New food guide, new me

How did you kick off the new year?

By Anika Wong

The Government of Canada kicked off 2019 was with a “New Year, New Food Guide” approach. Gone were the recommended daily serving sizes, fruit juices, and the biggest surprise of all…the “Meat” and “Milk” categories. The new Canadian Food Guide states that the food groups are: “Fruits and Vegetables”, “Whole Grain Foods”, and “Protein Foods” where the meat, milk, and alternatives are included in the latter.

Want to see the food guide’s 2019 makeover? Check it out here:

Food guides are created with the intent to educate and help people follow healthy diets. But really, they’re about:

  • Food supply and demand considerations
  • National nutrition goals
  • Scientific dietary analysis

In fact, back in 1942, Canada’s first food guide, called the “Official Food Rules,” was created to help with food selection during a time of wartime food rationing and poverty, with the slogan, “Canada at war cannot afford to ignore the power that is obtainable by eating the right foods.” That said, only about 70% of the rules were based on scientific recommendations, and the others on availability.

Canada’s Food Guide Over Time

By Rebecca Huang

1942-1944: A list of rules to suggest healthy eating.


1949-1961: Added “guide” along with “rules” (in colour!)
1977-1982: Displayed in a wheel format to suggest balanced eating.
1992-2007: Rainbow shape to suggest a “happy” lifestyle. Position in the arc shows which groups are most important.

**Images from government website, except 1961 image from Globe and Mail.

Food Guides Around the World

By Darya Chykunova

It is no surprise that Canada is not the only country with a food guide. For instance in Japan, their food guide has the shape of a spinning top. The drink of choice is water or tea, and it emphasizes the importance of physical activity.  The dietary guidelines also recommend that a person establishes regular times for meals to aid in a healthy routine, and enjoys each of their meals, which is something Canada’s new food guide emphasizes.


Japan’s food guide. Source.

China’s food guide is shaped like a house and is significantly more precise, measuring food not in servings, but by the gram. For instance, an individual must have 300-500g of vegetables a day. The drink of choice is water, of which a person should consume 1500-1700 millimetres daily. For physical exercise, the Chinese food guide recommends 6000 steps a day, to limit the intake of alcohol, salt, oil, and sugar. It also places importance on maintaining healthy body weight.


China’s food guide. Source.

France’s food guide is illustrated as stairs. It states that one must eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day, have starchy foods (ex potatoes) at every meal but according to appetite, something different from Japan and China. In the middle of the steps, it recommends people move for at least 30 minutes a day (vs. 6000 steps in China). They use single units of food as a measurement, such as 5 fruits and vegetables, unlike China’s weight in grams or Japan’s dishes. 


France’s food guide. Source.

Main Changes in Canada’s 2019 Food Guide

By Freya Hammond-Thrasher

The new food guide promotes a healthy eating lifestyle, rather than prescribing exact foods and amounts. It takes the shape of the plate, with recommended proportions of “Veggies and Fruits,” “Protein Foods,” and “Whole Grains.”

New Food Guide
The 2019 Canada Food Guide. Source.

This re-categorization of food groups arose from the recognition of the shifting, busy lifestyles of Canadians, and an effort to reduce the risks of chronic diseases related to nutrition such as diabetes and heart disease.

Some of the food guide’s alternative suggestions include:

  • Cook at home
  • Eat with others
  • Limit processed foods
  • Use food labels
  • Be aware that marketing can influence your choices

Analysis of Sustainability

By Lucas Schmaus

An interesting final consideration about our new national food guide is how sustainable it is. Mindfulness, togetherness and joy are new highlights, listed as important aspects of food, a novel idea for a traditionally calorie-focussed guide. Implying appreciation of food is heightened and holistic health promoted when we cook and eat together, social sustainability is being promoted in the food guide’s newest iteration. We are also guided to be more responsible consumers by our new food guide in the ominous line “Be aware food marketing can influence your choices”. While actual advertising regulation law may be more effective, drawing eyes to the influence of advertising is certainly a positive.

One problematic aspect is that foods manufactured in socially irresponsible ways, such as bananas (long history of poor wages and exploitative labor practices) make it onto the guide. However, this is nitpicking, and the overall focus on healthy habits above specific foods helps consumers to think about what foods are available, and meal plan from there. Hopefully this allows consumer adaptability and ethical consumption/avoidance of certain foods.

In a more traditional sense, environmental sustainability is promoted as a byproduct of healthy eating. Limiting highly processed foods reduces the packaging and energy costs of production, while choosing water over flavored drinks also carries a lower carbon footprint (i.e. energy into cans, growing cane sugar, transport). In a huge step, dairy did not make it onto the guide despite the huge dairy economy in Canada. Obviously, the huge social movement against water and energy intensive cattle and dairy production has been noted at the level of parliament. However, water-intensive but “healthy” foods such as almonds are promoted, without consideration of their environmental effects. Further, and significant since social movements have been active in this area, the words “organic” or “fair trade” do not make it into the guide.

As a whole, it is my opinion the food guide still leaves much to be desired in terms of fostering sustainability surrounding food. Despite this, huge strides were made, and the guide deserves credit for growth in the face of corporate mouths hungry for a bite off the food guide plate.


By Anika, Rebecca, Darya, Freya, and Lucas
Edited by Freya
Blog Team Community Hour

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s