New Food Guide equips Canadians to eat and live well

The next time you're thinking about what to have for supper, you might want to check out the new Canada's Food Guide. You'd be surprised at what it has to offer. Not only does it include healthy food choices, but it also provides practical tips and tools for eating, including recipes and information on how to be healthy.

Food guide Plate

Canada's Food Guide has provided nutritional advice to Canadians for more than 75 years to help them meet their nutrient needs and reduce their risk of chronic diseases. On January 22, 2019, Health Canada launched the first phase of the new Food Guide to help Canadians eat well and more easily apply the new dietary guidelines in their daily activities. The 2019 Food Guide emphasizes the importance of cooking more often, provides actionable tips on planning and preparing food, and encourages eating with family and friends as an important part of living well. 

Canadians can access advice on food choices through a visually appealing, interactive and mobile-friendly website. They can find the information they need where and when they need it—whether they are at work, in school or at home. The new Food Guide is part of Health Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to improve the food environment in Canada to make it easier for Canadians to make healthier choices.

Hélène Lowell, nutrition advisor, Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion
Hélène Lowell, Nutrition Advisor,
Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion

Hélène Lowell, a nutrition advisor with Health Canada's Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, is part of the team that developed the 2019 Food Guide. We asked her what is involved in updating a tool as fundamental to Canadians as the Food Guide.

What goes on behind the scenes to update the Food Guide?

The first thing we did was assess the impact of the 2007 Food Guide to understand what worked and what didn't. We also reviewed the latest evidence on the effect of food on health. 

Our team spent two years consulting with the public through online consultations and talking to academics and nutritionists, Indigenous groups, health professionals, non-governmental organizations and government partners. We needed to understand Canadians' information needs and how they get information on healthy eating. We also looked at how other countries communicate dietary advice. As well, we purposely did not meet with food and beverage industry representatives to uphold the integrity of our review process.

We believe that the recommendations and resources that came out of this process are meaningful for Canadians, meeting their different needs and reflecting changes in Canadian society.

What's different about the revised 2019 Food Guide?

The 2007 Food Guide tried to address the needs of all users in a single document. The new guide is a suite of products to be released in phases. The new tools we're creating address the needs of the general public, policy makers, and health professionals. The tools for the general public are dynamic. Canadians can apply the advice when shopping for food, eating out at a restaurant, or planning and preparing healthy meals and snacks at home.

How do people access the new Food Guide?

The 2019 Food Guide is available through a new website: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/. The site is accessible from desktops and mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.

What is driving the new approach?

We know from our review of evidence that most Canadians don't eat enough vegetables, fruit and whole grain foods, and consume too many sugary beverages. We also know that the norm has shifted from preparing meals from scratch to relying more on convenience foods that are generally high in salt, sugars and saturated fats. Canadians need credible information and support to make healthier choices. The Food Guide helps them do this by giving simple, actionable advice on living healthier lives and by supporting policy makers in creating environments that make it easier for people to make healthier choices. 

What's next?

Moving the Food Guide online as a primary means of communicating healthy eating information to Canadians allows us to build on the Guide, keeping it up-to-date, fresh and relevant. Health Canada is working with the Métis Nation to support the development of distinctions-based healthy eating tools that will meet the specific needs of the Métis Nation. Health Canada is also working with Indigenous Services Canada to support the development of distinctions-based healthy eating tools in partnership with First Nations and Inuit.

What did you like best about working on the Guide? 

I am proud of the work I did to help make sure that our dietary guidance is based on solid evidence. And I am just one person on a team of fantastic, highly qualified people who care about their work and understand the privilege of contributing to something as important to Canadians as the Food Guide. That motivates us all to do our best. 

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