Health Canada has overhauled the Canada Food Guide to include more culturally diverse foods, information on trans fats, customized recommendations and exercise guidelines.
"The new food guide contains more information to help Canadians make wise choices about the food they eat," Health Minister Tony Clement said at a news conference Monday in Orleans, Ont., noting that this is the first time the healthy eating guide has been updated in nearly 15 years.
Unlike the general portion recommendations in the old food guide, the new edition offers detailed suggestions based on age and sex. Information on high-calorie foods, sugars and artery-clogging trans fats has also been included.
Health Canada has added a range of new foods to the guide, such as bok choy, in an effort to recognize the needs of the culturally diverse population.
The guide also places a stronger emphasis on physical activity as a means of curbing health problems including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.
"It's not enough for us just to eat well, we must also exercise regularly," Clement said.
The Food Guide also suggests Canadians over the age of 50 take a vitamin D supplement to prevent osteoporosis.
On Health Canada's website, visitors can create a customized food guide, selecting from foods they like or would choose to include in their diets. The guide is available for download in English and French. Copies in other languages and a separate Food Guide for First Nations, Inuit and Métis will be available later this spring.
New Food Guide not a weight-loss tool
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler-Jones noted over the past quarter century there has been a rise in obesity levels,which has contributed to a host of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, respiratory problems and osteoporosis.
Butler-Jones cautioned that the guide should not be seen as a weight-loss tool but rather a manual on healthy lifestyle choices.
"The balance between how we eat and how active we are is vitally important in preventing chronic illness," Jones said.
Carol Dombrow, a dietician with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, saysthe new guide is more user-friendly.She says the broad serving ranges, offive to 12 grains and cereals in the old guide as an example, have been narrowed. She says the recommendations are a positive step toward reducing obesity rates.
"I think it's going to help and I think that balancing this with the physical activity guide is a step in the right direction," Dombrow said.
Vitamin B12 left out
Susan Osher, a registered dietitian in Toronto, praised the new guide as being more inclusive.
"It addresses more people and it speaks to more people," Osher said, noting that additions such as frozen fruits and vegetables are welcome. However, Oshersaid she was puzzled by certainomissions.
"The flip side of the inclusion is it's presenting itself as a real gold standard of nutrition," she said. "But it didn't address things such as vitaminB12 for older adults, which is surprising because it's sort of decided that's a recommendation across the board," she said.
Canada's first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was published in July 1942 and addressed issues of wartime rationing and general health. Since then, the guide has been revised eight times.
Over the past four years, Health Canada officials have consulted dieticians, food industry representatives and members of the public.