Physical Education

Food Guide Under Fire

Canada’s Food Guide is currently under review, as the decade-old document has been critiqued over the last year. In fact, this time last year the Senate released a report on the Food Guide calling for a complete overhaul because the document is both dated and ineffective. As educators, this is an important topic for us to keep updated on because the Food Guide is written directly into the Health Curriculum, starting in Grade One: “Healthy Eating: C2.1 – describe how the food groups in Canada’s Food Guide (i.e., vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk and alternatives, meat and alternatives) can be used to make healthy food choices [CT]”.

I appreciate that the food guide is in the curriculum as a resource for teachers to use, and it’s important to have resources to rely on because not all of us are experts on healthy food choices or nutritional information. However, I think that we also need to be critical about the resources we are using; we can accept nothing at face value.

Canada’s Food Guide, which has been used as a teaching resource in classrooms for a decade, is criticized for spurring the child obesity epidemic. And unfortunately, when you read the recommendations of the Guide, it suffices to say that the information is outdated. Grains are suggested in high servings, especially processed grains like cereals – which also tend to be high in sugars. Also, dairy intake is comparatively low, and after the recommended 2 servings of milk every day, there is no room remaining for cheese or yoghurt – two important sources of good fats. Another problem with the Guide is the promotion of fruit juice as a viable fruit/vegetable serving. While it may provide the necessary serving of fruits, juice is extremely high in sugar, which the body turns into bad fats when it’s metabolized.

Where, then, will the revamp of the Food Guide lead us? Hopefully to dietary recommendations that focus on limiting carbohydrates to whole grains, and providing information on good fats and where to find them. Also, I think that the food guide should address the multidimensional problem of processed foods, and the fact that they are often significantly less expensive than organic, whole-grain, or locally sourced food alternatives. If we all could afford to, wouldn’t we always eat organic? If we all had the time to, wouldn’t we all cook a home-made meal from fresh, local ingredients? I know I’m not the only one who eats fast food or has take-out once (or thrice) a week. I buy pre-cooked, frozen dinners because I don’t have time to cook chicken and make homemade pasta between school and work. I might not be representative of the average Canadian family, but I don’t think my eating habits are that different.

My greatest hope is that the new Food Guide is representative of Canadians. We are diverse, but I think that this is an opportunity for the government to create dietary recommendations that reflect the lifestyle of Canadian families, and provide good suggestions for us to live our healthiest lives.

What would you like to see reflected in the Guide? Do you think that Brazil’s new Food Guide would serve as a good model for the Canadian overhaul? Are there aspects of the Food Guide that you think we should keep?

I’m also going to do a little promo in this post, for my friend Veronica Childs and her mom Laura Childs. They’ve written some great books on the KetoHybrid diet, which focusses on Low Carb-High Fat. Here is their website if this is something you’d be interested in checking out. A lot of their ideas align with the direction that researchers have suggested for Canada’s new Food Guide.

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