Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

In Depth

Canada's Food Guide

A nutritional juggling act

Last Updated February 5, 2007

food guide The new guide recommends that Canadians eat foods with little or no added salt, though it's not clear whether a low-salt diet provides added benefits for healthy people. (CBC)

Before Feb. 5, 2007, the last major revision to Canada's Food Guide came out in 1992 — long before Canadians became concerned about trans fats, omega-3 fatty acids and growing rates of obesity.

On May 8, 2002, Statistics Canada released results of the Canadian Community Health Survey, which collected information from over 130,000 people aged 12 and older. The first report looked at obesity and levels of physical activity.

The results were not good.

The survey found that between 1994-95 and 2000-01, the number of obese Canadians aged 20 to 64 grew by 24 per cent to almost 2.8 million. Increases in obesity rates were greatest among men and women aged between 45 and 54, who accounted for a quarter of all obese adults in Canada.

Among children, nine per cent were considered obese. Another 20 per cent were considered overweight.

The survey also found that children and adolescents who reported eating fruits and vegetables five or more times a day were substantially less likely to be overweight or obese than those who consumed them less frequently. Forty-one per cent of children and adolescents reported they ate at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

Two years after that study was released, Health Canada announced that the Food Guide would receive a makeover to address changes in eating patterns, food supply and diets, as well as advances in nutritional science.

It would be the third revision that Mary Bush, director general of the office of nutrition policy and promotion, would preside over.

"Eating is a fundamental health prerequisite, and it is becoming increasingly complex for people to understand what is healthy eating," Bush said. "So what the Food Guide tries to do is define healthy eating."

Not to everyone's taste

But from the beginning, the process was mired in controversy.

Criticisms were levelled at the advisory committee set up to oversee the revision. The 12 members included dietitians and academics as well as the nutrition education manager with the BC Dairy Foundation, the head of a group representing 85,000 oilseed growers, oilseed processors and makers of oilseed-based food products, and the director, scientific and regulatory affairs at the Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada, which represents some of the biggest food producing companies in the country.

Critics like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who treats obesity at the Bariatric Institute in Ottawa, worried that major food manufacturers had too much of a voice.

"I imagine that those companies would not want the words 'junk food' mentioned anywhere in the Food Guide. The Food Guide should have very, very clear messages about foods that are not healthy choices, including red meat … We are the No. 2 beef producer in the world. And I imagine that may well impact or handcuff in some way, shape or form to make appropriate recommendations about beef consumption."

Bush defends the role of the food industry on the advisory committee.

"It's important for us to understand all of the issues, as we are packaging our information to deliver to Canadians. At the same time we have to have perspective from all stakeholder communities … to deliver the best advice we can to Canadians in the best available manner."

In April 2006, Health Canada circulated an eight-page draft of the revised Food Guide. It was met with mixed reviews. Bill Jeffries, of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, was mainly concerned over the nutrition advice. The draft reduced the recommended daily number of servings of fruit and vegetables from a range of five-to-10 to four-to-eight.

"I would be much more hopeful about revisions to this Food Guide if I were confident that Health Canada was ambitiously pursuing a public health agenda rather than just trading off things to make everybody that has a stake in it a little bit happy," Jeffries told CBC News. "They should be looking at the science and providing advice to Canadians that encapsulates that science in a way that they can put it into action."

Draft version not final

In the wake of the criticisms, Bush noted that the draft guide was far from final. She said reaction to it provided some useful suggestions.

"Many suggested we hadn't dealt with sodium well either," Bush told CBC News. "Those are precisely the kinds of inputs where it allows us to see what we've done, how it's been received and then make appropriate changes where required."

The final version of the guide was a marked departure from previous versions. It contains information that is more targeted to specific groups — children, teens, women, men and the elderly. And, for the first time, serving sizes for preschoolers are included as well.

Also for the first time, adults over 50 are being advised to take a vitamin D supplement every day, to help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

The guide doesn't just say which foods are good and which are bad; it tells Canadians how much food is enough and how much is too much.

