by Alyssa Bauman, Nourished.ca
As a certified holistic nutritionist, health coach and wellness expert, I could not be more thrilled with the recent upgrade to the Canada Food Guide. No doubt, it was outdated, and we were in need of a shift. But the guide is a big, bold and bright change from its former self. Canada is a pioneer in this space, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the changes. It is right in line with my personal food philosophy.
So what has been improved when it comes to the new food guide, and how should our plates reflect these changes?
1) Dairy has been eliminated as its own food group.
Bravo! This is a huge political move, and Canadian dairy farmers are not happy. But finally, we won’t be pushing our children to drink milk to ‘get their calcium.’ The glass of milk as beverage of choice from the original food guide has been removed. For so long, we have been fed lies; that milk is necessary for its high calcium content, and that our children should depend on cow’s milk for optimum growth and bone strength – but this is not the case at all.
Did you know that North Americans consume the most amount of dairy products in the world, yet have the highest rate of bone disease and osteoporosis? Making the swap from milk to some high calcium plant-based foods will only increase the health of your family. High calcium foods include: chia, sesame, hemp, and poppy seeds, plus almonds, tahini, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy, collard greens, and edamame, tofu, broccoli, kidney beans, and lentils. Fortified non-dairy milks, oats, and quinoa are also healthy alternatives. Not only do these foods have high calcium content, but the majority are also high in protein, are nutrient dense, and should be included as staples on your plate.
2) Reduced meat and animal consumption.
This is another huge step in the right direction. The benefits to lightening your meat consumption are endless. From health and disease prevention, to longevity and weight loss, to environmental factors, this is an absolute win for the planet as a whole.
It is simply a matter of changing the mindset of where our protein is sourced. There are so many nutrient dense, plant-based proteins, including hemp and chia seeds, beans and lentils, vegetables, nuts and seeds, soy products like edamame, tofu and tempeh, and many meat-like alternatives on the shelves right now. Focus on incorporating more of them into your diet and eating less meat. Instead of making meat the star of your dish, try making a bean, legume or tofu-based dish, or making the side salad the main course by adding high plant-based protein foods, or go retro and “extend” your meat.
That old cost-saving method of making meatloaf with veggies and breadcrumbs? Give it a modern spin. Canned lentils have the perfect taste and texture to substitute for 50% of your ground beef in a dish. Instead of serving big chicken breasts, use less and stir-fry over lush beds of freshly ‘wok’ ed veggies or sauté with veggies for a pasta primavera. Serve fish tacos, nestled in tortillas with a colourful coleslaw, instead of serving up big slabs of fish.
3) Make half your plate fruit and vegetables.
I am constantly looking to boost my nutrient profile. Fruit and vegetables are some of the most nutrient dense foods in the world. Leafy greens, for example, have just about every single vitamin, mineral and nutrient our bodies need to thrive, yet they are the least consumed foods in North America. Yes, I am on team kale and for this exact reason. Just by reducing dairy and meat consumption, your vegetable and fruit intake will increase by default. Once you do that, start crowding out convenient, packaged foods by adding in more produce and whole foods. Again, you will notice that your plate will start to become more full of the foods that we were meant to eat – the foods that make us feel the best and help our bodies flourish.
4) Make a quarter of your plate whole grains.
Whole grains – including quinoa, oats, barley, amaranth, brown rice, whole wheat and spelt flours, have all the parts – bran, germ and endosperm – intact. They are loaded with fibre to help with digestion, they help reduce blood pressure and the not-so-good cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and contain calcium, B Vitamins, and essential minerals.
5) Water is drink of choice.
Again, I applaud the Canadian government for this one. Juice has very little nutritional value, and drinking juice is not the same thing as eating a whole piece of fruit. Fruit has the fibre which helps control blood sugar spikes. Juice, and sugar-sweetened milk are nothing but empty calories. I hope this new guide helps get them taken out of schools, off our tables, and only consumed in moderation. Excess sugar leads to weight gain, obesity and potentially diabetes, so replacing these drinks with water will help decrease the overall sugar intake of children – a win/win for every function of the body.