OTTAWA — Health Canada is stressing healthy eating through plant-based diets, while recommending Canadians eat less meat and dairy. The newly updated Canada’s Food Guide was released during a press conference on January 22 as the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health and Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, emphasized the importance of eating mindfully.
“Healthy eating is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and helps prevent chronic diseases like type-2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers,” says Tam. “The new Canada’s Food Guide not only encourages healthy eating for all Canadians, but also teaches us that healthy eating is more than the foods we eat — it includes such important aspects as sharing meals with others, cooking more often and eating mindfully.”
The guide has remained largely the same over the last four decades, but the new version represents a huge shift in tone for the government. It no longer has food groups and recommended-servings and serving-size numbers have been eliminated. The new guide shows a plate with fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins and includes a new category containing meat, dairy and plant-based foods such as chickpeas and tofu.
Changes to Canada’s Food Guide follows months of lobbying and protests from major players in the meat and dairy industries, including the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Chicken Farmers of Canada. Health Canada officials did not meet with any of the lobby groups.
“While the food guide has changed, milk products continue to play a valuable role in helping Canadians make healthy-eating decisions on a daily basis,” says Isabelle Neiderer, director of Nutrition and Research at Dairy Farmers of Canada, in a press release. “Current and emerging scientific evidence does not support a continued focus on lower-fat milk products, as it reveals milk products that contain more fat are not associated with harmful health effects and could even provide benefits.”
Plant-Based Foods of Canada welcomed Health Canada’s updated food guide. Beena Goldenberg, CEO of Hain Celestial Canada, says “the changes we’re seeing in the updated Canada’s Food Guide reflect a broader societal trend towards greater consumption of plant-based foods that promises to continue in the years to come. Public-health research shows the key to better eating is changing the food environment, which means not just educating people about what they should eat, but also ensuring great-tasting plant-based goods are widely available, convenient and affordable,” she adds.
Demand for plant-based proteins has been growing over the last several years and more restaurants are introducing new plant-based concepts. Tony Elenis, president and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA), says while that trend is expected to continue, demand for meat and dairy will always be strong.
“There will always be a huge demand for meats and dairy and there is a big market for this. As the consumer appeal of specific products grows, restaurants answer the call by expanding available products,” says Elenis. “We do see trends that show dramatic growth in plant-based and low-fat ingredients around the world and restaurants have already adapted to this by incorporating these foods into their core menus.”