Eat With Pleasure: What Canadian Nutrition Guide Recommends

Health Canada has published new nutritional guidelines, which have caused a lot of noise both inside and outside the country. The last time the national guide was updated in 2007 and then it was a completely standard document with food categories, norms for the consumption of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, a lot of numbers and percentages. But in 2019, Canadians staged a small revolution – they released a short and very nice nutritional guide (only two pages) with lyrical recommendations like “Enjoy your food” and “Have plenty of vegetables and fruits.”

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New guide caused a lot of discussion. Most people are inclined to think that Canadians made a breakthrough: the health service finally spoke to the population in simple language and at the same time took into account eco-trends – the advice to eat more plant foods fits into the modern agenda. On the other hand, experts note that the call to reduce the consumption of meat and dairy products may adversely affect livestock production, which is now making active attempts to become more environmentally friendly. One way or another, Canadian recommendations are worth listening to, they are based on the results of recent studies, and for the first time take into account the psychological and cultural aspects of nutrition.

 

 

WHAT SHOULD BE ON THE PLATE

The concept of the healthy plate has long been used to demonstrate a balanced diet. Its options created at Harvard and Stanford, and the Department of Health and Social Care of Great Britain, the Ministry of Health, Consumption and Social Welfare of Spain and several other countries use this method. But Canadians have created perhaps the simplest version of the diet: half shall consist of fruits and vegetables, protein sources – ¼ of your plate (primarily vegetable, including soybeans, other legumes and nuts), another ¼ – cereals and whole grain pasta or bread. There are no separate sources of fat on the plate — fats are present in sufficient quantities in protein-rich foods, i.e. fish, eggs, meat, as well as beans, nuts and avocados.

An important feature of the Canadian guide is the emphasis on plant food and a set of recommendations on how to get all the necessary substances out of it. Although the manual does not contain direct prohibitions on milk or meat, there are no recommendations for their mandatory presence in the diet – and this is a bold step that runs counter to traditional recommendations. Although the WHO (World Health Organization) does not focus on milk derivatives, it mentions them in the context of consumption of saturated fats. Many national guides recommend drinking a glass of milk a day, but not Canadian. Perhaps this is due to the active controversy around the benefits of dairy products. They contain sugar (lactose, which every sixth Canadian does not tolerate), proteins (mainly casein, which often causes food allergies) and saturated fats. There are fierce disputes about the dangers and benefits of the latter, but the results of most studies still show that the consumption of saturated fats should be limited and replaced with unsaturated ones.

 

For the same reason, red meat has fallen into disgrace of Canadians: there is convincing evidence that its consumption increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and colon cancer. But the new guide does not intimidate the possible consequences of malnutrition. This is a positive manifesto about a healthy attitude to food, in which the emphasis is not on individual ingredients or even products, but on food habits that can be embedded in any lifestyle.

The second page of the guide is devoted to dietary habits. The main points fit into a few sentences and remind more a motivational mantra rather than official state recommendations:

Be mindful of your eating habits

Cook more often

Enjoy your food

Eat meals with others

Use food labels

Limit foods high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat

Be aware of food marketing

This approach helps to avoid feeling guilty about what you eat “imperfectly.”

Photos: Getty Images

Tiffany Tompson
d3umka@yahoo.com

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