January 28, 2019

Canada's New Industry-Free Food Guide

Click to link to the new Canada Food Guide.

The new food guide is out! The new food guide is out!

Most Canadians will be as excited about the release of the new national food guide as they are about a new phone book coming out (does that still happen?). 

But the updated food guide is here, and I am eating it up for a variety of reasons.

What our food guide should be is an evidence-based, easy to understand guide to lead Canadians toward patterns of eating that will minimize their risk of developing chronic diseases (including obesity and diabetes), as well as minimize their impact on the environment. 

The new guide does that. 

Instead of highlighting four food groups (fruits/vegetables, meat and alternatives, milk and alternatives, and grains), it looks at fruits/vegetables, grains, and protein.

Contrary to past versions of the guide, this time there was no industry involvement, thus avoiding the obvious conflict of interest that tainted past food guides, like the last version that came out in 2007.

Here are a few of the industry players that were involved last time:

  • Brewers of Canada
  • The Canadian Meat Council
  • The Canadian Sugar Institute
  • The Canola Council of Canada
  • The Confectionery Manufacturers Association of Canada
  • Dairy Farmers of Canada
  • Edible Oil Foods Association of Canada
  • Food and Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada
  • Kellogg Canada Inc.
  • Refreshments Canada
  • Weston Bakeries Limited
  • The Beef Information Centre

This time? None.

The new Canadian Food Guide is similar to other evidence-based dietary advice.

Some of my take-aways from looking at the new guide:

- beverage of choice is water 

- recommends drinking less fruit juices - 1/2 cup a day

- does not exclude any food groups, but advises Canadians consume less red meat, dairy, starchy foods, and processed foods

- suggests people improve their diets by cooking more, and eating out less

- also highlights the importance of eating together (although I believe they should have pointed out the benefits of cooking together as well)

- based on an emerging scientific consensus about plant-based diets and limiting things like sugar, sodium and unhealthy fats 

- it reflects trends that have already begun, such as eating more plant based protein, and drinking alternative milks 

The simplified, evidence-based new guide recommends a meal look something like this:

- 1/2 of meal is vegetables/fruits. 

- 1/4 of meal is protein foods, emphasizing plant-based foods like beans and lentils, but also including small amounts of meat, dairy, and eggs.

- 1/4 of meal is whole grain foods. 

As can be expected, there has been a backlash to the new guide, with one reviewer calling it an "elitist" document. It's a sign of the times when a food once shunned because of its association with poverty and the poor, the lowly (but nutritious) bean, is all of a sudden part of an elitist conspiracy.

Finally, it is good to see that our new food guidance from our national government is in alignment with the recently released "Planetary Health Diet". That report claims that the diet they have come up with would save millions of lives and mitigate climate change at the same time.

And it's tasty. You really can't lose. 

Unless you are part of the food industry that makes sick, fat profits while making us sick and fat.

"Every year in Canada, 21,000 - 47,000 Canadians die from diet and weight related illnesses, costing taxpayers between $6.6 and $11 billion dollars."  


  1. This is impressive! Hopeful! Just today I was wondering how NBA followers who eat mostly plant-based diets get their protein? Recently I read The Craving Mind by Judson Brewer. Great book! The author says eat plain food. Not elaborate dishes, but simple food. Steam vegetables and don't add much to them. That is how I cook most of the time so that shift wasn't hard for me. I learned about Judson and his book when he was interviewed by Ancestral Movement guy. Highly recommend both. Ever since I learned about ancestral movement, I've been looking for a place that has a lot of boulders. I am at-home jumping from rock to rock! I've changed the way I move around my home since getting acquainted with him. https://ancestralmovement.com/about/

    1. Anonymous1/29/2019

      Hello Terri,

      the need for protein has been overstated by governments wanting to push certain industries eg: meat. I have been plant-based for almost 40 years and enjoy fabulous health, including great teeth in spite of almost no dairy and no flouride toothpaste.

      If you base your diet around grains and beans, nuts and seeds you will be fine, with the addition of plenty of vegetables and some fruit. Good grains include barley, oats, brown rice, millet etc...Check out a blog/vlog called Pick Up Limes for delicious and easy wholesome recipes. The blog is written by a vegan nutritionist - but she avoids all of the crazy youtube fads like women who are eating 20 bananas a day or living on green smoothies.!


