For the first time in 15 years, Health Canada has released a new Canada Food Guide. First introduced as the "Official Food Rules" in July of 1942, the Canada Food Guide has been revamped a number of times over the years to reflect the changing needs of the Canadian public. In 1942 the Guide responding to wartime food rationing and the subsequent danger of nutritional deficiencies; in 2007 the Guide recognizes Canada's diversity and specific nutrient needs based on age and gender.
Download your printable PDF copy of the Canada Food guide here. Then, if you wish, you can create a personalized food guide.
Why follow the Canada Food Guide?
"Today's Canada Food Guide is a wonderful nutritional tool for Canadians to use to ensure that they're meeting all their calorie, protein, vitamin, mineral and fat needs," says Calgary-based registered dietitian Samara Felesky-Hunt (www.dietitian-online.com). Following the Guide can also reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer and osteoporosis.
What's different about the new Canada Food Guide?
1. The new Guide gives clear information on portion sizes and recommended servings relevant to age and gender. For young families, the addition of guidelines for young kids (beginning at age two) will be particularly helpful.
"As we age and through our lifecycle we need different amounts of food and it's important for people to recognize exactly the importance of different food groups at different stages," says Felesky-Hunt. Nutrient needs vary by gender as well, and that's reflected in the new Canada Food Guide.
2. The new Guide gives a special nod to vegetables and fruits, recommending that Canadians enjoy vegetables and fruits at all meals and snacks.
"Whether you're a child, a teen or an adult, vegetables and fruits are an important part of your diet and should represent a large part of your diet," recommends Felesky-Hunt. "It's important to note that frozen vegetables, fresh spinach and frozen fruit have been included -- a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are pictured in the new Guide to give Canadians more options."
3. Guidance is given on the kinds and amounts of oils and fats that will reduce intake of saturated and trans fats.
Felesky-Hunt says, "We recognize that oils and fats are very important in order to reduce the risk of heart disease, to lower cholesterol levels and also as an essential part of the diet. The body can't make these essential oils, so the Food Guide recommends two -- three tablespoons each day of unsaturated fat."
Felesky-Hunt noted that many Canadians still have difficulty knowing which fats are healthy. For more information on making healthy fat choices, read Fats and figures.
At least two Food Guide servings per week of fish such as char, salmon, mackerel and sardines are also recommended for variety and their benefit of omega-3 fats which promote heart health.
4. Examples of ethnic foods make the Food Guide more accessible to Canada's diverse population. The new guide includes a wide array of new items, including bok choy, plantain and naan bread, as well as other foods typically associated with various ethnic groups.
5. The new Guide presents a focus on physical activity. Eating well and being active helps us feel good, promotes healthy weight and builds strong bones.
6. The new Guide addresses some key nutrients that may be deficient in the daily food choices of some groups of Canadians.
"The Guide specifically recommends, for men and women over the age of 50, the need for Vitamin D," says Felesky-Hunt. The Guide endorses a Vitamin D supplements of 400 International Units, marking the first time a Food Guide has had a supplement recommendation. "There is also a recommendation for pregnant women to include a multi-vitamin that contains iron and folic acid."
Interactive nutrition & health tool: The Eating & Activity Tracker
Need help assessing your daily food intake and exercise choices? The Dietitians of Canada website offers the Eating & Activity Tracker, an interactive tool that helps you see how your choices measure up to Health Canada's guidelines. Using the eating diary and activity diary, you can work on improving your choices and build a healthier lifestyle.