It’s been a couple months since the revised Canada Food Guide dropped and it seems like a good time to weigh in. No pun intended.
In case you weren’t really paying attention, each “plate” of food in the new guide is about ½ fruits and veggies, ¼ proteins, including plant-based, meat and dairy sources, and ¼ whole grains. The emphasis is not only on what we eat, but on how we eat. Social connection and mindfulness impact our health and are important to getting the most from the experience of eating.
There have been some complaints about the guide and I’m going to comment on just a few of them:
1)Lack of industry consultation- Let’s be clear. The food guide is intended to help people make healthy food choices. The economic impact that has on the meat, dairy and processed food industries is a separate issue. A focus on more plant-based, less processed food is GOOD for us. It’s time we demand that the food industry bow to the well-being of the consumer and not the other way around.
2)Fresh fruit and veggies are expensive- We’ve become very used to having access to fresh produce year-round. Increasing the proportion of fruits and veggies on our plates is a good thing and one way to make that more affordable is to eat more local and in season. Your body will thank you and so will the local economy and the environment. Imagine the fuel it takes to get those blueberries up here from Chile in the middle of winter. The other side to this is that frozen and canned produce is a reasonable alternative to fresh. The technology used to freeze produce retains more nutrients than that trip halfway around the world. So fresh, frozen or even canned, there are economical options. Just watch for excess sugar or salt in canned goods.
3) Challenge for busy lifestyles- This guide is about making the best choices we can. It’s about raising the standard and then doing our best to achieve it. I get that not everyone likes to cook or has the time to spend hours in the kitchen, but with some planning it is possible to get at least a few really great, nutritious meals ready to go. Prepping ahead and making extra to freeze will allow you to “throw together” something good to eat and good for you. Alternatively, signing up for a meal delivery service such as MVP Meals is a great way to eat healthy with a busy lifestyle. We were implementing these new principles of the food guide before it was revised based on holistic nutrition guidelines.
Time is also a factor in the “mindfulness” component of eating. It’s no wonder many of us have gut issues when we’re not making the best food choices and always eating on the run. Time spent eating in the company of others, especially loved ones, and savoring our food in a mindful way creates the conditions that promote digestion and proper physiological function in our bodies. It requires a shift in social attitudes, challenging I know, but it is a step in the right direction.
4) The guide doesn’t say how much to eat- Again it comes down to a shift in perspective. When we slow down and attend to what we’re eating, we give our bodies time to recognize that we’re getting full. Listen to your body. It is incredibly intuitive. Some days your body will tell you to eat more, other days less. If you’re doing that and gaining or losing weight, it might be time to consult your family doctor. Your body might just be telling you something else is going on. MVP Meals uses portion control in our meals so you don't have to think about how much to eat.
5) Don’t like drinking plain water?- The idea behind the shift to drinking more water is that we tend to drink a lot of our calories, to the detriment of nutrition. If you want to lose weight, a great starting point is to stop drinking your calories. Fruits provide much more nutrition if eaten whole and if you think about how much fruit is required to make a glass of juice, it’s probably a lot more than you would normally eat. And don’t get me started on the sugar content of sodas. Start by making sure there is no added sugar in your fruit juice. Then to accustom your taste buds, try diluting it. If you find drinking plain water a challenge, add a little citrus zest and juice or some cucumber slices to give them something to focus on
I’m a foodie and wellness coach, not a nutritionist or dietician, but I am committed to eating healthy most of the time. I treat fads and super foods with a healthy dose of skepticism, preferring to get my nutrition from a variety of wholesome (and admittedly, on occasion, some not so wholesome) foods. I try to apply critical thinking to the evidence that’s out there, noticing where the support for certain studies comes from and I have to admit that eating well can seem to be very complicated. So, the new guide works pretty well for me. My own personal diet is rainbow-based, partly because it ensures a variety of nutritional components and partly because “we eat first with our eyes”. As Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and other books about food says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
And I figure if I eat well 90% of the time, I can still enjoy that piece of decadent chocolate cake once in awhile.
If you haven’t already done so, check out the food guide for yourself at https://food-guide.canada.ca. You will find more information along with tips and recipes to help you out. Consider trying it for even just a couple days a week. After all it is a guide, not a rulebook, and it could lead you to better health and maybe some new and interesting foods.
Cheers to health!!
Linda, Wellness Coach, on behalf of MVP Meals