    2. Terri,

      Linda and I eat a variety of protein-rich foods, mostly tofu, nuts, seeds, lentils, brown rice, and beans. Occasionally we eat eggs, yogurt, cheese, and fish, but we are cutting how much of these we consume.

    3. Thanks for suggestions Madeleine and Gregg. I checked out Pick Up Limes. I'm interested in tofu and will try it again.

      For protein needs, I go by how I feel. I know when I haven't gotten enough protein over a few days. I dull, get tired and lethargic. I have to push to do normal things. I was vegetarian for 33 years, but not responsibly. I just simply didn't eat meat and not much dairy. I clearly didn't get enough protein. It didn't have a good outcome and was a long recovery. So I'm mindful about protein. It's a challenge for me, always open to new ideas.

    4. I should mention that we also supplement with a small amount of vitamin B12 as vegetarian/vegan diets fall short in this area. It is the only supplement we take other than vitamin D, which Linda takes a lot of for her MS. I take a smaller dose of D to compensate for the lack of sunlight exposure in the winter time.

      We often will add crumbled firm tofu to things like chilli, but also have baked tofu on its own. I take extra firm tofu and slice it into about 10 slices. Then I slap each slice in a bit of Bragg, and arrange all slices on a slightly oiled baking sheet. It goes into the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes each side. This we eat as is, on its own like a snack, or on a plate with some brown rice and steamed veggies.

      Thank you for the Ancestral Movement link - very interesting stuff that I bookmarked for future reference. It makes me think about how I have felt since re-introducing a bit of yoga into my routine. As I continue on this path I find my body awareness is increasing in a total proprioception experience, like my body is awakening from a long slumber. It feels great.

      When I hike in the woods I always alter my speed and take interesting routes that go over rocks and boulders, on to fallen tree trunks, and up and down steep slopes. I feel like I belong there, like any other playful forest animal.

    5. Anonymous1/30/2019

      Gregg, glad you mentioned the B12 supplements as I forgot to. I take a supplement any time I have had no eggs or dairy products and find it does make a difference to my energy levels.


    6. Anonymous1/30/2019

      A note about Vitamin D supplementation: it really needs to be taken with Magnesium - especially if you are doing upwards of 1000 IUs daily. The more D, the more magnesium is used up, which can quickly lead to a deficient state. Carolyn Dean, MD, ND is a fantastic source on all things magnesium. Her book, The Magnesium Miracle, is so helpful. Who knew that 80% of us are Magnesium deficient and that it is required for over 800 enzymatic reactions in the body?! Magnesium is what allows D to be changed from its storage form the its usable form. Plus, it allows calcium to be drawn from food into the small intestine.

      Re: protein - I eat green veggies, root veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and some fruit - my body is happy with these things. I do add chicken a couple times a week, not much. And a little red meat on rare occasion (pun intended!). But my spouse wants much more meat than I do, and he is healthy as well. I really do think that we all have different requirements. I would say the two most important supplements for my (mostly) vegetarian diet are magnesium, a good B complex, and fish oil.
      We use Dean's ReMag and ReMyte mineral formulas, by the way, as they are very, very absorbable.
      peace, Erin

  2. I am so impressed with the new Canadian standards. Way to go! I find eating plat based meals fairly easy. Middle eastern cuisine is largely plant based and meat which was historically (and still to this day) too expensive for most to eat was treated as a once a week treat. For breakfast most days I have hummus and foul (fava and garbanzo beans) stewed with some lemon/garlic/olive oil and a pita with cucumbers and sliced tomatoes, lunch is usually the same thing or just a giant salad with boiled egg on side, and dinner is steamed rice with veggies (okra, green beans or spinach) stewed in some kind of tomato based sauce.

    1. We love your menu! An excellent example of what the new food guide is talking about. Your comment sent us off researching foul and other Middle Eastern dishes. Many are dishes Linda has tried while in the Middle East, and is eager to try again.

