Canada's Food Guide

Food on counter Fruits and vegetables on a counter


Why Should We Eat More Plant-based Proteins?

What’s all this talk about “plant-based” proteins anyway? What does plant-based protein even mean? Why is the new food guide telling us to “Choose proteins that come from plants more often?

Plant-based protein refers to a food that has protein in it from a plant - like a bean, nut, seed, tofu, etc. - versus a food that has protein in it from an animal - like pork, beef, poultry, fish, etc. When we think of protein foods, we traditionally think first of meat, cheese, eggs, and milk. So this update in Canada’s Food Guide is a bit of new concept!

Why eat more plant-based proteins? Research shows us that plant-based proteins provide more fibre and less saturated fat, than other types of protein. This pattern of eating is good for heart health. Plant-based proteins are also more affordable, which can help when you’re on a budget.

Eating more plant-based proteins isn’t only healthy for our bodies, it is healthy for the environment. Some benefits of eating more plant-based proteins, and less animal-based proteins, include helping to conserve water, soil and air. Our food choices have an impact on the environment.  

Need some inspiration? Check out these two recipes and try incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet: 

- The Registered Dietitian Working Group

This post is part of a commentary series from the Health Unit’s Registered Dietitian Working Group on the changes to Canada’s Food Guide. Stay tuned for more of their weekly posts.


The Food Guide Plate vs. The Rainbow

It may feel like Canada’s Food Guide has always had the rainbow. In reality, the rainbow has only been around since 1992, and the time has come for it to retire. Although the rainbow is fun, it was not the most practical visual tool to show people what foods to eat. Many Canadians found the serving sizes and recommended number of servings, on the old food guide, confusing to follow. That is why the Health Unit loves the clear and practical plate that shows exactly how a meal should be split up. We eat off plates, our food guide now reflects that.

Vegetables and fruits were the biggest arc in the rainbow and now they represent the biggest portion of the plate, half. Grain products were the next largest arc and now represent only a quarter of the plate. Meat and alternatives and milk products represented the two smallest arcs. They have now been combined to form the group “Protein Foods”. This represents the last quarter of the plate.

When trying to include Canada’s Food Guide plate into daily eating, try to keep these portions in mind. For example, when making a meal such as lasagna the dish is mostly pasta and meat sauce, try eating a smaller piece of lasagna and adding a side salad or cooked vegetables to balance it out.

- The Registered Dietitian Working Group


Make Water Your New Drink of Choice

The Health Unit is happy to see that in Canada’s Food Guide, chocolate milk and 100% fruit juice are now considered sugary drinks, and should be limited. Other sugary drinks include soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks (like fruit punch), sports drinks, and energy drinks.

Why all the fuss about sugary drinks? They’re the top source of sugars in the Canadian diet, especially amongst kids and youth! Not to mention sugary drinks have been linked to a higher risk of tooth decay and type 2 diabetes.

Rethinking what to drink is an easy first step to healthy eating. Plain milk and unsweetened fortified soy beverages are healthier options. Water, however, is the best way to quench your thirst without adding energy to your diet.

5 ways to drink more water:

  •       Serve or order tap water with meals
  •       Bring a reusable water bottle when you’re on the go
  •       Drink water during and after being active (most people don’t need sports drinks and chocolate milk to “recover”)
  •       Try hot water in the winter or carbonated water in the summer
  •       Flavour your water with herbs or fruit 

For more info, visit the Canada’s Food Guide website.

- The Registered Dietitian Working Group

Addressing Skepticism Around Canada’s Food Guide

Many people are skeptical about Canada’s Food Guide, specifically when it comes to influence from the food industry on certain dietary recommendations. This time, during the revision process, Health Canada was clear that the food industry would not influence Canada’s Food Guide. Their research review included reviewing years of data and reports on the impact of diet on health from around the world.

The new Canada’s Food Guide is easy for the Health Unit to support. The plate visual reminds Canadians to eat more vegetables and fruit, whole grains, and plant based protein foods. It also includes important messaging about the social aspects of eating and the value of cooking and food skills. These elements very much align with the public health messaging that the Heath Unit promotes. Overall, the new Canada’s Food Guide is a huge improvement over the previous one.

- The Registered Dietitian Working Group

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