The guide now recommends that Canadians eat foods with little or no added salt, though it's not clear whether a low-salt diet provides added benefits for healthy people. It also recommends that people strive to get their fruit and vegetable servings from fresh fruits and vegetables instead of juice, as much as possible. It also recommends that Canadians include some fats and oils in their diet, with the focus on unsaturated fats such as olive and canola oils. The guide recommends that people limit as much as possible the consumption of trans fats.

The guide contains more specific information on what constitutes a serving. An apple, for instance, equals one Vegetable and Fruits Food Guide serving. If you're having a stir-fry for dinner, one cup of mixed broccoli, carrot and sweet red pepper would give you two Vegetables and Fruit Food Guide servings, and 75 grams of chicken (or game meats such as deer, moose, caribou or elk) would constitute a Meat and Alternatives serving.

Don't like meat? You could substitute 175 ml of hummus or lentils — or 150 grams of tofu.

One cup of milk or fortified soy beverage makes one Food Guide serving. If you're between age nine and 18, you'll need three to four servings every day to make up your Food Guide requirements. You could include cheese, kefir or paneer in your diet to make up those servings.

In 2002, the Ontario Women's Health Council got together with the Ontario Public Health Association to adapt the food for several cultural groups. A Chinese food guide, for instance, contains images of several types of rice and rice noodles as well as bok choy and Chinese eggplant. Soy beverages and tofu are part of the "Milk and foods high in calcium" group.

In northern Quebec, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services came out with a local version of the food guide in 2005. Its four major food groups are somewhat different from the official Food Guide. They are:

  • Berries, fruits and vegetables.
  • Grain products (which includes bannock).
  • Meat, fish, eggs, birds and beans (including muktuk).
  • Milk products and substitutes.

The guide says people should "be sure to enjoy country foods." The familiar food rainbow also includes caribou, whale, seal and walrus.

The revised Food Guide includes far more culturally specific foods and is expected to make translations available within several months.

Interactive elements

The guide has gone a long way towards offering far more specific information, tailored to individual users. It has adopted some of the American food pyramid's online interactive elements. Under the My Food Guide, users provide their age, sex and physical activity levels. The website takes the information and churns out your own personal food guide. It also produces portion sizes in ways that are easy to measure.

"It's not a weight-loss tool or a diet system, but if we match it with advice from Canada's Physical Activity Guide, it can help assist Canadians to make healthier choices," Dr. David Butler Jones, Canada's chief officer of health, told a news conference.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Diabetes Association welcomed the new guide as a key tool in helping Canadians make healthy choices.

"It is important for everyone - young and old - to balance healthy eating and daily physical exercise," says Sharon Zeiler, senior manager of nutrition strategies and initiatives for the Canadian Diabetes Association. "The key to reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes is to move more and eat less. Canada's Food Guide can be your road map to your daily nutritional requirements."

Bush says the three-year process to revise the Food Guide has been extensive. Along with the advisory committee, about 6,000 people have used Health Canada's website to send recommendations about what should be in the guide and another 600 people submitted suggestions in person.

What the final document says will have a huge influence: if you've ever eaten meals in schools, hospitals, retirement homes, or any other institutional setting, chances are their menus were directly derived from the Food Guide.

Go to the Top

Menu

Main page

Interactive

Timeline

Media

Audio:
From Sounds Like Canada Stirring up Canada's Food Guide

Media

Your View:
Impact of the Food Guide
[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]
Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

New Deadly storms in Texas kill at least 4, injure dozens
Severe storms including tornadoes swept through several small towns in East Texas, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more, and leaving a trail of overturned vehicles, mangled trees and damaged homes, authorities said Sunday.
Venezuela's vegetable brigades help families with escalating cost of food
To combat Venezuela's massive food crisis, members of collectives pool their money and buy in bulk directly from farmers.
Despite presidential snub, Trump jokes front and centre at White House press dinners video
Without U.S. President Donald Trump, the usually celebrity-filled soiree hosted by the White House Correspondents' Association took a more sober turn, but headline comedian Hasan Minhaj still brought the humour. Late night television show host Samantha Bee also hosted a competing event.
more »

Canada »