      We don't eat any meat, but do occasionally eat fish. But even that is unnecessary when there are so many great vegetarian options, including those make in your comment. Yum!

      Do you make your own pita, and if so, do you bake it in the oven, or cook it in a frying pan on the stove top?

  3. Funny my grandparents grew up on a dairy Farm in Sweden, they lived on milk, yogurt, grains, coffee, butter lots of butter, eggs, every meal and lots of baked goods using those ingredients. They lived to be over 90. But they also worked very very hard.

    1. It is a lot of work to run a dairy farm. Up before the sun, no breaks.

      The new guide includes all the foods you mention, although milk/dairy is no longer given its own food group standing. The new guide includes this category in the "protein" section. Butter has to be better for us than margarine, which is said to be very similar in make-up as plastic. That can't be good.

      How beautiful that your grandparents lived such long lives. Hopefully our diets will allow us to do the same.

  4. Anonymous1/30/2019

    This is encouraging! But, canola oil has no place in a healthy eating plan. It's a bad product pushed by Canadian (CANola) industry. Coconut, flax seed, and sesame seed oil are excellent oils to be used daily. And ghee is quite healthful. If anyone is interested, Udo Erasmus has two great books on fats. Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill is chock full of great info. Happy eating, everyone! -Erin

  5. Gregg,
    I just clicked the link you provided to the new Canadian Food Guide and looked around the site. Like you said, there are some genuinely good things about using this guide as a way to eat. Surprising a government would be able to do this given how powerful the food industry is. But what shocked me is this page from the site:


    It warns Canadians to "Be aware of food marketing." All of us here know this, but it's shocking to see a government actually say it. The page is a great read and very much in line with what we here on NBA know. We are all very careful to not let marketers of any kind influence our decisions as much as possible. I can't imagine the government in the USA ever making a true statement like that. It gives me hope that Canada is making this statement with good information. Wish it would spread to your neighbors to the south!!

  6. Erin, I'm familiar with Carolyn Dean, found about about her and her magnesium years ago. Have always been impressed by what I learned from her. At the time her magnesium was too expensive for my budget. I went with one of my go-to brands because I've always had results with them and they are backed by much research. But I'll look into Carolyn's again to see if it's affordable now that I'm in a better place. I'd surely like to try it.

    If I only could have one vitamin or mineral supplement, it would be magnesium. Super important. Agree that vitamin D and magnesium go together. I add zinc to the mix too. Getting a brand that your body can absorb is very important too. It seems that if we are going to supplement, we shouldn't leave anything out an consider a few products that includes most essentials. Everyone is different and we all do the best we can managing our food, supplements and health in general as best we can. It's great to be in a community of folks doing what they can and heading down a similar road in life. We take charge of our health.

    I manage most my health problems with supplements. Amino acids, various ones, allowed me a to get completely off prescription medication and wean off doctors a decade ago. (I had 13 specialists doctors 15 years ago. I'm never getting back into that loop again. Much was done that compromised my health. It's been a long road to recovery and pretty good health.) Earth Clinic has been an enormously helpful resource for me. It's one of the highest visited sites on the internet I heard. It's people like us sharing what home remedies and supplements they use, how they use them and what the results are. It's a treasure trove for me. But diet is critical to good health.

  7. Madeleine and Gregg, glad you brought up B12. Lack of it during my irresponsible vegetarian years was likely part of my problems associated with not eating meat hence low protein.

    I will definitely try your prep method for making tofu. That gives me a great place to start! Sounds easy enough to fit my cooking routine.

    Resuming your yoga practice interests me, let us know how it goes. Glad it fits with the ancestral movement guy. I figured you were already a forest animal, ha! Loved reading that! When my daughter, now 35 was growing up, we went out of our way to walk across logs, climb boulders, hang from tree limbs, climb trees, jump run and skip, and just about anything that felt non conforming and rebellious! And free! A couple of favorites were to walk on top of curbs as in a balance beam and we were always on the look out for a puddle to stomp through after a rain! I still go out of my way to stomp through puddles. Fun! Really fun when others are watching!!!
    Enjoyed this post and seeing Canada's new guide and the lively discussion here. Nice hearing from everyone and nice to be back here regularly agin.


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