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Canada’s New Food Guide: Understanding Plant-based Protein Foods

February 5, 2019 by HealthyFamilies BC

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This blog post is the first in a series of four posts about Canada’s new Food Guide, which was released by Health Canada on January 22. Check back here each Tuesday for more information on our new dietary guidelines.

Health Canada released a new Canada’s Food Guide last month, which likely isn’t news to you since it received a large amount of media coverage across all platforms. Rather than remaining a single “all-in-one” document, the new Canada’s Food Guide has become an online suite of resources to better meet the needs of all Canadians. These new resources are available at

As with any new health information, however, it’s not surprising that people have a few questions, especially since the new Food Guide looks so much different than the one before. Most obvious is that foods are no longer divided into four food groups, and there are no serving sizes or recommended number of servings to eat each day. Instead, the focus is on eating a variety of foods each day using these simpler messages:

  • Have plenty of vegetables and fruits
  • Choose whole-grain foods
  • Make water your drink of choice
  • Eat protein foods

Health Canada goes on to recommend that “among protein foods, consume plant-based more often.” Plant-based protein foods include legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), nuts, seeds, tofu, and fortified soy beverage.  But what do they mean by “more often”?

Is Health Canada recommending we become vegetarian?

Can we still have milk as part of a healthy diet?

Diets higher in plant-based foods tend to be higher in fibre and lower in saturated fat, both of which lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Recommending people eat more plant-based proteins doesn’t mean that you can’t eat meat and milk products. Instead, it is about making subtle shifts in our eating habits to optimize our health. It also supports a lesser environmental impact from our eating. Lean meats, lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in fat and sodium are nutritious foods and are included in the list of protein options Canadians may choose from.

Following the new Canada’s Food Guide shouldn’t feel like anything is being taken away from you. Instead, the hope is that it broadens your experience with food and helps you find more foods to love! Health Canada’s website states “the best healthy eating patterns include foods that reflect your food choices related to taste, culture, budget, [and] lifestyle,” and we couldn’t agree more.

For meal and snack ideas (plant-based or otherwise), check out Health Canada’s recipes here. For more information on the new Canada’s Food Guide, check back here next week for more information.

Related Blogs:

Cooking with Lentils

Is Plant-based the Same as Vegetarian?

Answers to Four Common Nutty Questions

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