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The new Canada Food Guide went live

The new Canada Food Guide went live on January 22nd, 2019. Lots of media attention surrounded it, clamouring for all the good it will do.
Not many are aware of the history and controversy behind it. The original purpose of the Canada Food Guide was to fatten up soldiers in World War II. It has been updated seven times since its inception, but these updates were not necessarily as a result of new data received. Rather, with each update, food providers tried to stake their claim and influence what goes in the food guide, in an effort to increase their own sales. The first to do so was the milk industry pushing for higher daily dairy intakes. In 1993 the food guide added higher servings of dairy and meat.

With this new Food Guide, updated for the first time in twelve years, officials who drafted it did not meet with representatives from the food and beverage industry. Rather, an online consultation took place, with various participants. The new guide is meant to be less focused on increasing sales for various industries, and rather help the average Canadian with eating healthily.

Only, the new Food Guide isn’t really a food guide. It’s more of a general guide, encouraging Canadians to get protein from various sources, eat tons of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. The four previous food groups are completely removed. Instead, the guide offers behaviour tips like cooking more and eating with others and enjoying your food.
The only problem, of course, is the average Canadian working a minimum-wage job and living on their own, paying expenses, cannot possibly afford daily intakes of fruits and vegetables. The cost of these recommendations doesn’t seem to have been taken in place. Out of curiosity, I surveyed a few of my friends (aged 25-30), to see how much they spend on fruits and vegetables when they purchase them. The answer was a rounded $80…per week, for two people. That totals $320 a month. Never mind if you have a family, with children.

The other large recommendation of the new Food Guide is to “cook more”. While in theory that’s great advice, not many Canadians can afford to cook every day when the electricity/gas prices keep sky-rocketing, and meals can take hours upon hours to make. It doesn’t help when the suggestions in the food guide say to use tools that cut on time, like slow cookers and pressure cookers, which also cost money to buy. In short, it seems the guide is aimed at the exact people who are struggling to make ends meet.

Speaking as a previous student and a millennial working a full time job with my own business on the side, these recommendations aren’t the easiest to follow. And the implication that not following them basically means you’re screwing your health, only adds guilt to an already hard situation. If one thing is clear, it’s that despite all the consultations, the development of the Food Guide didn’t take into account the average Canadian population, nor factors like inflation and high cost in foods.
A copy of the food guide can be viewed on the Health Canada website: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

Alexa Whitewolf    1/30/2019


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