Has Canada’s Food Guide gone Brazilian?

Yes, I’ve heard that question asked a number of times over the past couple of days. While you may wonder what that’s all about, I knew what Brazilian meant in this context as I had written about the dietary guidelines proposed by the Brazilian Population Ministry of Health a number of years back. It differed from most countries’ guidelines in that food is looked at in a much broader context than just the nutrients it provides. The unique recommendations also considered food’s impact on culture, social life and the environment.

I really did not think we would ever see that here in Canada. Truth be told, the new food guide is nothing like I expected it to be. Yes, there were hints and drafts that looked very different than its predecessors but I remained the skeptic. But I have had plenty of reason for thinking this way.

I’m thrilled to say, though, that I have to eat my words: Health Canada has done the unexpected. They have given Canadians a food guide that’s not only in keeping with current science but it’s also offering key advice unlike any that Health Canada has ever given before.

The advice is not driven by food manufactures or commodity groups. In fact, it states, “be aware of food marketing“. While it also recommends consuming plant-based protein foods more often, that doesn’t mean meat eaters need to banish their favourite proteins from their plates. Instead, it goes along with what we’ve been saying for years about having more meatless meals (and add more foods such as pulses like lentils and chick peas) and making your meat portions the garnish to your plate, not the centrepiece.

The same goes for dairy. To say, I was stunned to finally see the government recommend lower-fat dairy products is an understatement. That doesn’t mean a low-fat diet. It means adding healthy fats alongside. Throw in some sliced almonds or pumpkin seeds into your accompanying salad.

Health Canada also did not allow the interests of the beverage industry to enter into the recommendations. The guide now states, “Water should be the beverage of choice”.

Gone is the notion that you could compare the nutritional value of a whole apple to a glass of apple juice.

And for the first time, the food guide considers sustainability and the impact of our food choices on the environment.

While some people are critical of the lack of information about various portion sizes and nutrients needs for certain groups, it’s important to note that more information on these issues will be coming at a later date. Others state they wonder about the need for the food guide in the first place. It’s needed as this set of recommendations will form the basis of various nutritional programs right across the country – in schools, daycares, hospitals and more.

The guide also suggests that we cook more often. This advice should be used to get food literacy and cooking back on the curriculum in schools. Home ec classes are not frivolous. They are necessary and now Health Canada finally backs this up.


Here’s more of   a taste of the food guide released today. Note that these recommendations are accompanied by beautiful shots of enticing food.

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Categories: Nutrition News

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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2 Comments on “Has Canada’s Food Guide gone Brazilian?”

  1. Jennifer Burnham
    January 26, 2019 at 8:45 pm #

    Many thanks, Rosie. It is so good to hear positive thoughts after reading so many criticisms
    this past week. And thank you for putting the whole Food Guide into perspective. Well done!

  2. January 28, 2019 at 12:29 pm #

    Thanks for your feedback, Jennifer! Yes, there have been a lot of criticisms but I think that it’s important to wait to see all of the supporting documents. There is so much more to come! But, it’s certainly a breath of fresh air to see all that the new guide encompasses!

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