New food guide will shift recommended diet from meat, dairy to fruits, veggies says expert

Canada's food guide is about to get a major revamp from Health Canada and is expected to look much different, with a shift from meat and dairy to plant-based proteins.

'It certainly isn't going to be — go out, eat beans and chick peas, don't drink milk'

'Any government in any developed country has a responsibility to have some good advice for their citizens, so absolutely I believe we need that,' said Jennifer Taylor, one of the experts government consulted with in creating the new guide. (Health Canada)

Canada's food guide is about to get a major revamp from Health Canada — the first since 2007 — and that familiar rainbow of foods Canadian children learned about in grade school is expected to look much different, with a shift in emphasis from meat and dairy to plant-based proteins. 

We need to have good dietary guidance.— Jennifer Taylor

The guiding principles of the draft food guide were released in 2017 and include recommendations to reduce Canadians' intake of processed foods and shift diets toward "a high proportion of plant-based foods without necessarily excluding animal foods altogether."

"[We] went through every aspect of the proposed guidance — everything from ultra-processed food to how do you ensure an environmentally-sustainable diet," said Jennifer Taylor, a professor of foods and nutrition at UPEI, who was one of the experts from across Canada government consulted on the new guide. 

'A lot of alarm'

The guiding principles the committee was working with suggest a more plant-based, low-meat diet. 

'It doesn't exclude milk or beef or chicken,' says Taylor of the new guide. (CBC)

"I think there's a lot of alarm about that right now," Taylor said, stressing none of the advisory committee has seen the final guide. 

"It doesn't exclude milk or beef or chicken," she said, but rather is trying to get Canadians to also think about plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils and pulses.

"It certainly isn't going to be — go out, eat beans and chick peas, don't drink milk — it's not going to be that simple," she said. 

Government's responsibility

Taylor said the new guidelines are evidence-based and relevant.

"Any government in any developed country has a responsibility to have some good advice for their citizens, so absolutely I believe we need that," she said. "We need to have good dietary guidance."

She also points out not everyone follows the Food Guide strictly.

"Knowledge is just one small factor. A huge factor is our food environment, what's available ... and economics. That's absolutely critical," she said. 

The first phase of the new food guide is expected to be released by Health Canada some time in January. 

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With files from CBC News: Compass

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