Health Canada adjusts food guide
Though many people may not think of it on a regular basis, Canada’s Food Guide is the jumping off point for many people across the country in making sure they receive proper nutrients every day.
For the last three months, Health Canada has been working with the public to see what needs should be addressed in a new version of the guide, which hasn’t been updated since 2007.
Anita Eggink, a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services, says Health Canada is looking into the changes because the current format of the food guide isn’t meeting the needs of all Canadians.
“Nutrition is an ever evolving field, and Health Canada does want to revise the food guide for it to reflect new evidence and meet the needs of Canadians, which have somewhat changed since 2007,” said Eggink.
The biggest change Eggink said dietitians are looking for in a new food guide is for it to be more simple and easier to understand for all its users.
“If you look at when we introduce the food guide to our kids in the school system, they start learning about it quite young, but the information there can actually be quite complicated,” said Eggink.
Students go through a process of identifying their age, gender and trying to navigate what the size of a portion looks like.
“There are a lot of steps in that process to get that information out of Canada’s food guide, so we’re hoping that the next food guide will be simplified and go back to the basics that apply to all Canadians,” she said.
While a new version of the food guide most likely won’t be helpful to those with dietary restrictions (Eggink said people with vegan, gluten or lactose free diets are more personal and require one-to-one consultations), it should help inform the general population about what nutrients their bodies need at various stages of their lives. Eggink also hopes it will focus on what constitutes a serving size, something a lot of her clients come in confused about.
In the current guide, for the 19 to 50 age group, women are recommended to eat seven to eight servings of fruit and vegetables a day, while men are encouraged to eat eight to 10 servings. Eggink said that it sounds like a lot of food, until serving sizes are broken down a little more.
A serving is equal to half a cup, which, on average, is the size of half a fist.
“If you think about one piece of fruit, say an apple or an orange, that is around the size of your fist, that’s one serving,” said Eggink. “If you look at some of the apples that you can buy or the size of a banana, you might actually be having two servings in that one piece of fruit.”
“If they were to normalize some of that portion sizing information, that would maybe make it easier for Canadians to put this into practice,” said Eggink.
While Health Canada is looking into adjusting the food guide, Eggink also noted that the majority of Canadians are not already following the existing guide.
“Although the perception might be that Canada’s Food Guide is too old or too basic or not enough information, we’re not actually following it,” she said. “I think this is a good opportunity for people to provide their feedback, not on just what they don’t like about the current Food Guide, but maybe what they feel they need in terms of guidance in order to overall improve the healthiness of their diet.”
For more information on the food guide consultation process, go to www.foodguideconsultation.ca. Public consultation has closed for the first portion, but a second public consultation will happen partway through 2017.