• Melissa Genee, RD

Canada’s New Food Guide and What That Means for Your Family

In January of this year, Canada introduced the updated food guide. The iconic food rainbow may be gone, but the healthy messages have stayed. What has changed?


Instead of four food groups, the new food guide focuses on healthy food choices: vegetables and fruits, protein rich foods, and whole grains. The somewhat complicated and confusing serving size guide has been replaced with simpler food proportions. Most importantly, the new food guide emphasizes the importance of how you eat, not just what you eat.


The new food guide can be divided into 2 sections: What you should eat and how you should eat.


Section 1: Eat a Variety of Healthy Foods Each Day


So what does this Instagram worthy graphic mean?


Have plenty of vegetables and fruits

Half of your plate should be filled with a wide variety of vegetables and fruits! Brightly coloured vegetables and fruit are full of important vitamins and minerals vital for the health of your family.


Eat Protein Foods

One quarter of your plate should include protein rich foods, including plant protein. Lean meats such as chicken, turkey and fish are excellent sources of protein. Another good source of protein comes from plants such as pulses (beans, peas and lentils), nuts and seeds. Not only do these plant items contain protein, they also contain fibre and essential nutrients. We should all aim to add more plant protein in our diet.


Choose Whole Grain Foods

The last quarter of your plate should include whole grain foods such as wild rice, whole grain breads and cereals, quinoa and whole wheat pastas. These foods give us important nutrients and keeps us feeling full and satisfied.


Make Water your Drink of Choice

Drinking water is the best way we can stay hydrated. Sweetened beverages like pop, chocolate milk, and juice are the number one source of sugar in Canadian’s diets, and that is especially true for our children! By lowering our sugar intake, we can help lower the risk of type II diabetes, obesity and dental decay. But what about milk? Unsweetened fortified milk is a good alternative to water and can still be offered at meals.


Section 2: Healthy Eating is More than the Foods you Eat


The second part of the food guide focuses on how we should eat and encourages us to be mindful, enjoy our foods, cook more often, and eat meals with others. Being mindful of your eating habits means that you are aware of how you eat, why you eat, what you eat, when you eat, where you eat, and how much you eat. By doing this we can make healthier choices and it also allows us to enjoy our food and eating experience more. You can help encourage your children to be mindful while they eat by asking them questions during or after meal time: What are you eating? What does it taste like? What does it feel like? Can you describe the textures and flavours? To help encourage mindfulness at mealtimes, avoid and eliminate distractions by removing games and turning off the television.

Cook more often and involve your entire family! By involving your children in the planning, grocery shopping, preparation and cooking, you can teach them vital skills and help children build healthy relationships with food. After the meal is cooked, the new food guide also encourages us to enjoy our meals with others. Eating regular meals together as a family is especially beneficial for children, as kids learn and develop their eating habits and behaviours by observing others. Kids are able to explore new foods, observe cultural or traditional foods and establish healthy eating routines. As a parent, it is important to be a positive role model for your child by preaching and practicing healthy eating habits at and away from the meal table.

Simple enough, right?

While this may sound like straightforward advice, this way of eating can be a huge leap for many families, especially children. Is it reasonable to expect your children to start filling half their plates with broccoli, squash and kale? To go from beloved white bread to seedy wholegrain bread? Probably not. Do you think your child may try a bite or two of spinach and lentil curry if they helped wash and tear the spinach? More likely.

Try to make small changes to your eating habits. Whether that be mixing white and brown rice, asking your child to pick out a new vegetable while grocery shopping or having your child scramble eggs for a weekend omelette; these small steps can lead to greater positive changes for you and your family. The FLIP blog will be giving practical tips and family friendly recipes to kick start healthy changes.


For more tips, recipes and resources on Canada’s Food Guide, visit https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/.

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