eat at school, what they learn about food, and even how grocery stores stock their shelves.
The New Canada Food Guide
While the new guide is still in the consultation stage, its early draft looks pretty promising.
The new and improved Canada Food Guide is based on principles of diversity and sustainability. It acknowledges cultural differences and dietary restrictions, and it speaks with a mind to how we process, distribute, and consume our food.
In an article for Today’s Parent, dietician Cara Rosenbloom outlines some more specific changes. Unlike its predecessor, the new Canada Food Guide differentiates between whole and processed foods. It promotes water as the healthiest beverage option, sidelining milk and juice. It emphasizes the benefits of plant-based proteins like beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soy products in addition to meat and fish.
Overall, the overhaul seems to prioritize the public interest over that of Canadian food industries. Though we don’t know for sure what the finished product will look like, the draft is promising. Hopefully, the next generation of Canadian kids will have a better understanding of what it takes to eat well, live healthily, and get the most out of mealtime.