Goodbye, food-group rainbow: Canada opts for new, simpler food guide

Canada releases new version of Canada’s Food Guide without food groups or serving sizes

On Jan. 22, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the federal health minister, presented the new version of Canada’s Food Guide at a press conference in Montreal, Que.

The new food guide is depicted with an image of a plate, half covered with vegetables and fruits, a quarter with protein-rich foods, and the last quarter with whole grains. Beside the plate is a cup filled with water, encouraging us to “make water your drink of choice.”

“[The new food guide] puts more focus on what, when and how we eat, and less on food groups and servings,” Petitpas Taylor said during the press conference. “It gives clear, concise advice that everyone can easily apply to their everyday lives.”

The new Canadian food guide recommends a combination of vegetables, protein, and whole grains, accompanied by a hefty glass of water. William Lalonde/Argosy


“The plate illustration is simple and easier to understand versus the old rainbow design [with] four food groups,” said Steve Sweeney, a certified nutritionist and naturopath at Simply For Life in Dieppe, N.B. “They’re advising to eat more homemade food and be mindful of food choices.”

“The changes implemented to the current Canada’s Food Guide emphasize with more detail the dietary recommendations that the majority of registered dietitians have been advocating for many years,” said Vince Ziccarelli, a registered dietitian with an office in Sackville. “[This] essentially entails emphasis on a diet that includes primarily whole grains, fruit, vegetables and food sources rich in lean protein as a staple part of meals.”

The new food guide puts an emphasis on the importance of paying attention to what you consume, rather than the size of your servings. “The new guide also expands and elaborates on mindful eating, being more in tune with your hunger and satiety cues, and eating to promote better energy balance,” Zicarelli said.

The new food guide does not have explicit guidelines, but Ziccarelli mentioned certain foods that should be restricted. “On the other side of the coin,” Ziccarelli said, “empty calories, added sugars, sodium and unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats should be limited as much as possible.”

Sweeney noted that the new food guide is high in carbohydrates, which can contribute to health complications. “Since obesity and type 2 diabetes [are] constantly increasing in Canada, I advise to focus even more on reducing intake of [carbs], which get converted easily into blood glucose,” Sweeney said.

One of the major changes made to the new version of Canada’s Food Guide has been the shift from animal- to plant-based products. “[The new food guide] basically downgraded milk and dairy and promoted plant-based protein equivalents to meat and other animal-sourced protein,” Sweeney said.

Despite the simplistic image depicting Canada’s newest food guide, Ziccarelli feels that its attention to detail has increased, making it better than the last. “The [new] food guide has become more detailed; it may be more practical for people to follow for better wellness,” Zicarelli said. “However, regardless of the food guide improvements, a registered dietitian would help people better navigate the recommendations and personalize nutrition for people and their unique medical and genetic needs.”

“It doesn’t need to be complicated, folks – it just needs to be nutritious,” Petitpas Taylor said in the press conference.

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