When Will The Canadian Food Guide Be Scrapped?

Carb Heavy Canadian Food Guide Is Making Us Fat
Carb Heavy Canadian Food Guide Is Making Us Fat

Canada’s Food Guide is once again under the spotlight.

American investigative journalist Nina Teicholz, author of “The Big Fat Surprise,” told a Canadian Senate committee in March that the food guide has failed Canadians by emphasizing carbohydrates over animal proteins and healthy fats.

The Guide was broken from the get-go.

The latest version of Canada’s Food Guide recommends that adult males eat eight servings of grain products, up to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables, and two servings of lean meats, or meat alternatives, daily.

At its core, our current Guide was designed to ensure that Canadians who followed it would meet their “nutrient” requirements. And while this may sound like a wise plan, the vast majority of what we understand to be true about the impact of diet on the prevention of chronic disease comes not from the consumption of sufficient quantities of specific “nutrients,” but rather from much broader food-based patterns of eating.

Encouraging dietary patterns designed to lead Canadians to get enough zinc, vitamin A, niacin and phosphorous (among others) as a means to protect public health may inadvertently steer Canadians away from those whole food consumption patterns that the evidence supports as being most healthful.

An overhyped focus on nutrients also plays into food industry hands, because in many instances companies are legally allowed to tout the presence or addition of specific nutrients on the fronts of their products’ packaging to imply the contents are healthful (no, the presence of whole grains and fibre in Froot Loops doesn’t excite me).

Also broken from the get-go was Health Canada’s direct inclusion of the food industry in the Guide’s creation.

Take, for instance, the 12-member Food Guide Advisory Committee who played an important role in shaping the Guide Canadians are still using today. Fully 25 per cent of the people on that integral committee were employed at the time by corporations whose primary interests would be affected by the Guide’s very recommendations.

Among the members were the nutrition education manager for the BC Dairy Foundation, the executive director of the Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada and the director of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Food & Consumer Products Manufacturers of Canada, who represented the interests of corporations such as PepsiCo, Frito-Lay and Coca-Cola.

As to whether these individuals had any influence on the final product, you be the judge. The CFG recommends that every single Canadian consume between 2-3 glasses of milk and 2-3 tablespoons of unsaturated fat each and every day. As far as product manufacturers go, the CFG recommends Canadians only “limit” their consumption of non-naturally occurring trans-fat, despite the fact that the head of Health Canada’s own trans-fat task force noted “there is no safe amount of trans consumption,” and “the longer we wait, the more illness and in fact death will happen, so we know we have to get it out of our food supply.” Yet from an evidence-based perspective, I am aware of no compelling evidence that would lead me to believe we should all be drinking multiple glasses of milk per day, that vegetable oils should be supplying each of us with 15 per cent to 25 per cent of our total daily calories or that non-naturally occurring trans-fats shouldn’t be wholly avoided. If the aim of the Guide is to protect health and to reflect our best understanding of the impact of diet on chronic disease, then the Guide is failing miserably. Our Guide remains woefully phobic of saturated fats; almost wholly ignorant of sugar; strangely in love with dairy; insufficiently cautionary on processed meats, ultra-processed foods and eating out; and bizarrely supportive of the notion that juice and fruit are one in the same.

These positions, while hugely friendly to Canadian agriculture, product manufacturing and the Canadian restaurant industry, don’t serve our health’s best interests, and instead serve to further our country’s burden of diet and weight-related disease.

When our current Guide was released in 2007, the Canadian Medical Association called for it to be revised regularly – a policy that would be consistent with that of our neighbours to the south who by law revisit their national dietary guidelines every five years. And the Americans do so with good reason. The science of nutrition is a living, breathing, changing system of checks, balances, critiques and questions. Yet here in Canada our national dietary recommendations almost never change. But change they should. Recently both the World Health Organization and Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation fingered added sugars as a significant contributor to ill health and recommended strict limits be placed on their consumption. Dairy, while certainly a protein source with calcium, has not been found to confer any remarkable health benefits or risks, and as such Canadians need not be advised to go out of their way to ensure they consume or avoid it. Processed foods, more specifically ultra-processed foods, are more and more conclusively linked to unhealthy dietary patterns, and as such our current best evidence would suggest they be explicitly discouraged. And non-naturally occurring trans-fat – it never should have been on the menu even back in 2007.

