Canada's Food Guide
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Canada's Food Guide is a nutrition guide produced by Health Canada. It is the second most requested Canadian government publication behind the Income Tax Forms. The Health Canada website states: "The overall purpose of dietary guidance is to identify and promote a pattern of eating that meets nutrient needs and reduces the risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease." Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide was developed for Canadians and is accessible for all Canadians. It includes guidelines for eating the right food groups, specified by age group and gender. There are also tips for which foods to choose, the servings size of each food and the best cooking methods. Also included are tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight with physical activity.
Canada's first food guide was introduced in July 1942 to provide guidance to Canadians on proper nutrition during a period of time when wartime rations were common. The 1942 version was called the Official Food Rules. In 1944 the guide was revised and renamed Canada's Food Rules. In 1962, the guidelines were revised and renamed to Canada's Food Guide.
Canada's Food Guide has four food groups. These include:
Any foods not accurately described by these food groups are deemed "other" and are advised to be consumed in moderation.
Vegetables and fruit
The Vegetable and Fruit arc on the Canada's Food Guide label is the largest,  and individuals are advised that most of their food consumption be from this food group. Vegetables and fruits are known to contain many beneficial substances such as flavonoids, which may help remove carcinogens from the body, as well as antioxidants such as vitamin C and beta carotene, which help prevent oxidation damage by free radicals. A diet that includes a variety of vegetables and fruit can help reduce the risk of some types of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables is recommended by the guide.
Grain products are essential to the diet. They provide carbohydrates for energy and whole grain products can be a source of fibre and are typically low in fat. Whole grain products can be rich sources of many nutrients that help in disease prevention, such as dietary fibre, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, magnesium and phytochemicals. Eating a "diet rich in whole grains could also help reduce the risk of heart disease".
Milk and alternatives
According to Canada's Food Guide, milk and alternatives are essential to the body to maintain bone health. This food group includes milk and dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, cream, kefir and fortified soy beverages. Canadian milk and many milk products are required to be fortified with Vitamin D. This helps Canadians get their daily recommended intake of Vitamin D if they consume the adequate amount of milk and alternatives each day.
Meat and alternatives
Meat and alternatives are a source of protein in the diet. This group includes animal meat sources as well as alternatives such as nuts and lentils. Meat and alternatives are also a source of zinc, magnesium and B vitamins. This is the smallest arc on Canada's Food Guide ribbon, meaning that only a few servings from this group will satisfy the nutritional requirements of an individual.
Oils and fats
"Include a small amount - 30 to 45 mL (2 to 3 Tbsp) - of unsaturated fat each day to get the fat you need".
The guide recommends water as the primary beverage. It is a calorie-free, fat-free, sugar-free thirst quencher that is essential to the body's metabolic functions. Consumption of water should increase with temperature or an individual's physical activity. The guide also recommends avoiding beverages with added sugar or fat. Caffeinated beverages, unpasteurized fruit juices and energy drinks should only be consumed in moderation.
Canada's Food Guide has also provided guides to how much of each specific food is equal to one serving. Here are the guides:
A healthy lifestyle is not based solely around eating right; exercise and diet work together to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide section of the Health Canada website also stresses the importance of physical activity to a maintaining a healthy lifestyle and body weight. "The Physical Activity Guidelines recommend accumulating 2 ½ hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week for adults and at least 60 minutes a day for children and youth."
Canada's Food Guide First Nations, Inuit and Métis
Health Canada has also developed a guide specifically catered to those who are First Nations, Inuit and Métis. This guide is similar to the general food guide, but also includes more information on a diet that includes more foods native to Canada, such as wild game and fish. The complete guide can be found on the Health Canada website.
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- Eating well with Canada's Food Guide
- Canada's Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Living
- The politics of food guides, Daniel Schwartz, CBC News, 29 July 2012.
- Canada's Food Guide to Unhealthy Eating (a critical analysis by Yoni Freedhoff, Weighty Matters)