Canada's Food Guide

Food on counter Fruits and vegetables on a counter


Canada's Food Guide Webinar

Listen to highlights from the new Canada's Food Guide in this recorded webinar by the Registered Dietitians Working Group.


Cook more often

The new Canada’s Food Guide tells us to cook food at home more often. Why? Cooking at home is a great way to support healthy eating because it allows the cook to choose healthy ingredients and control what is going into the food.

Cooking at home has many benefits besides just being healthier. Cooking provides a way to enhance food knowledge, creativity, and planning skills. Choose recipes based on your skill level.  As your confidence and skills develop, try more advanced recipes and cooking methods. Cooking with friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers, and sharing food traditions unique to your culture is a great way to celebrate the social side of eating.

Cooking at home more often can also prevent food from being wasted. Decreasing food waste saves money and helps the environment by reducing waste sent to landfills. Thirty one billion dollars in food is wasted each year in Canada. Planning meals before grocery shopping, properly storing foods and using leftovers are ways to lower household food waste.  

On average, Canadians spend 30% of their food budget on foods from restaurants and other convenience food outlets. Cooking at home, instead of relying on take out, ready-made, and convenience foods, will help you save money. Eating less prepared, convenience foods also tends to lower intake of sugar, salt and saturated fat.

Busy schedules can make cooking at home challenging. The new Canada’s Food Guide has tips for cooking at home more often:

  1. Batch cook – Batch cooking means making many portions of one meal so that when you need it, it’s ready! Keep them in your fridge to have during the week, or freeze and thaw as you need it.
  2. Keep your kitchen stocked – Avoid turning to convenience foods by keeping your kitchen stocked with ingredients needed to prepare your favorite healthy meals.
  3. Use a slow cooker – Slow cookers are great for busy schedules because they don’t require much attention.
  4. Keep it simple – Choose realistic recipes. Recipes don’t have to have a long ingredient list for them to be flavourful and healthy!

Learning new food skills has many benefits. The new food guide has recipes to help you get started with developing your skills:

- 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 Social Side of Eating

Food is meant to be shared and celebrated. This is why food is such an important aspect of many holidays and special occasions. However, eating with others should be something we do daily, not only for celebrations. This is why the Health Unit is pleased the social side of eating is part of the new food guide.

Eating meals with family, friends, neighbours, and co-workers are a great way to connect with others. Family meals can also help reinforce healthy eating habits in kids. Mealtimes provide an opportunity to model healthy eating, talk about your day, and catch up. Bonus if you meal prep and clean up together too!

If you live alone, it is especially important to reach out and share meals with others from time-to-time. Need ideas to on how get started? Look into community kitchens or plan dinner parties, work lunches, and coffee catch-ups.

Being mindful of what you are eating can help you enjoy meals more. This can be a challenge with our busy schedules, but it is crucial to carve out time to eat. Try to eat at a table (with others if possible), put away screens, focus on what you are eating, and eat slowly. It can take 20 minutes to feel full, so this can help you get in touch with your hunger and fullness levels.

- The Registered Dietitian Working Group

Canada’s Food Guide recommendations are out of reach for those living in poverty

There are many ways to eat healthy on a budget. Everyone wants to make the most of their food dollars, regardless of household income. Looking at flyers, using coupons, meal planning, and buying in-season produce are all ways to get the most for your money at the grocery store.

However, no amount of budgeting will help put food on the table when there is not enough money for the costs of living. Food insecurity is not due to inadequate budgeting or cooking skills. It is a result of low income.

Food insecurity means a household does not have enough money for food. This ranges from worrying about running out of food, to relying on lower cost, less nutritious foods, to skipping meals, due to low income. One in seven households in our area are food insecure.

Being food insecure is a huge barrier to healthy eating. Even Health Canada acknowledges the recommendations in Canada’s Food Guide are out of reach for many low income Canadians.

In public health, we care about this issue because food insecurity can lead to poor health. Rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and other chronic health conditions are higher among those who are food insecure.

What will reduce food insecurity in Ontario? Social assistance rates that reflect the real costs of living. Higher minimum wage and more jobs with full-time hours and benefits. Income measures that will reduce poverty rates.

The Health Unit is vocal about the need for income solutions to address this important public health issue. We are calling on governments to prioritize income solutions to reduce food insecurity in Ontario. Research shows reducing food insecurity will lead to better health for the people of Ontario.

- The Registered Dietitian Working Group

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

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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