Our next Food Guide, if we are ever to get one, needs to focus on the bigger picture. It needs to focus on our health rather than on nutrients and food industry and agricultural interests. Because regardless of the size of the industries that are stakeholders in the Guide’s recommendations, they pale in comparison with the impact diet-relatable and -responsive diseases have on Canada’s health-care expenditures. By definition, that sort of guide would be a whole foods-style guide, and one perhaps similar to the national dietary guidelines recently published by Brazil that enjoyed loud international acclaim.

It took Health Canada 15 years before it revised the 1992 Food Guide, and it has already been eight years since the launch of our 2007 version. Canadians deserve an evidence-based food guide. We deserved one back with the launch in 2007, and we still deserve one today. From my vantage point, however, I am unaware of any official energy, interest or plan to update our current non-evidence-based Guide any time soon.

15 thoughts on “When Will The Canadian Food Guide Be Scrapped?

  1. How about leave the government out of this all together and save taxpayers? Healthy people ignore government advice and make decisions on their own. The government should advice people to do their own research and not rely on any one source.

  2. Although the food guide is quite awful, and pays little-to-no consideration to total caloric intake and micronutrient density, it is not “making people fat”….

    The fact that people are lazy, addicted to sedentary lifestyle choices, and obsessed with calorie-dense, micro-nutrient-poor foods is making them fat.

  3. Our species evolved over millions of years as an omnivorous hunter gatherer one with the primary food sources most likely animals they could kill along side roots and berries they could seasonally pick. For anyone to suggest that animal fats and red meat is unhealthy just doesn’t make sense. Mankind didn’t start to grow crops and process large amounts of grains till a few thousand years ago and even then most of the world didn’t do that till a hundred or so years ago. The people living in North America never did this and thus they suffer terrible health problems when eating a diet rich in carbs since their system just hasn’t adapted to this.

    1. Not buying your Wheat Belly logic...

      - Edit

      Carbs don’t make people fat. Fat doesn’t make people fat. Protein doesn’t make people fat. Eating more calories than you burn makes you fat. It’s quite simple. However, keep in mind that a gram of fat has 9 calories and a gram of carbohydrate has 4….do the math.

      Also, notice that people in Japan eat LOADS of white rice and suffer far less health problems than us.

  4. Too many vested interests making policy is never a good situation.
    With current scientific evidence from non-partisan industry sponsored researchers available all we have to do is educate ourselves. Have a read of “The China Study”, watch the documentaries “Fork over Knives” and “Cowspiracy”. Then try some lifestyle changes.
    The decision is yours as an individual and then you can try to educate your elected representatives if you so desire.

  5. It says CANADA right ? Where we all pay into the same pool
    Excess carbs cause, heart disease , obesity , diabetes …… might be wise to educate people with the correct advice –

  6. The Book “Always Hungry” has some exciting and cutting edge science in it about this. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s actually a diet plan, but I don’t follow the diet, just the science, and I’ve lost 8 pounds in three weeks eating a high fat diet. I’m enjoying my food more than every, losing weight and feeling great. I would recommend this book to anyone.

  7. John Anderson

    - Edit

    Seems that pretty much everything the federal government recommends is either based on some self-serving hidden agenda, or some nut-case notion pulled from a ouija board. If I had followed the advice of dietitians I’d have been dead decades ago. Combine their loonie notions with recommendations that enrich a small band of effete Senators……………. the entire exercise is nothing but dangerous a waste of tax dollars.

  8. Jeff Humphrey

    - Edit

    Common sense dictates that a healthy diet along with a daily dose of exercise will go a long way
    to keeping people slim and fit.If people don’t understand that a diet high in fat and carbs isn’t a wise choice they are just plain ignorant….now move over and pass the Poutine.

  9. When the good lord said it is the fools that rule
    You now see why !
    Then you have the greedy and selfish running society with their off shore tax breaks,
    How can you not see that this is deceitful government by the wealthiest leading society?
    Since when does lying trump honesty ?
    It should be a campaign for government by the most honest, and not by the biggest mouth piece full of wealth deceit.
    When are you not going to realize, Trudeau is one of the worst
    He floods yours and my house, but not his own !
    Immigrants taking yours and my children s jobs !
    But I guess your to dumb to understand the end result !
    Impeach the man now before he breaks the whole country !

  10. Before I pursued nutrition as a profession, I would often try my hardest to follow the food guide to eat healthy. It always left me feeling tired and unsatisfied. The author is correct, the guide has been broken from the get go. Maybe we can get Justin to change it!

Comments are closed.