Canada’s New Food Guide

A Naturopaths View

For the past 40 years the Canadian Food Guide has preached that a healthy diet consists of a balance of foods from “the 4 food groups”. However this past week the government released a new set of guidelines. As a Naturopathic Doctor and Certified Sports Nutritionist I believe these changes to the guidelines are a great step in the right direction.

One of the best changes to the Food Guide is the heavy emphasis on reducing sugar intake, both in the form of added sugars (processed food where they’ve added some form of sugar) and free sugars (naturally occurring sugars like fruit juices or honey). It’s refreshing to see the old Food Guide recommendations of things like chocolate milk and fruit juice reversed, as these things tend to spike peoples blood sugar, causing energy crashes and increased hunger in the short term, and liver and cardiovascular issues long-term. Replacing these things with cold water (try adding some lemon or lime!), as recommended in the Food Guide, is a very simple and effective strategy to reduce our intake of sugar, and improve our health.

Another positive change is the increased emphasis on protein containing foods is also encouraging. A moderate to high protein intake is essential to optimal health, energy, and recovery from exercise. The new Food Guide places an emphasis on plant proteins versus animal proteins. I think this is an area of the Food Guide that may change in the future, however I don’t have a huge problem with plant protein consumption in my patients, as long as they aren’t having related digestive issues. Their rationale for plant protein over animal is based on the theory that saturated fat consumption causes cardiovascular disease, however there have been excellent studies showing that there is no correlation between saturated fat and cardiovascular disease.

Finally, I love the emphasis placed on healthy eating habits such as the preparation of real, minimally processed foods at home, eating meals together with family members, and being critical of food labels. If I was to sum-up excellent nutritional guidelines, it would be “Just Eat Real Food” (unprocessed vegetables, meat, seafood, and fruit) since these foods are high in vitamins, minerals, and other compounds essential to optimal health. The emphasis on eating in a relaxed, comfortable environment is so important because being in “Rest & Digest” mode (as opposed to “Fight or Flight” mode, when we are quickly rushing to eat, or are watching stimulating TV or social media as we eat) is so important for proper digestion and health.

It’s fantastic to see the government guidelines starting to catch up with modern clinical nutritional science. I’m excited to see how this guide will change people’s nutritional choices when it comes to making healthy decisions.

Dr. Peter Woznik

ND MSc CSCS CISSN HBSc

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