The new Canada Food Guide: Once again high-carb, low-fat

The new canada food guide

The much-anticipated new Canada Food Guide has finally been released by the Canadian government. It represents a significant change — some good, some not — from the previous guide released 12 years ago.

Milk and dairy products have been down-graded and plant-based proteins promoted as equivalent to meat and other animal-sourced proteins. Fruit juice, added sugar and refined grains have been removed, but the advice to eat “plenty of whole grains” is still a dominant feature, making it, overall, a very high-carb diet. Fat is almost nowhere to be found, and that includes the virtual absence of cheese.

The release was accompanied by a flashy news conference presided over by the federal Minister of Health claiming that this was a diet that could “serve the needs of Canadians coast to coast.” The government materials note that the guide is “directed towards a healthy Canadian population so they can meet their nutrient needs and reduce their risk of obesity and chronic disease.” (More on that below.)

The government also debuted a new interactive website for the guide that features practical advice for healthy eating, demonstration videos and recipes, as well as information for health professionals and a summary of the scientific evidence that the government used to create the guide.

Government of Canada: Canada’s new food guide

Of course, the new guide is being widely covered and explained in all of Canada’s major news media, with most outlets noting what is in and what is out.

The Globe and Mail: Canada’s new food guide explained — Goodbye food groups, hello hydration

Globalnews: Canada’s new food guide trims down on dairy — should you?

The National Post: Got milk? Not so much. New food guide drops ‘milk and alternatives’ and favors plant-based protein.

First, what’s good about it?

While it still represents a high-carb, low-fat pattern of eating, the guide has made significant improvements from the previous version. Giving credit where credit is due, here’s what is good (from a low-carb perspective):

  • The new plate illustration is clear, simple and easy to understand. (The old version had a “rainbow” design of four food groups that was widely derided as being incomprehensible.)
  • The removal of fruit juice as a healthy fruit choice (it is really 100% sugar) is a significant advance. The guide also advises Canadians to avoid all sugary sports drinks, chocolate milk and other beverages that pack a wallop of extra sugar. Plain water is advised as the drink of choice.
  • Refined and processed foods are advised to be highly limited, eaten less often and only in small amounts.
  • Whole unprocessed foods are promoted.
  • The plate illustration features largely low-carb vegetables, with only small amounts of fruit and starchy, higher-carb vegetables.
  • The guide also notes that “healthy eating is more than the foods we eat” and advises Canadians on a large number of healthier eating habits such as cooking meals at home, eating with others, being mindful and noticing when you are hungry and full.

What’s not so good?

For anyone with metabolic issues, such as type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, the advice continues to promote consuming a huge amount of daily carbohydrates that will make it hard for many to keep their blood sugar under control.

Prof. Dave Harper, PhD, a keto-advocate, scientific advisor to the Canadian Clinicians for Therapeutic Nutrition and a visiting scientist at the BC Cancer Research Centre, estimates the overall macronutrient distribution of the new guide as approximately 10-15 percent of calories as protein, 15-20 percent as fat, leaving the remaining 65-75 percent of calories as carbohydrate. Harper said:

In short, it has the same problems as the last one: high-carb, low-fat. This is not supported by science.

Registered Dietitian Joy Kiddie, MSc, RD, who blogs and counsels patients in low-carb eating, notes the new food guide really only applies to a small percentage of adults of normal weight who are currently metabolically healthy. Kiddie wrote about the guide in her blog:

Based on recent data as many as 88% of adults may already be metabolically unhealthy so this advice applies to a minority of people. A diet that provides 325-375 grams of carbohydrate per day (based on a 2000 kcal per day diet) is not going to adequately address the underlying cause of metabolic issues.

Kiddie also notes that the diet appears deficient in calcium:

With both cheese and milk being limited in this new food guide, adequate calcium intake may be of concern; especially since vegetables that are high in calcium will have that calcium made unavailable to the body due to the high amounts of phytates, oxylates and lectins that are contained in the grains, nuts and seeds that are also in the diet.

The influential Food Guide is widely used by Canadian schools, hospitals, health professionals, and all government institutions to guide all nutrition advice and institutional menus.

Eating advice to Canadians first appeared in the 1940s, during war rationing, and has had many iterations over the intervening years. Like the US dietary guidelines, the Canadian guidelines in the early 1980s switched to promoting a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet. This change directly correlates to the trajectories of the exploding epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes over the last four decades.

The Globe and Mail: Canada’s Food Guide through the ages


Anne Mullens

Earlier

Boring but important: Help change the dietary guidelines!

Canadian doctors rock awareness-raising about low-carb eating

Is the tide turning in Australian dietary advice?

Nina Teicholz in WSJ: “Carbs, good for you? Fat chance!”

