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Canada’s Food Guide is practical and flexible, and may be just what your waistband ordered

 

By Glenda Bartosh

Depending on how you look at it, it’s been 65 years in the making or four. Either way, the latest iteration of Canada’s Food Guide is out and here to stay — for at least a while.

Remember last spring when the guide was released, only to be immediately snatched back amidst a flurry of criticism? Back to the drawing board it went, literally, and now we have what regional community nutritionist Dania Matiation calls a clean-looking, comprehensive guide that has all the potential for establishing healthy eating patterns.

The first food guide, called Canada's Official Food Rules, came out in 1942 when food rationing due to World War II followed on the heels of the Great Depression. Obesity and junk food-mania weren’t the problems then — poverty, malnutrition and poor access to food caused officials to come up with a healthy eating guide. It used to include eating potatoes everyday, if you wondered where that all-Canadian habit came from.

The food guide has since dropped the potato habit and morphed through changes at irregular intervals; the current revision began in 2003. The result, which will eventually be released in 14 different languages, is the culmination of input from 7,000-plus doctors, scientists, trade group members, consumers and public health experts.

Sure, you can still find a few burbles of criticism about it — one doctor thought it condones eating way too many calories; another thought it was misleading because of the way processed food is packaged in larger portions today. But overall it seems to be ruffling few feathers, no easy task given its audience is 32.8 million people.

Personally, I like the new food guide, and not just because of the cute retro drawings of food sitting on a rainbow. (The U.S. uses a pyramid; some Asian countries arrange their food guides into pagodas).

I found it clear and easy to use, particularly regarding portion or serving sizes — a half cup of cooked greens or a whole cup of raw ones, half a tortilla, two tablespoons of peanut butter, whatever. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or even a doctor to picture what a serving is. (I’m not sure what guide the above critics were looking at, because this latest version doesn’t even mention calories or what constitutes a portion of pre-packaged foods.)

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