Canada’s new food guide goes vegetarian, so should you!

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By Sabrina Almeida

There was much speculation as to how Health Canada (HC) would balance scientific evidence with the pressures of the diverse groups within the food industry. Anticipating that the axe would come down on them, meat and dairy lobbied hard against being labelled the bad guys. I am ecstatic that HC put the health and well-being of Canadians over all things else, as they should. My family wouldn’t be as happy. Not that they follow any food guide. The old one was up on my fridge for many months but never got even a sideways glance from anyone but me. However, they do know that I’ll be wielding it every little chance I get.

The colourful food plate with half portion devoted to veggies and fruits (unlike a third previously) leaves no doubt of the direction health experts want us to take. The other half is divided between proteins and whole grains. Meat and dairy are not food groups anymore (vegetables and fruits have the sole honour) but part of the protein category along with legumes. This too comes with the recommendation to choose plant-based protein. Drinking ‘water’ gets special mention.

Yes, carnivores will find themselves out in the cold. However, it should come as no surprise. Market trends indicate that consumers have been weaning away from meats for a while now. Hence the expectation that meat prices will fall. But that only means that the type of healthy eating recommended by Health Canada is going to be heavier on your wallet. Have you seen the prices of vegetables and fruits lately? Around $50 worth just about gets me through the week. A couple of years ago, I could get by at half the price. Not shocking either as healthier items always cost way more than those you should avoid.

Portion sizes are gone too! So, one needn’t stress about the five a day anymore.  That’s because eating half a plate of veggies and fruit twice a day should keep you on the right track. I never figured out the recommended servings of this food group anyways.

Plant farmers and orchards will be smiling for the next couple of years. The meat producers not so much and news reports suggest they might look eastward to markets in Asia to sell their products.

Dairy shares the protein group with meat. But in a less favourable position than nuts, beans and seeds. Just yogurt and cheese in the picture!!! With an emphasis on low-fat varieties.

Milk has been dethroned and it’s not surprising. Several healthcare practitioners have been questioning its significance in an adult diet. Many of Indian origin, however, would be terribly upset at the downgrading. In addition to believing implicitly in its nutritional value, it is used as a remedy for all kinds of afflictions from acid reflux to a common cold. The grocery carts laden with milk bags belonging to people from my home country initially had me thinking they might be resellers, till friends set me straight.  Drinking black coffee is almost inconceivable. Most have a hard time getting used to the low-fat milk varieties offered here as it is.

What really got my attention was the advice to cook your own meals and limit eating out. Now that should irk the restaurants and fast food places. That being said, I’m sure that those who frequent MacDonald’s, Popeyes, Burger King, etc. are less likely to modify their eating habits on account of the food guide.

Growing your own food is also encouraged so get those green thumbs going. Local farmers also get a boost with the reference to getting to know those who grow your food.

For the first time the guide acknowledges the elephant in the room. Alcohol, a global health concern with links to obesity, cancer, hypertension and liver disease needed to be addressed. I am heartened by the advice that those who do not consume alcohol should never start drinking it and that those that do should follow Canada’s low-risk alcohol consumption guidelines (which is still too much in my opinion). Liquor stores shouldn’t be upset as fruit juice too has joined the list of unfavourables.

I especially like the section on being mindful of your eating habits. Paying attention to one’s feelings, thoughts, emotions and behaviours pertaining to food is critical to developing and maintaining healthy habits. Our poor choices often stem from a troubled relationship with food. Either on account of its association with negative experiences or as a compensation for them. We all know that eating slowly and with others is a more fulfilling and healthy experience.

In the end the message is that we’d be better of encouraging diversity on our plate and in our cuisine just like we do in our communities. Here’s to healthy eating!!! -CINEWS






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