Canadian food guide snubs dairy

January 25, 2019

A new Canadian food guide has changed healthy eating requirements once again. The new version of the food guide, which purportedly took three years of consultations, shuns the daily dose of dairy and recommends eating more unprocessed foods.

Canadians use the food guide as their standard for nutritional advice for optimal health. Since it was first published in 1942, Canadians have been encouraged to eat or drink several servings of dairy per day. Health policies in Canada and most Western cultures has had dairy in a central role for a long while. But even in that time, peoplehad criticised the food guide for favouring the meat and dairy industries.

The latest edition of the food guide has removed many standard elements, like food groups, serving sizes and whole fruit substitution with 100% fruit juice. The guide categorises dairy with other proteins, advising Canadians to fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter of starches or grains and a final quarter of protein.

This plate analogy is supposed to be more observable than a specific list of foods and serving sizes. The US has switched from a classic food diagram to ‘MyPlate’, where the plate is divided into four sections, but unlike Canada’s food guide, it includes an image of a glass of milk.

Dr. Hasan Hutchinson, director general of Health Canada’s office of nutrition policy and promotion has said that the latest food guide course-corrects, and did not use reports funded by the industry.

The move away from meat and dairy requirements is applauded by vegetarian and vegan advocates, including Dr. David Jenkins, a professor at the University of Toronto, who created the Glycaemic Index in the 1980s, and now follows a plant-based diet for environmental reasons. The Canadian research chair in nutrition and metabolism, Dr. Jenkins thinks the new food guide is right in moving in a plant-based direction.

Dr. Jenkins has also said that we have erroneously placed “cow’s milk next to mother’s milk” in terms of its importance for human health.For decades, parents have been giving their children flavoured milks to entice them to consume dairy after infancy, as plain milk is rather tasteless in comparison. But the new guide says the sugar content of flavoured milk outweighs the nutritional benefit, while recent research shows the majority of a child’s sugar intake comes from sweetened beverages. The new food guide relates chocolate milk and juices to the growing childhood obesity crisis.

The guide comes at a time many Canadians are cutting back on meat and dairy, for reasons including that of the environment, health or personal ethics, and is clearly catching up to future predictions of diet.

An obvious change is milk consumption, which has declined since 2009, according to Statistics Canada, while the popularity of plant-based milk-alternatives has grown steadily. The dairy industry is less enthusiastic about these changes.

Earlier this month, the Dairy Farmers of Canada released a statement warning that the new guide could hurt Canadian farmers, especially after recent trade concessions made to the US during the negotiations of United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The statement cities numerous studies promoting milk products, and no scientific justification exists to minimize the role of milk in a healthy diet.

Healthy eating advice has changed over the years to adapt to various cultures and lifestyles; it is safe to say that dairy and its constituents are just as necessary – and in moderation – for a healthy physique.

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