Friday, January 5, 2018

Next Steps for the Revision of Canada's Food Guide

Happy New Year, everyone!

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while probably have heard that Health Canada is currently in the process of revising Canada’s Food Guide, the government-created resource that provides dietary recommendations to Canadians.

Now that it’s 2018, I thought I would give a re-cap of what has happened so far in that process and let you know what Health Canada is planning for the process in the coming couple of years or so.
From October 24, 2016 to December 8, 2016, Health Canada held Phase 1 of the online public consultation in which Canadians could share their views and experiences about Canada’s Food Guide. During that time period, I wrote a blog post entitled “Fixing the Problems on Canada’s Food Guide”, in which I discussed why and how Canada’s Food Guide needs to change. I also included my response to a question on the survey that I completed for the first stage of the online consultation. Additionally, I had an Op-Ed published on the Epoch Times website called “Health Canada Should Recommend a Vegan Diet”.

From June 10, 2017 until July 25, 2017, the second phase of the online public consultation was held, in which Canadians could comment on some of the proposed dietary recommendations for the new Canada’s Food Guide. The proposed new Guiding Principles showed that Health Canada is planning on recommending that Canadians shift towards eating more plant-based foods. I wrote an in-depth blog post on the subject here.
The Government of Canada has also held some focus groups amongst Canadians to learn more about how they use the dietary recommendations. In one series of focus groups, participants were presented with a series of proposed “foundational statements” that may be used in Health Canada's dietary recommendations and were asked to give their feedback. The statements were as follows:

“Make it a habit to enjoy a variety of nutritious foods and beverages each day. Many foods fit healthy eating, choose those that you enjoy and that reflect your culture and traditions.
§ Choose mostly plant-based foods.
§ Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and some protein foods, especially those foods that come from plants.
§ Include foods that have healthy fats.
§ Limit processed and prepared foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fat. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts.

§ Cook with foods that are lower in sodium, sugars and saturated fats.

§ Make water your drink of choice.
– Replace sugary drinks with water. (Option 1)

– Choose water instead of sugary drinks. (Option 2)
– Avoid sugary drinks. (Option 3)
§ Plain milk, unsweetened fortified plant-based or soy beverages can also be healthy beverage choices.

Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. It is also about how, where, when and why you eat.

§ Be mindful of your eating habits

– Enjoy your food.

– Take time to eat.

– Notice when you are hungry and when you are full.

§ Plan. Cook. Eat together.

– Plan what you eat.

– Cook more often.

– Eat with family and friends often.

– Share your foods skills, food traditions and culture.”

It is encouraging to see that “plant-based foods” are mentioned in the first statement on this list, as well as “foods that come from plants” making an appearance in the second statement! Also notable is the de-emphasis of milk (as compared to previous Canada’s Food Guides) and the inclusion of dairy-free beverages. However, these things are not particularly surprising, as the previously-released proposed Guiding Principles already showed us that Health Canada is most likely going to recommend a shift towards more plant-based eating, anyway. Of course, I would like them to recommend that Canadians eat a purely plant-based, whole-foods vegan diet. That being said, these statements show a clear improvement over Canada's previous dietary recommendations, and that is definitely something to be happy about. This whole process is very exciting! There is still definite room for improvement, however.

According to the Government of Canada’s website, in 2018, they will release “Part 1 of the new dietary guidance policy report for health professionals and policy makers, which will consist of general healthy eating recommendations”, and “supporting key messages and resources for Canadians”. In 2019, they will release “Part 2 of the new dietary guidance policy report, which will consist of healthy eating patterns (recommended amounts and types of foods)”, and “additional resources for Canadians”. It remains to be seen what exactly these resources will be like, but I’ll be sure to report on them for this blog once they come out!