The Calgary Journal
The Calgary Journal

Canada Health’s food guide update is set to restore healthier eating habits in Canadian diets.  Changes are aimed at easier understanding of the suggested meal servings, like how much we should see on our plates.

Regular meat eaters enjoy burgers complete with big meals but Canada Health’s revised food guide suggests more of the colored variety for your meal plates.

With 18,000 cattle producers in Alberta alone, the changes are not so subtle.  The Alberta Beef Producers are major contributors to the economy and food supply.

Francesca Simon, Mount Royal University Wellness Services Administrator, oversees two clinics in health services and optimal therapies.  She has been a vegan for over four years and appreciates the new version, because it's helping people make better choices about their meals.

Health CanadaFoodGuide BlackHorseFrancesca Simon, Mount Royal University Wellness Services Administrator, hopes the updated food guide will help people make better choices about their meals. Photo: Floyd Black Horse

“I think that it's going to have the biggest influence on people’s health.  Because fruit juices (part of the previous food guide) is just sugar. But if you eat an orange with all it’s fiber  (the new guidelines recommend more fruit and vegetables) then that’s fine but more nutritious.”

One of the immediate changes is the recommendation of an increase in the amount of plant-based proteins we consume.  One quarter of the nutrition guidelines puts products such as beef and chicken portions on an equivalent nutritional level with beans.

Smaller portions mean less concern about the sizes in grams and ounces we’re eating.  The eating guide is more about what we see in our meals than how much sugar, protein and carbs we’re having.

Radio Canada International (RCI) reports, “it only included high quality scientific data” in contrast to any agricultural or food industry groups providing input.  Some of the data is from organisations such as the World Health Organisation. Less say from meat and dairy suppliers means Canadians can be relieved their choices are not industry influenced.

“Eating in accordance with the new Food Guide can help Canadians meet nutrient needs” says the RCI report and signifies the nutritional focus of the changes made.

Mount Royal University student Bonnie Chiniquay has had diabetes since she was four years old.  When it comes to things such as sugar intake in her body, she needs to take her consumption levels seriously.

“My body can't produce insulin which regulates the amount of sugar that's in your body. It keeps you healthy. You know if you don't have enough sugar in your body, then you also don't have enough energy,” she says.

Diabetes is a process in the body which has two types: Type 1 and Type 2.  It’s a disease affecting millions of people around the world. According to Diabetes.org, in 2015, 23.1 million people in America were diagnosed with the disease.

Chiniquay has a rare form of Type 1, which is considered an inherited form of the disease.  It’s based on her blood sugar and how many carbs she receives from the foods she eats.  

“Type 1, that’s what I have.  It’s juvenile diabetes. It is rare, though type 2 is something that adults generally get especially when they are overweight and very unhealthy and a lot of the time they can just exercise and take pills and diet properly,” she says.

For Chiniquay, how her body processes foods is a metabolic concern.  Wellness advisor Simon addresses the two types of the disease coincide with blood sugar levels and the amount of insulin in the body it can produce.

“So sugar is two-fold.  So there’s different types of sugar: there’s the process sugar that we know in things like pop and candy and cake. And then carbohydrates are also sugars.”

Another replacement in the revised guide is the removal of food groups.  What used to be recommended servings is now related to portion sizes.  

According to Sabrina Del Ben, Culinary Educator with the Calgary Board of Education, the portion sizes are about reducing sugars, fat and salts in our diets.  One change which might help restaurants reconsider their menu options.

“I think changing the portion sizes would be a big impact from a restaurant point of view,” Del Ben said.  “As a home cook, watching your portion size is really important, but I think as an industry it's equally as important for them to be leaders in that providing their customers with healthier portion sizes or portion selections.”

One of the noticeable changes to the food guide is the fruits and vegetable servings.  One-half of our meals is recommended to be strictly from these food items.  

“With fruits and vegetables, they also break down to sugar as well. That's why in diet it's important that we have a good source of good sugars which are good carbohydrates, which are typically in the form of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Health Sunlife BlackhorseThe guide suggests half our meals is a serving of the vegetable/fruit variety. Photo: Sunlife.ca

For new dieters, the updated guide may be easier to read than its former version.  The question of whether or not industry will catch on is still too early to measure. Simon says it's starting to take notice.

“That's what I like about the food guide is that it's starting to recognize what's important about the food guide for me is that restaurants are recognizing that people want to follow the food guide, if they follow the food guide, they're giving people like us options.”