Your questions answered: What happened to dairy in the new food guide?

Q: “I read your comments on the new Canadian Food Guide. Would have liked to have you weigh in on the glaring absence of dairy in their guide. Sure this wasn’t an accidental omission. Your take?”, asks Enlightened Eater reader, Ange D’Andre.

A: Ange, you’re not alone in your thinking. Many people have expressed concern about what happened to the dairy food group. But in fact, dairy foods have not been forgotten. Instead of having a separate group, these foods are now incorporated into the protein group.

In addition, if you look at the photos which accompany the food guide, in the protein group, you can see a bowl full of yogurt. As well, in other photos, a person can be seen eating a bowl of cereal which does appear to have milk in it.

On the page which discusses protein foods, it states, “Protein foods, including plant-based protein foods, are an important part of healthy eating. Include foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, lower fat milk and lower fat dairy products.”

The accompanying recipes to the guide also includes dairy foods. For example, there’s a Mac & Cheese with a Veggie Twist.

But how dairy foods are treated in this food guide is definitely different than what was seen in previous ones. This is the first time that lower-fat dairy products are suggested. Plant-based alternatives are also included for those who choose not to eat dairy foods. But if you’re going for these non-dairy options, it’s important to keep in mind that not all are created equal. Some simply would not qualify to be placed in the protein food group.

And while the food guide does suggest more plant-based foods, this doesn’t mean you have to go for a vegan or vegetarian food style. (Check out my last post “What exactly is plant-based eating?”)

It’s all about personal choice and nutrition.

I, myself, love dairy products. One of my favourite breakfasts is a bowl filled with blueberries (frozen and defrosted if out of season), topped with a generous scoop of cottage cheese, plain kefir and bran cereal or toasted sliced almonds.

What’s confusing to many is the lack of recommendations for portion sizes of many foods. The release of the food guide, though, is just the first step in the release of Health Canada’s nutrition recommendations. More detailed information is still to come as it’s needed for many programs such as daycares, hospitals, schools and other institutions.

But there is a departure here from other guides as rather than focussing on individual nutrients, it is putting the emphasis on the dietary pattern as a whole. It doesn’t mean, though, that these nutrients don’t matter.

Often in the past, too much of a focus has been placed on one nutrient or another. As a result, you can see food products which are sorely lacking in nutritional attributes but they are fortified with one key nutrient. This emphasis on single nutrients has led to selections such as snack foods that trumpet their fibre or their low sugar or fat content on the label but contain little else in the way of nutrition. The focus on single nutrients allows them to healthwash their products.

It’s definitely time to move away from only looking at one nutrient or another and instead to look at your whole plate. But, on the other hand, don’t throw out the nutrition recommendations of the past.

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

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

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One Comment on “Your questions answered: What happened to dairy in the new food guide?”

  1. ange
    May 29, 2019 at 10:24 am #

    Thanks for this, Rosie. Second question: You think pea based protein is superior to whey protein? If so, why?

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