Canada’s new Food Guide comes down squarely on the side of plants over meat and dairy, and is drawing praise from nutritionists around the country.
The update, released by Health Canada on Jan. 21, scraps the dairy and meat categories. Instead, it introduces “protein foods,” which are recommended to take up one-quarter of the plate, with an emphasis on larger proportions of plant-based nutrients, such as beans and nuts.
The previous Food Guide came out in 2007.
“I think it is a visionary, wonderful, big step forward,” said Dr. Pamela Ferguson, a plant-based dietitian out of Nelson, B.C. “But it is also reflecting change that is already happening in our society.”
Today's the day! This morning, we’re taking a major step towards helping all Canadians eat well – I'm so excited to unveil Canada’s new Food Guide!
Watch live at 9:30am EST: https://t.co/CkugxRWRp4#CanadasFoodGuide pic.twitter.com/JiyA1uKX7N
— Ginette Petitpas Taylor (@GinettePT) January 22, 2019
Plant-based protein offers more fibre than meat does — a huge nutritional benefit — alongside healthier fats and a reduced risk of chronic disease, Ferguson said.
She encourages her clients to increase the plant-based foods in their diet, whether or not they are vegan. In her practice, she has noticed a shift away from meat.
“There was a general consensus that amongst all nutrition professionals that it was just not up-to-date based on the current research and evidence,” said East York nutritionist Sarah Goldstein.
Goldstein doesn’t see the new Food Guide as revolutionary, but rather as validating what many diet experts were already recommending and practising.
She also noted that the guide is based on population research and not individual health. That means factors such as food accessibility, socio-economic differences, allergies and intolerances must also be taken into account to maximize health.
“The debate doesn’t have to be vegan versus non-vegan,” she said.
The updated guide also emphasizes other wellness strategies, such as favouring water for hydration, eating with others, and being aware of food marketing.
Ferguson feels the new guide will allow Canadians to “feel more comfortable with the choice,” as alternative dietary needs are brought to the forefront of healthy-eating and wellness discussions.