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Nutrition Month and Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide

I A Glimpse into the new Food Guide

March is National Nutrition Month (R) and what a better opportunity to promote Canada's new Food Guide? Since 1942, Canada's Food Guide has defined and promoted healthy eating for Canadians.  It translates the science of nutrition and health into a healthy eating pattern. The latest version, Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide, was released February 5, 2007. It has a fresh, new look and offers some enhanced features over previous editions.

The four food groups in the new Food Guide are Vegetables and Fruit, Grain Products, Milk and Alternatives, and Meat and Alternatives. Vegetables and Fruit is now the most prominent food group, emphasizing the important role they play in a healthy eating pattern. For the first time, age- and sex-specific numbers are provided for the recommended "food guide servings" per day from each of the four food groups. The new Food Guide also gives information that applies to children starting at age two, whereas the earliest age for the information in the 1992 version was age four.

The basic messages of the new Food Guide are the same as those from 1992: eat a variety of foods from the four food groups; emphasize vegetables and fruit, whole grains, lower-fat milk and milk alternatives and lean meats; and limit foods with added salt, sugar, and fat.

But there are some new notables, including the following:

  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day. This will help ensure that people consume adequate intakes of folate and vitamin A.
  • Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice. This encourages people to consume more fibre.
  • Make at least half your grain products whole grain each day. This will help boost fibre, and whole grains have been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Have 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day for adequate vitamin D. It is difficult to obtain adequate vitamin D unless milk or fortified soy beverage is consumed. Because the need for vitamin D increases after age 50, the Food Guide recommends a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (400 IU) for Canadians over the age of 50 years.
  • Eat at least two Food Guide Servings of fish (150 grams) each week. Eating fish helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Include a small amount (30 to 45 mL) of unsaturated fat each day. Eating foods such as canola oil and ground flax seeds will help ensure people consume enough essential fats (omega-3 and omega-6 fats).
  • Satisfy your thirst with water! Drinking water satisfies thirst and promotes hydration without adding calories to the diet.

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide also features more emphasis on the importance of being active every day. It reinforces the recommendations in Canada's Physical Activity Guide of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity for adults and at least 90 minutes a day for children and youth. For more information, visit the Activity Guide at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/pau-uap/paguide/.

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II On-Line Features

Both consumers and educators now have access to a host of on-line Food Guide supports. Go to the Food Guide's main page at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index_e.html for an index of all the tools and materials. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • A Guided Tour helps consumers understand how much and what types of foods they need, as well as the benefits of eating well and being active. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/tour/index_e.html)
  • My Food Guide is an interactive tool that helps consumers personalize the information found in Canada's Food Guide. By entering personal information, such as age and sex, selecting various items from the four food groups, and choosing different types of physical activities, individuals can create a tool that is customized just for them. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/myguide-monguide/index_e.html)
  • A link to EATracker.ca on the Dietitians of Canada web site allows individuals to assess their food choices and get personalized feedback on total intake of energy (calories) and essential nutrients and compares this with what is recommended for the individual's age, sex, and activity level. It also determines body mass index (BMI) and provides information to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Using the Food Guide provides tips and ideas on how to use the Food Guide for planning meals and healthy snacking, shopping, eating out, and more. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/using-utiliser/index_e.html)
  • A Resource for Educators and Communicators provides background information, tips and tools to complement each recommendation in Canada's Food Guide. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/educ-comm/index_e.html)

Following the eating pattern as recommended by Canada's Food Guide,

  • Provides a high likelihood of meeting nutrient needs and a low likelihood of nutrient excess;
  • Reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis; and
  • Promotes overall health and vitality.

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III Cook It Up Healthy!

Nutrition Month is sponsored each year by the Dietitians of Canada, a national organization representing the more than 5,000 dietitians across Canada. This year's National Nutrition Month (R) theme, Cook It Up Healthy! encourages Canadians to eat home-cooked, healthy meals as often as possible. This theme is timely because, as Canadians, we are cooking less and looking more for quick and easy meal solutions. But research shows that families who prepare and eat meals together have healthier eating habits.

The Dietitians of Canada web site offers a variety of helpful tips and informative resources to help Canadians Cook It Up Healthy!
(http://www.dietitians.ca/public/content/eat_well_live_well/english/nutritionmonth/index.asp)

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IV Simply Great Food

Dietitians of Canada has also produced a new cookbook that provides several "food solutions" to help manage our time constraints and encourages us to discover the pleasures of cooking and family gatherings.

Simply Great Food answers popular nutrition questions and provides 250 outstanding recipes. All recipes were submitted by dietitians, have been tested and are from the kitchens of everyday Canadian families. It is available in bookstores across Canada.

This year, with the recent release of a revised Canada's Food Guide and the new Dietitians of Canada cookbook Simply Great Food, there's no better time to promote healthy eating to Canadians!    

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V References

1 Health Canada. History of the Food Guide. Available at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/context/hist/index_e.html

2 Health Canada. Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide. Available at http://26489.vws.magma.ca/view_eatwell_vue_bienmang_e.pdf