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Canada’s food guide: revolutionary? Not so much…


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Once upon a time, some regarded the food guide as the nutritionist’s Bible. Well, I’m here to tell you it was no such thing.

I’ve written five books on healthy eating since 2015 without once mentioning Canada’s food guide. I felt there was way too much about nutrients and not enough about food choices. I wasn’t comfortable with the way portions were calculated. Basically, I thought the guide was heavy on math and light on instinctive eating.

An emphasis on eating behaviors

My opinion changed when the new food guide was released on January 22, 2019. Reading the recommendations made by Health Canada, I said, “Yay!” and also “It’s about time!”

In 2016, I posted a blog entry on Extenso.org. It was in French, so here’s a quick translation. In my post “High time for a new food guide!” I wrote:

Seems to me the priority is getting Canadians interested in foods rather than nutrients. (…)  

When you take more interest in where your food comes from, when you take the time to choose what you buy, cook and eat, you appreciate your food much more, which means you automatically eat better.

The new food guide places as much emphasis on eating a variety of foods as it does on eating behaviours (yes indeed!). I think the new edition is really excellent. It’s become an engine again, not a caboose. But let’s be clear: it doesn’t revolutionize the principles of healthy eating. My colleagues and I have been talking about healthy eating this way for donkey’s years. So it’s great that our advice is finally being given some weight!

Source : Government of Canada

A guide that’s consistent with what science says

The guide shows us what healthy eating should look like in 2019, with everything we know about staying healthy, all the great foods we have access to, all the care our planet deserves. It places particular importance on vegetables and fruits, which is totally consistent with the science. It doesn’t ban meat or dairy products – it simply repositions them. Here again, that’s consistent with the science.

A basic tool, not a bible

The food guide outlines the basics of healthy eating for the general population. That being said, each one of us is unique, not “general.” The guide is meant to serve as a basic tool, suitable for being adapted to individual needs. That’s normal – there’s no such thing as “one size fits all.” Children, pregnant women, seniors, athletes, people with health problems and others have special needs. Even without specific physical conditions, we all have our habits, preferences and values to take into consideration. That’s what nutritionists are here for – to customize advice on healthy eating. The guide does not replace us; it never has and never will.

Most nutritionists like the new Canada’s food guide, but it still hasn’t become our Bible. Why not? Because it’s not a Bible. It’s not intended to deliver heavy-handed lectures or list the seven deadly sins. It’s like a manual that explains how to take care of our “machine.” The guide is excellent, and it’s straightforward. So go ahead and follow it, but rest assured – there’s no one looking over your shoulder in the kitchen!

Thanks to our collaborator

Stéphanie Côté

A graduate in nutrition and sports nutrition, Stéphanie Côté has worked with the media for more than 15 years. Her goal? Convince people that eating well is delicious and not so complicated!

Visit her website

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