Updated: Nov 3, 2022
Everyday ways to eat better.
Even in 390BC Hippocrates knew that diet played a major role in a person's health. His famous quote acknowledges the importance of healthy eating and how the nutrients in various foods have healing properties. Together with the care of a functional nurse practitioner, I'm working on healing and reconstituting my microbiome through a strict regimen that uses food as a natural medicine to restore gut health balance and consequently intrinsically managing eczema and allergies.
Although I follow a more customized alternative anti-inflammatory food pyramid, my opinion of the most recent Canadian Food Guide is that it still makes good strides towards helping Canadians improve their health and wellbeing in general.
The Canadian Food Guide has a long history of being contentious. The 2007 version had been heavily criticized as being influenced by lobbyists from the agriculture industry. This perception brought about Health Canada broadcasting its refusal to invite industry to the table during development of the new guide; assuring critics that it would be based on scientific evidence and public consultations with no input from the food industry.
The resulting 2019 Canadian Food Guide is a giant step forward that meets the nutrient needs and diet choices of most Canadians. It eschews former nutritional pillars, like food groups and serving sizes, in favour of advice that’s already familiar to anyone who reads health blogs or parenting magazines:
DO... fill half your plate with vegetables, choose protein foods that come from plants more often, drink water, cook at home and eat mindfully together.
DON'T... eat highly processed foods, go to restaurants often or believe every marketing claim (food marketers' job is to sell food, not protect your health).
The only major criticism I raise of this Canadian Food Guide adaptation is the lack of distinction made between fats. It doesn't clearly explain the differences of the kinds of saturated fats in foods ie: avocado vs steak. Nor are we advised to choose olive oil or coconut oil over highly processed canola or vegetable oil. Shockingly, the guide still mentions margarine as a healthy fat!
The effective visual of a simple balanced plate for healthy eating focuses on 3 key components - 50% vegetables and fruits, 25% protein and 25% whole grains. It's not about portion per se but about proportion.
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check. Eating non-starchy vegetables and fruits like apples, pears, and green leafy vegetables may even promote weight loss as long as they aren't prepared with high-calorie ingredients. Their low glycemic loads prevent blood sugar spikes that can increase hunger.
If these proportions of categories of foods are different than your current diet, you're likely daunted by the proposition of consuming more vegetables and less animal protein. According to consumer research, the biggest barriers to narrowing the vegetable gap include spoilage, availability, convenience, and time. Don't underestimate the value of frozen vegetables when fresh are not an option; they address all these issues.
Six key tips to successfully boost vegetable intake:
Make a habit of washing and cutting up fresh vegetables before storing them in the refrigerator.
Have a veggy platter with a nutritious dip at the ready (see many options in the cookery at Qspice.ca - hummus, guacamole, babaganoush, pico de gallo, tzatziki)
Replace some of the meat in pasta sauces, chilis and stews with hearty greens and meaty vegetables like mushrooms, green jackfruit and eggplant.
Eat a salad daily.
Prepare pureed vegetable soups.
Keep frozen vegetables on hand.
Vegetables are nature’s fast food and eating fresh salad with Qspice signature vinaigrette is an easy hack to boost healthy fat and nutrient intake.
Put meat and potato style meals on the back burner and give way to plant based meals like stir frys, grain bowls, stews and pureed soups. Visit the cookery at Qspice.ca for many ideas in this genre of tasty meals.