Blinded food guides leading the blind 

We can do better than the Canada Food Guide

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Ever since they taught it to us in Grade 5, I've never been able to reckon with Canada's Food Guide. Whenever I look at it — even back then when we had to draw little bottles of milk and clusters of grapes to replicate the guide in our notebooks — I feel like I'd turn into an elephant if I ate everything recommended.

For a woman my age — that's over 51 — the current food guide says every day I should eat seven servings of vegetables and fruits, which could include half a cup of pure fruit juice; six servings of grain products; three of milk; and two of meat or some protein alternative. Good God! I'd weigh the equivalent of 10 elephants if I ate all that.

I know, I know. Even though the experts try to tell us a serving is the size of a deck of cards or a baseball, we usually overdo it in that department. But then look at the serving examples the food guide provides. One serving of grain could be a single slice of bread. But it could also be three-quarters of a cup of porridge. Have you ever tried to eat that much porridge at once? It's ridiculous, unless you're a lumberjack.

And what happens if you're some kind of porridge freak and consider each of the six grain servings to be just that? Three quarters cup of porridge times six equals four and a half cups of cooked oatmeal, or whatever, a day. That would be in addition to everything else, including all the protein, one serving of which is two, not one, but two eggs, which alone seems to open the door to over-eating; or half a cup of meat; or three quarters cup of tofu, or cooked beans and the like.

If you're a guy aged 19 to 50, you're supposed to be downing even more. Eight to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Eight servings of grain products and three servings of meat or some other protein. And two servings of dairy.

Now, after these many years of feeling out in the food guide cold, I've been vindicated!

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff was in Vancouver recently to take part in a conference on obesity. Assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and founder of Ottawa's Bariatric Medical Institute — a multi-disciplinary, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre — he's known variously as a nutritional watchdog, an obesity expert and a diet guru. Either way, he definitely had my ear when he was on CBC Radio's B.C. Almanac.

"It's a very strange world we live in," he said, describing everything from school cafeterias serving food we tell kids isn't good for them, to representatives from Coca-Cola spewing BS, as he put it, like sugary drinks like Coke don't add to obesity.


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