Earlier with Anne Mullens

All earlier posts by Anne Mullens

Dietary guidelines

Low carb

32 comments

Top comments

  1. Bob
    A vegan diet isn't recommended by anyone other than vegans, it is a diet based solely on idelogy not health. There are no healthy long term vegans, even with massive dosses of expensive supplements. Look on YouTube for the testimonials of all the people who quit veganism due to health reasons.
    Reply: #12
    Read more →
  2. Tim Baker
    This is not a surprise. The food guide of my youth promoted hydrogenated canola oil over butter for over a decade after science proved the opposite. Industry before population has always been the Canadian political status quo. Democracy and interest group lobbying do not coexist.
    Read more →

All comments

  1. 1 comment removed
  2. Tim Baker
    This is not a surprise. The food guide of my youth promoted hydrogenated canola oil over butter for over a decade after science proved the opposite. Industry before population has always been the Canadian political status quo. Democracy and interest group lobbying do not coexist.
  3. Jonnyj
    I see nothing wrong with food guide, it provides healthy fats from nuts and full fat dairy. It simply doesn't fit into the narrative you're pushing
    Reply: #30
  4. Brent McIntire
    They can't change the guide very much. It would upset the crap food manufacturing companies that buy the politicians and give us highly processed foods and heavy carb to keep us dependent on mefication and doctors to try and survive. Net this wont get posted.
  5. Jimmy
    Vegan diet is a high carb low fat one and vegans are some of the longest lived people
  6. Bob
    A vegan diet isn't recommended by anyone other than vegans, it is a diet based solely on idelogy not health. There are no healthy long term vegans, even with massive dosses of expensive supplements. Look on YouTube for the testimonials of all the people who quit veganism due to health reasons.
    Reply: #12
  7. Huang
    I see lots of people really like the idea of go vegan.
    I truly don't recommend kids under 18 go vegan, but I believe some adults can have better health conditions when they go vegan.
    I have some hardcore vegan friends that been knowing each other for5~ 7 years. Some of them gave up vegan diet and transfer to something like this kind of diet(but still less meat then the suggestion) , cause a couple of them started to have some problems for example extramly low muscle mass, dry eyes, pale and dry skin, depression and nails starting to fall off... Etc. Their doctors all suggested them to try different diet even it could be difficult for them to change.
    After couple months of new diet they actually got way more healthier and they had never feel so good before!
    But also others who had no problem with being vegan are still OK today, like very very ok and still very energetic !!
    So I think everyone has a different body. There's no such a thing like the best for everyone.
    And kids should be vegan cause they have way more need of food diversity then adults.
    However, I do think eating good healthy food and less junk from factory is the best and safe choice, it can not only make you healthier but also very eco friendly, cook as many as you can =) even it is just on the weekends.
    Reply: #19
  8. 1 comment removed
  9. Jeannie
    My heart sank when I saw the new Canada Food Guide. I was really hopeful they would get it right this time. I know my A1C would be on the rise if I adopted these guidelines. I’ll be sticking with my LCHF/Keto lifestyle, as if there was any doubt. Thank you DietDoctor for your inspiration and Anne Mullens for your always excellent journalism.
  10. Debra
    With Alzheimer's, dementia and diabetes at an all time high it is sad that they did not look at the science. If they did it was at the Vegan science which we all know is very flawed and biased. Thank God we have free choice - as a Canadian I choose my health over their science and 2 cents worth of garbage. We are all getting older and I choose to not be a burden on society - I choose Keto. When I went onto the Health Canada site and saw their response to the comment about people not having the access or finances to buy healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables I was appalled! Their response was to buy canned. We all know canned is a very bad choice when choosing nutrition filled meals. Whose agenda are they really following!!!! I have not had too much faith in the Canadian government recently and now this food pyramid solidifies my reason to not have faith in their ideology. Poor Garbage.... I choose to support our dairy and our meat industry. I also eat a lot of fresh vegetables.
  11. Cherene Leech
    I was shocked when I saw this, and over here in the UK they are wanting to add an extra tax on meat and animal products because if we consume these aparetly it means we have a “higher carbon footprint” who comes up with this rubbish? There should be a tax on high sugar, fad or fast fix diet products. I choose Keto when will the world catch up, I’m sick of ppl saying “double cream in your coffee, but I thought u were on a diet!!” Every year I hear the same rubbish prompted by doctors, when will it stop, we have an epidemic of heart disease type 2 diabetes and other illness realated to obesity and metabolic syndrome, that’s started after they Demonised fat in the 1980s,
  12. Ali
    One of my girlfriends and her husband were vegan over the summer. When I saw her, her skin looked wrinkled. I saw her again over Christmas and she is no longer vegan and her skin looks great. My naturopath says that her days as a vegetarian caused long term health issues.
    Reply: #20
  13. Ali
    My father had a triple bypass exactly one year ago. I had an argument with the Registered Dietitian about how he should supplement with magnesium and ubiquinol and she told me that one can get all their magnesium from food. Meanwhile they were feeding him a high grain diet and margarine in the hospital. Also, his heart surgeon told him he should not take any supplements and my dad believes him. He is taking a statin and everyone knows except his doctor and the R.D. that he needs to take ubiquinol.

