Did you hear? The Canadian Food Guide is being rewritten! Before it gets released I want to take a look at the current guide and what I hope we see in the new version.
For the sake of flow I’m going to refer to the Male 19-50 category. The guide recommends the following:
8-10 servings of fruit and vegetables
8 servings of grain
2 servings of milk/alternatives
3 servings of meat/meat alternatives
Starting with Fruit and vegetables.
Pro’s: 8-10 servings is an excellent recommendation. I would recommend they separate the fruits and vegetables making it 8 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit. Reason being, if people don’t know much about nutrition they will likely choose fruit over vegetables when given the option. Try feeding a baby peas and then switching to bananas. Which one are they going to choose if they have the option? Most babies will choose the bananas. We like sweetness, most of us prefer it to any other taste.
Con’s:You will notice that a glass of 100% fruit juice is considered a serving of fruit, I think this is a problem because it gives the impression that drinking a glass of orange juice is just as beneficial as eating an orange. Eating the entire orange ensures that you get fiber along with the fructose. Fiber helps slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream. I have nothing against freshly squeezed juice but I do think it is meant to be had in moderation. If someone wants to have 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed juice at breakfast, that’s great. If they start replacing multiple servings with juice, I’m going to be concerned. Another problem is that many people believe Tropicana and Simply Orange are equal to freshly squeezed juice. They are NOT. In the past few years the public has been made a aware of the sneaky tactics these companies use to keep their “100% real juice” status. Whenever possible, make your own juice or buy it from a local organic juicery.
Let’s move on to grains. The recommendation for the male is 8 servings of grain. A serving is one slice of bread, 1/2 a cup of other grains or 3/4 cup of cereal.
Pro’s:First, to the side you will see they recommend that at least half these grains be whole grain and that you read the nutrition labels before you buy. I can see the effort here and I applaud it. When choosing a grain whole grain ,much like choosing the orange over the juice, contains more nutrients, more fiber and less sugar. White bread has been bleached and processed to the point where it cannot be considered a health food. It’s a sham. I think the guide should contain more information on why they make certain recommendations. If you dig around you can find more, but making it all part of the same info-graphic would make it user friendly.
Con’s: Back to the servings, 8 servings of grain a day. That’s 8 pieces of bread. I realize they aren’t recommending people eat 8 pieces of bread, but they aren’t NOT recommending it. If you think about it, toast at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and pizza for dinner would get you pretty close to 8 servings and you can’t tell me that isn’t a common menu. Grains do contain many good nutrients, but 8 servings a day is excessive. I would recommend 3-4 servings of grain with the rest of the carbohydrates coming from a sweet potato, squash and other vegetables. I would also recommend those grains be as natural as possible! For people ,like myself, who struggle with autoimmune diseases it is often best to limit grains to 0-1 servings a day and fill up on nutrient dense vegetables and healthy fats.
Milk and milk alternatives. We’ve all been on the ride from milk is good to milk is bad to milk is good. Everywhere you look there’s a different opinion on whether or not you should drink milk. The main reason milk is recommended is that it contains calcium which is a mineral that contributes to bone health, among other things. There are several leafy greens that have higher concentrations of calcium than dairy products. Factor in that the milk we drink today is pasteurized and has an acidic affect on the body and there isn’t a great argument for consuming it. About 65% of the population has a reduced ability to digest lactose, meaning more than half of us shouldn’t be consuming it at all. I would like to see dairy as a nonessential food group. It can be included as something to partake in if you do not have a lactose intolerance.
Meat and Alternatives.
Pro’s: I like meat. It provides us with essential amino acids that are used as the building blocks of our muscles. Only a few meat alternatives give us all the essential amino acids our body needs. I agree with the 2-3 servings as suggested but when looking closely at the info-graphic I see a few red flags.
Con’s:They have peanut butter as a meat alternative, while peanut butter does contain protein it also contains double the fat. I am 100% pro fat but would prefer to see the peanut butter in its proper category. Legumes are also listed as a meat alternative. 1 cup of legumes contains about 8g of protein and 21g of carbs. You would have to eat a lot to get enough protein and you’d be eating more carbohydrates than necessary. Legumes have many health benefits, but they should be listed as a source of carbohydrates before a source of protein.
What about fat?
To be fair, the rainbow version of the template used to contain a small red line that represented fat. Now there is a box recommending 2-3 TBSP of unsaturated fat be consumed every day. This is great advice, we all need unsaturated fat for our bodies to function at their best. What I don’t like is they are still scaring people away from saturated fat when in moderation it can be used by the body. Along with that they are recommending margarine over butter. On average margarine contains 14 ingredients,some of them man made, while butter contains 2 ingredients (cream and salt). It doesn’t take a genius to recognize something isn’t right about that recommendation. I would recommend Fat be included as a food group.
Where’s the sugar!?
My biggest issue with the Canadian Food Guide is the lack of information on sugar. Somewhere in there it said to limit it, but it does not address what “limit” means. Considering that the average Canadian eats about 80 pounds of sugar a year I would think it would be something they would want to address. We have an obesity, diabetes and heart disease epidemic on our hands but our food guide doesn’t address the role sugar plays in it. It should be stated clearly that sugar should be eaten as little as possible. I would set the limit at 20-30g a day of added sugar. Many people get that in their morning beverage run alone. Sugar is not an essential nutrient in the human body and literally contributes nothing to your health. There should also be information on the role sugar plays in causing inflammation in the body.
As you can see, I did not get into the politics that went on during the design phase of the food guide. We live in a corrupt society that is rooted in money. How do you think Coca-cola would react if the food guide started recommending a daily sugar intake that is less than a can of coke? How would Wonder Bread react if we only recommended 2-3 servings of grain a day? How would the entire dairy industry react if we didn’t include dairy as an essential food group? Whenever possible, follow the money. My next post will be a more concise piece on what we should eat and why.
Eat Your Veggies!