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Canada’s Food Guide: What Changes to Expect

January 23, 2018 by HealthyFamilies BC

Canada food guide changes

There has been a lot of media buzz around the upcoming changes to Canada’s Food Guide, but some of the information floating around isn’t quite right. Here’s a summary of what you need to know.

Why is the Food Guide being updated? 

Canada’s Food Guide was first released in 1942 to let people know the minimum amounts of foods they needed to eat to help protect them from nutritional deficiencies during war time and rations. Since then, the Food Guide has evolved in many ways, including trying to meet energy and nutrient needs, rather than simply prevent deficiency. These changes have made the current 2007 Guide appear to be a distant relative to the first. However, the overall goal has always been the same: to educate Canadians on food choices that promote health.

Each transformation of the Food Guide has been in response to emerging scientific evidence on food and health. The sense that the current Food Guide it is out-of-date, particularly with respect to oils and fats, vitamin D and sodium, is a commonly stated concern. Another concern is that it is too difficult for many people to understand and use. Health Canada is not only looking to resolve these and other concerns, they are also looking to new and innovate ways to offer healthy eating recommendations and guidance that will better meet our evolving needs. Our socially, economically, and culturally diverse population; the physical environments in which we make our food choices; the way we look for information; and our food skills are all being considered in this upcoming revision. 

When will the new Food Guide be available?

Health Canada has already gone through two extensive consultations that were open to feedback from the public, health professionals, and organisations that use healthy eating recommendations in their work. Using the feedback received, new dietary guidance policy statements for health professionals and policy makers will be released by Health Canada in mid-2018. At the same time, Health Canada will release some resources for Canadians to begin using to inform their food choices. Updated information on healthy eating patterns, which will provide the detail on recommended amounts and types of foods to eat, is expected to be released mid-2019.

But really, what you probably want to know is…

What should I be eating now?

Although Health Canada is considering different ways of grouping foods within the new Food Guide, no decisions have been made yet. Regardless of how foods may be grouped in the upcoming version, healthy eating recommendations continue to focus on the foundational advice for healthy eating:

  • Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods and beverages.
  • Centre your meals around vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein-rich foods. 
  • Choose plant-based protein-rich foods (beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, and seeds) often. 
  • Drink water.
  • Limit processed and prepared foods and beverages that are high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat.

The new Food Guide will put more emphasis on plant-based sources of protein. This isn’t a new concept as our current Food Guide tells us that we should “have meat alternatives often” and recommends smaller portions of meat than what people tend to eat. Health Canada’s guidance will continue to include all sources of protein including eggs, fish and other seafood, poultry, lean red meats, lower fat milk and yogurt, and cheeses lower in sodium and fat. However, the health benefits of eating mostly plant-based foods will be highlighted going forward.

As we wait for the new resources, the 2007 Canada’s Food Guide is still the “go-to” source of trusted information on healthy eating for Canadians.

What else can I expect from the new Food Guide?

The new Food Guide promises to provide advice on “how” to eat, and it will recognize that knowing how to meal plan, select and prepare healthy foods, and eat mindfully with family and friends are important skills that support healthy eating.

Another big change is that the new Food Guide will not be an “all-in-one” tool suitable for all purposes. Health Canada will be developing different resources and tools to better meet the needs of different audiences.

Where can I get more information?

If you have questions about the Food Guide or other food or nutrition topics, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (toll-free in BC) to speak to a registered dietitian or send an email.

For more details on the revision process, click here.

Related blogs
Is Plant-based the Same as Vegetarian?

Recommended resources
Revision Process for Canada’s Food Guide
Canada’s Food Guides
Plant-based Diet Guidelines



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