    My naturopath has a 1970s framed print with the phrase "Butter is Better". Love her!

  14. Mai
    After 50 years of pushing the food pyramid which did a lot of damage, the new guidelines are an improvement. However, people like myself are less trusting of authority figures now, and will not blindly follow officially endorsed advice. The new guidelines are probably harmless for metabolically healthy people who have not grown up eating processed foods, but for those of us who have already been damaged by following the old food pyramid guidelines, LCHF is the only way to go. In my opinion, go ahead and try the new guidelines, but be sure to monitor your blood glucose after eating.
  15. Sharad
    Regardless of whether you believe in Keto or not, why is the government telling us what we should or should not doing around healthy eating. Like defense and security, health and healthy eating should not become embroiled in political shenanigans or lobbyists who think their way (and hence their pocketbooks) should rule the day. I for one follow the health experts and even they don’t always agree, at least their medical degrees trump those of elected leaders.
  16. Dineen
    Looks like it’s straight out of a weight watchers / slimming world diet plan
  17. Debra Cherney
    Hey, PLEASE, let me know what to do when you guys figure it all out!
    Thank you in advance!.......................HELP ..............because, I don't know what to do!
    Reply: #21
  18. Debra Cherney
    It's me again,
    I walk over to the cabinet and the fridge, and honestly, I really don't know what to eat, or what to buy when I'm at the grocery store, so, PLEASE HELP

    PS: getting hungry

    Replies: #26, #27, #31
  19. Una
    There is also the social side of eating as well.
  20. Una
    And the reverse could be said. Plenty of people around with wrinkled skin and not vegans!
  21. Una
    Choose your diet and then stick with the one way of eating and not keep changing. If you want to go keto, the parameters are here as is for lowering carbohydrates. Cut out pasta, rice, potatoes and bread as a starter if that's the way you want to go. This is not a religion. Otherwise just eat a balanced diet, cooked from fresh with the best ingredients you can find.
  22. Anna
    Eat some delicious chicken lightly fried in garlic and parsley butter with broccoli rice (my new favourite) flavoured with pesto. Failing that, fried eggs on 90 second bread!
  23. Sharon Levites
    Stress is the number #1 killer in life. I believe God put food on this planet as our medicine. Eat Whole Foods , fruits, vegetables, herbs, unprocessed meats, fish etc. anything else enjoy in moderation at times. There is one fact we must all realize, we are all going to die, so die happy.
  24. George Franklin
    This being the 21st century with internet everywhere, I question the need for tens, if not 100s, of millions dollars stollen from taxpayers for the purpose of producing the food guide is necessary/wise.
  25. Velma
    It's fine and dandy to improve the food guide to what it now appears. But tell me how are we suppose to believe that all these grown fruits and vegetables are good for us...if....the agriculturers are still using pesticides, etc.. and having so much lettuce recalls , etc as there have been in the last year? How are the mainstream people (lower income) suppose to eat healthy on this new food guide as the prices are ridiculous. $3-4.00 for a cauliflower and they are twice as small as they use to be?? Give me a break!!
  26. Jane
    You can have kale and water.
  27. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    Debra, you can read more about getting started here - https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/keto

    ...and we have a free two week challenge with recipes and meal plan here - https://www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb/get-started

  28. Peter Zielinski
    Just compare a look of vegans and low carb advocates. Do you see any difference in their faces? This is how I decided which diet is good for me.
  29. alex
    I find Keto can be low in fibre and have added a quarter cup of oatmeal to my regimen. I also question the advice to eat bacon, a product that has always been high in nitrates.
  30. Sarah
    It actually recommends low fat dairy not full fat
  31. Gail
    Debra, I am assuming you are not still at the grocery store. =) But, *everything* you need to know about what to eat, and what not to eat, is right here on DietDoctor.com.
  32. Anita
    several welcomed the fact that the composition of this new guide was not influenced by the milk lobby or the agri-food industry. Hmm not sure!
    they followed the trend of vegan and animal cause ...... another lobby. too bad. (Google translation)
  33. Barbara
    Just read in the ABC news in Australia that there is evidence that breakfast may not be the meal that is as essential as they thought. Tried to send a link to diet doctors but don't know how to. Baby steps.
  34. 1 comment removed
  35. Niki
    I would like to know the reference to88% of the population metabolically unable to do the Canada food guide diet?

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