Jennine Seaman, MHSc, RD
Registered Dietitian, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health

What do you know about Canada’s Food Guide? You may remember learning about it in school, seeing it in your doctor’s office, or hearing about it on the news. While the food guide has changed quite a bit over the years, it still has the same purpose: to help us choose foods that will give our bodies the nutrients they need.

The latest version of Canada’s Food Guide was released in January 2019 to both praise and criticism. Although it’s been out for over a year, there’s still a lot of confusion around what is (or isn’t) on the new food guide and exactly what the messaging is.

To help you sort fact from fiction, here are some highlights from the new Canada’s Food Guide:

From Food Groups to Groupings
The four food groups from the old guide have been replaced by three food groupings:

  • Vegetables and Fruit: This includes fresh, canned, and frozen vegetables and fruit. The food guide recommends eating a variety of vegetables and fruit each day and having them at every meal and snack. If you’re wondering how to get more veggies and fruit into your day, try the tips and easy recipes from Half your Plate.

  • Whole Grains: Whole grain foods include the nutrients from all three parts of the grain. These foods tend to be higher in fibre, which helps to keep us full and make our digestive systems work. Foods from this grouping include brown rice, whole grain breads, oatmeal, and quinoa.

  • Protein Foods: Milk and meat are still on the new guide – the food and drinks in these groups were combined into the protein foods grouping. This includes nuts, seeds, tofu, eggs, seafood, milk, meat, cheese, and yogurt. These are all good sources of protein, which helps keep us full and satisfied.

    The food guide recommends choosing plant-based proteins more often. These tend to be cheaper than meat, need fewer resources (like land and water) to produce, and can be a source of fibre. This doesn’t mean becoming a vegetarian – it can be as simple as including a couple of meatless meals a week or replacing half of the meat in a recipe with beans, lentils, or chickpeas.

The Plate Model
The plate model is used to help us picture the amounts of food from each grouping that we need to promote health. This doesn’t mean you have to divide your plate like the one pictured, or that you need to eat all the foods included on the plate. Around half of what we eat should be vegetables and fruit, around ¼ whole grains, and ¼ protein foods. There will be days when we may get more of or less of some foods and that’s okay – what’s more important is how we eat over time.

Water and Other Beverages
Water is the recommended drink of choice to quench our thirst and stay hydrated in the new food guide. Juice is no longer included in the vegetables and fruit group since it doesn’t contain the benefits of whole fruit (like fibre). Milk and unsweetened fortified soy beverage are good sources of calcium and Vitamin D that can be included as part of the protein foods we have.

Eating Habits
The new food guide recognizes that healthy eating is about more than food. How we eat can be as important as what we eat. Instead of tracking servings per day, the guide encourages listening to our body’s hunger and fullness cues to guide the amount we eat. Being more mindful and taking time to eat can help us to enjoy our food and feel more satisfied.

The food guide also recommends cooking at home more often, which can save money and build skills. Eating with others, another recommendation, is a great way to share food traditions and spend quality time with family and friends. Looking for more information about the new food guide? Visit the Health Canada website.

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