Unlock the potential of food using Canada’s New Dietary Guidelines

#1 Healthy Food Choices

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by Marie Traynor RD – Registered Dietitian and Public Health Nutritionist Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit

A healthy eating pattern builds a strong foundation for healthy growth and development and can influence our health well into our older age. Health Canada recently released new Dietary Guidelines and a new image for the Food Guide. This article focuses on the “what” we eat.

You’ll notice that there are now three food categories instead of four food groups. The categories are vegetables and fruit which should regularly make up half of a meal plate, whole grains to take up one quarter and protein foods to make up the other quarter of a meal.

Protein foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yogurts, lower fat kefir, and cheeses lower in fat and sodium.

By increasing our intake of plant-based proteins we can reduce the amount of saturated fat in our diets, increase fibre, promote heart health and potentially save some money by decreasing meat portions and increasing foods such as chickpeas, kidney, navy and soya beans, split peas and lentils.

Foods that contain saturated fat include fatty meats, high fat dairy products (look for the % M.F. on the label, the lower the % M.F. the lower the fat), butter, some highly processed foods which often contain tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil. Decrease saturated fat by swapping them for nuts, seeds, fatty fish, vegetable oils and soft or what’s called non-hydrogenated margarine.

We are encouraged to make safe water our beverage of choice more often. This change can reduce our sugar intake and contribute to oral health. Use water to replace beverages high in added and naturally occurring sugars, for example:

100% fruit juice
soft drinks
fruit-flavoured drinks
flavoured waters with added sugars
sport and energy drinks
other sweetened hot or cold beverages, such as iced tea, cold coffee beverages, and
sweetened milks and sweetened plant-based beverages.

Healthier choices include water, unsweetened milk or fortified soy beverage, and whole fruit.

Lastly, the guidelines point to the benefit of choosing foods lower in sodium or salt. It is true that sodium is essential to health but too much can put us at risk for high blood pressure. In 2017, the main sources of sodium in Canada were bakery products, mixed dishes, processed meats, cheeses, soups, sauces, dips, gravies, and condiments.

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