Canada’s Food Guide is practical and
flexible, and may be just what your waistband ordered
By Glenda Bartosh
Depending on how you look at it, it’s
been 65 years in the making or four. Either way, the latest iteration of
Canada’s Food Guide is out and here to stay — for at least a while.
Remember last spring when the guide
was released, only to be immediately snatched back amidst a flurry of
criticism? Back to the drawing board it went, literally, and now we have what regional
community nutritionist Dania Matiation calls a clean-looking, comprehensive
guide that has all the potential for establishing healthy eating patterns.
The first food guide, called Canada's
Official Food Rules, came out in 1942 when food rationing due to World War II
followed on the heels of the Great Depression. Obesity and junk food-mania
weren’t the problems then — poverty, malnutrition and poor access to food
caused officials to come up with a healthy eating guide. It used to include
eating potatoes everyday, if you wondered where that all-Canadian habit came
The food guide has since dropped the
potato habit and morphed through changes at irregular intervals; the current
revision began in 2003. The result, which will eventually be released in 14
different languages, is the culmination of input from 7,000-plus doctors,
scientists, trade group members, consumers and public health experts.
Sure, you can still find a few
burbles of criticism about it — one doctor thought it condones eating way too
many calories; another thought it was misleading because of the way processed
food is packaged in larger portions today. But overall it seems to be ruffling
few feathers, no easy task given its audience is 32.8 million people.
Personally, I like the new food
guide, and not just because of the cute retro drawings of food sitting on a
rainbow. (The U.S. uses a pyramid; some Asian countries arrange their food
guides into pagodas).
I found it clear and easy to use,
particularly regarding portion or serving sizes — a half cup of cooked greens
or a whole cup of raw ones, half a tortilla, two tablespoons of peanut butter,
whatever. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or even a doctor to picture
what a serving is. (I’m not sure what guide the above critics were looking at,
because this latest version doesn’t even mention calories or what constitutes a
portion of pre-packaged foods.)