The Canadian Government recently released its Food Guide for 2019. For the first time since its inception in 1942, industry was not consulted in its creation. This marks an unprecedented shift away from industry influence and towards evidence-based nutrition. While the Canadian animal agriculture industry may see this new food guide as an assault on their business, Canadians stand to benefit from a reduction in the intake of animal products in favour of plant-based foods.
Growing up, we all learned the four main food groups: Fruit/Vegetables, Grains, Protein and Dairy. While protein in this equation was synonymous with meat, the new food guide includes and encourages the consumption of plant-based protein like nuts, seeds, beans and soy products like tofu. This flies in the face of the myth that plants don’t contain adequate protein, and works to normalize plant-based eating for young Canadians. Not only is plant-based protein taking center stage, but dairy has been stripped of its food group status and removed as the beverage of choice in favour of water. At a time when Canadian dairy producers are struggling to make ends meet, this acts as a final blow against an industry on the edge of extinction. Milk is quickly falling out of favour as people opt for non-dairy alternatives like soy and almond milk that are fortified to have similar nutrient profiles without the ethical, environmental and health concerns inherent to cows milk.
Half of the plate recommended in this new food guide is dedicated to fruits and vegetables, which is noted to help lower risk of heart disease while providing the fiber, vitamins, and minerals our bodies need. While we are suggested to consume more plant-foods, we are also offered simple recipes to help people implement these habits into their lives. Featured on the very first page is a homemade hummus recipe and a Curried Vegetable Lentil Stew, with no need for the use for meat and dairy.
Not only are we being prompted to change the food we eat, but we are also encouraged to be more conscious about how we eat too. We are suggested to be more mindful of our eating habits, including what, why, where, when and how much we eat on a daily basis. Cooking more often is also suggested, which will not only make you more conscious of the food you’re eating but will also save money. By far the most notable comment is the suggestion to be aware of food marketing. We are advised to be cognizant of marketing of food products that are high in sodium, sugars or saturated fat. Marketing myths have long pervaded our collective consciousness in the form of slogans like “Milk does the body good” and it is about time the Government acknowledges the risks that food advertising has on our health. A general rule of thumb is that if the food needs a commercial, you should not be eating it.
While there is still work to be done, this change in the food guide constitutes a huge step in the right direction of improving our health by changing how we eat. It is noted that eating plant-based can have a positive effect on health, including a lowered risk of cancer, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes. We live in an exciting time of disruption where the power of industry is going head to head with the environmental and health crisis we are facing as a culture. In the end, it is up to consumers to feed the future we wish to nourish.