Nova Scotians to go to the polls on May 30
After weeks of spending announcements and just three days after a balanced budget was introduced in the House, Stephen McNeil's Liberal government has announced that Nova Scotians will be going to the polls in 30 days.
'We want to bring them home': Fort Chipewyan continues search for missing hunters
The search for four missing hunters from northern Alberta has kept the entire community of Fort Chipewyan on edge, hoping for some news.
Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo thrills tens of thousands, invokes magical memories
Many of the big names in the entertainment world were on hand Saturday at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, along with tens of thousands of fans, and for some it’s about connecting with their favourite characters and actors.
more »

Politics »

Analysis True test of Trudeau's expensive data devotion will be whether he follows the numbers
Justin Trudeau's Liberals are a group that enthuses about "evidence-based policy" and "smarter decisions" and has concerned itself with "deliverology." And they are apparently hungry for much more data.
Analysis Mexico and Canada 'in this together' on NAFTA, amid Trump confusion video
Over the last two weeks, Canada has joined Mexico as a bad neighbour of the Trump White House. As both countries look over the fence and see confusion, they're co-ordinating some of their moves. But Mexico's facing other unique challenges.
Nova Scotians to go to the polls on May 30
After weeks of spending announcements and just three days after a balanced budget was introduced in the House, Stephen McNeil's Liberal government has announced that Nova Scotians will be going to the polls in 30 days.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

New Globalism reigns at box office, while Fate of the Furious passes $1B
A South India sensation, a Hispanic-focused comedy and the highest-grossing film ever directed by an African-American made up the top three films in North America on a culturally diverse box office weekend.
Francis Ford Coppola and Godfather cast reunite at Tribeca Film Fest
45 years later, memories were shared on the making of The Godfather in a rare reunion of the film's cast and director at Radio City Music Hall.
Despite presidential snub, Trump jokes front and centre at White House press dinners video
Without U.S. President Donald Trump, the usually celebrity-filled soiree hosted by the White House Correspondents' Association took a more sober turn, but headline comedian Hasan Minhaj still brought the humour. Late night television show host Samantha Bee also hosted a competing event.
more »

Technology & Science »

Blog Robots boldly go where no one has gone before: Bob McDonald
For space exploration, robots deliver a lot of bang for your buck.
The race to space: Experts say 2018 will be the year space tourism takes off
Experts say 2018 will be the year space tourism takes off. But while great leaps are being made at what seems like warp speed, it's a venture that's still fraught with issues that go far beyond its out-of-this-world price tag.
Genetic analysis reveals origins of dog breeds
New research from the National Institutes of Health published in the journal Cell has drawn a comprehensive lineage of 161 dog breeds, forming the largest ancestral tree of Canis familiaris yet.
more »

Money »

Iconic Dad's chocolate chip cookies discontinued, customers bitter
For months, some Canadians have been searching in vain for their beloved Dad's chocolate chip cookies. CBC News has learned that the company quietly discontinued the cookie late last year.
Good news about butter: CBC's Marketplace consumer cheat sheet video
Miss something this week? Here's the consumer news you need to know from CBC's Marketplace.
Analysis True test of Trudeau's expensive data devotion will be whether he follows the numbers
Justin Trudeau's Liberals are a group that enthuses about "evidence-based policy" and "smarter decisions" and has concerned itself with "deliverology." And they are apparently hungry for much more data.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Andre De Grasse's mission: Beat Usain Bolt before he retires video
Don't let the smiles and back slaps fool you. While Andre De Grasse and Olympic legend Usain Bolt struck up a friendship in front of the world at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the Canadian sprinter wants desperately to topple the Jamaican before the icon calls it a career.
In Depth Gilmore Junio wants his own identity
Giving up his Olympic spot to teammate Denny Morrison in 2014 was gratifying, but Canadian speed skater Gilmore Junio wants to leave his own legacy, one that includes gold medals and world records.
Analysis Maria Sharapova: Controversy sells — fairness does not
As Maria Sharapova returns to tennis after serving a 15-month doping ban for taking meldonium, the world is reminded that all is not fair in sport and sometimes, cheaters will prosper.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »