Canada’s Food Guide FAQs

Canada’s Food Guide (CFG)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Health Professionals in BC

The following question and answer guide was developed by the Ministry of Health based on frequently asked questions by health professionals since the release of the new food guide in January 2019. These questions are intended to facilitate shared understanding, consistent messaging and to support implementation of the food guide by professionals within BC.

CFG is intended for healthy Canadians 2 years of age and older. Eating according to the food guide promotes overall health and nutritional well-being and can help Canadians reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and certain types of cancer. Health Canada acknowledges that individuals with specific dietary requirements, including those receiving care in a clinical setting, may need additional guidance or specialized advice from a dietitian.

Policy-makers, health professionals, and institutions also use CFG to develop nutrition policies, programs, and resources; to inform menu planning in public institutions such as day cares, schools, hospitals, and long-term care facilities; and to teach about healthy eating.

Building on the release of the food guide earlier this year, Health Canada is currently determining what further guidance may be needed for health professionals and policy makers to support specific populations and settings.

The CFG website will be updated with new resources, tools, and enhancements on an ongoing basis to help Canadians apply the new food guide where they live, learn, work, and play.

Health professionals are encouraged to use and refer to the new (2019) food guide. The dietary guidelines report, stakeholder toolkit, and suite of resources released by Health Canada in January 2019 can support their work.

Key messages for use with patients and clients can be drawn from Health Canada’s healthy eating recommendations, which were developed with extensive focus testing and advice of experts in literacy and communication.

Use of the 2007 food guide may be appropriate in some instances where more detailed information is needed and the 2007 guidance aligns with the new food guide. Examples of appropriate references include:

  • Supplementation – Health Canada has identified that the supplementation guidance included within the 2007 food guide continues to be recommended.
  • Indigenous peoples – Although the new food guide is intended to be relevant and inclusive of all healthy Canadians and Health Canada has aimed to integrate Indigenous considerations throughout the guidance, Canada’s Food Guide - First Nations, Inuit and Métis (2007) can still be used as a trusted source of information on healthy eating to support Indigenous peoples if desired.

Calcium and vitamin D intake recommendations across the lifespan have not changed with the new food guide.

Sources of calcium include lower fat* dairy products (such as unsweetened milk and yogurts and cheese lower in fat and sodium) and fortified soy beverage. These foods, which were previously in the “Milk and Alternatives” food group, are now listed under “protein foods” and are considered nutritious foods that can be consumed regularly. A variety of other foods also contribute calcium to the diet.

Vitamin D is found naturally in very few foods, including: fish, liver, egg yolks. Mostly, vitamin D from the food supply is in fortified foods, including milk, margarine and plant-based beverages. For this reason, Health Canada has proposed a vitamin D fortification strategy that would increase the amount of vitamin D in milk, margarine, and fortified plant-based beverages. The addition of vitamin D to yogurt is voluntary. Health Canada will continue to monitor the vitamin D status of Canadians and if the level of fortification is insufficient, the addition of vitamin D to other foods may be considered.

Health Canada is currently determining what further guidance may be needed for health professionals and policy makers to support specific populations and settings. In the interim, the Pediatric Nutrition Guidelines for Health Professionals recommend offering 2 cups of milk or fortified soy beverage a day for children ages 2-6 years. Health Canada continues to recommend vitamin D supplementation of 10 mcg (400 IU) for people over the age of 50.

Individuals who would like more information on calcium and vitamin D intake recommendations can visit the HealthLink BC website (search for “calcium” or “vitamin D”) or contact a HealthLink BC registered dietitian.

*Note: the recommendation for lower fat dairy is not to reduce total fat in the diet, but to help reduce intakes of saturated fat.

Health Canada recommends eating plant-based foods more often. As a healthy eating pattern can include both animal and plant-based foods, the food guide does not specifically recommend following a vegetarian or vegan diet, although these diets may also align with Health Canada’s guidance.

Health Canada recommends shifting intakes towards more plant-based foods as:

  • The regular intake of plant-based foods can have positive effects on health, particularly reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and associated biomarkers, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer.
  • There is evidence supporting a lesser environmental impact of dietary patterns that are higher in plant-based foods and lower in animal-based foods.

Animal-based protein foods can still be part of healthy eating.

Individuals who would like more information on plant-based foods can visit the HealthLink BC website (search for “plant-based”) or contact a HealthLink BC registered dietitian.

Protein foods include:

  • Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu, fortified soy beverages, soybeans, and other soy products
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Poultry and lean meats including wild game
  • Lower fat milk, lower fat yogurts, lower fat kefir, and cheese lower in fat and sodium.

Among protein foods, it is encouraged to consume plant-based more often (see question five for more information).

Individuals who would like more information on protein intake and sources can visit the HealthLink BC website (search for “protein check”) or contact a HealthLink BC registered dietitian.

The food guide is no longer organized into four food groups, but rather has identified three groupings of food that together form the foundation of healthy foods to eat each day. The new food guide provides a flexible approach to healthy eating guidance, focusing on proportionality of foods, rather than serving sizes and recommended frequency of servings.

The food guide snapshot illustrates these concepts through a simple plate visual with:

  • 1/2 of the plate as vegetables and fruit (fresh, frozen, canned, or dried)
  • 1/4 of the plate as whole grains, and
  • 1/4 of the plate as protein foods (encourages eating plant-based protein foods more often)

Healthy eating includes being mindful of eating habits. Noticing hunger and fullness cues is one part of this and helps guide decisions on how much to eat.

The new food guide encourages a shift away from categorizing foods, and instead aims to emphasize the types of foods to eat and healthy eating behaviours.

Here’s an example Health Canada has provided to show the change in approach to communicating the guidance:

“Ask your family for meal ideas. Try to cover all four food groups include vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods at each meal. Get recipe ideas from magazines, cookbooks and online sites.”

As the new food guide does make reference to groupings of food (vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods, protein foods) to communicate the healthy eating recommendations, there may be instances where they need to be referred to as such. In these instances, using the term “groupings of food” would be helpful for consistency.

The new food guide takes a different approach to how the dietary guidance is communicated. The 2007 food guide was an all-in-one document that served as both an educational tool as well as a policy tool. The new food guide aims to better meet the needs of different audiences (the public, health professionals and policy makers) by providing a suite of resources that are tailored to the needs of each audience. The snapshot is simply the “tip of the iceberg”, with the food guide being the complete collection of online resources that are available.

Healthy eating guidance for different life stages (e.g. teens, adults, seniors) can be found under Tips for Healthy Eating.

The food guide snapshot is currently available in 28 languages. In addition to English and French, the snapshot is available in the following languages:

Indigenous – Dene, Michif, Ojibwe, Oji-Cree, Plains Cree, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut (Baffin), Inuktitut (Nunavik), Inuktitut (Nunatsiavut)

Other – Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Farsi, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Simplified Chinese (Mandarin), Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil, Urdu, Vietnamese

All other food guide tools and resources have been translated into French.

Cultural adaptations are not being considered at this time. Health Canada has strived to build cultural diversity into the new food guide.

For further information, please contact Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion at nutrition@hc-sc.gc.ca or 613-957-8329.

The new food guide was developed to be relevant to all Canadians, inclusive of Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, Health Canada and Indigenous Services Canada are committed to working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis to determine what, if any, distinction-based healthy eating tools may be needed and to collaborate on an engagement process to inform their development. This may be regionally specific and vary across the country.

The new food guide can be used to support Indigenous Peoples. The previous food guide, Canada’s food guide - First Nations, Inuit and Métis (2007), can also continue to be used as desired.

The new food guide was developed as a digital-first resource, with online tools and resources. This approach is part of the Government of Canada’s commitment to decreasing its carbon footprint.

Currently, selected food guide resources are available (or anticipated to be available) in hard copy. These can be ordered through the Health Canada Publications website:

  • Food guide snapshot
  • Educational posters

The following additional resources are available for download in a printer-friendly (PDF) format:

For individuals who are unable to access print resources through Health Canada’s website, HealthLink BC offers individual print copies of the snapshot and healthy eating recommendations. Please call 8-1-1 to access Dietitian Services at HealthLink BC for more information.

  • Canada’s food guide ‘pull-up’ banners and displays - Print files for the ‘pull-up’ banners/displays can be made available upon request. Please contact nutrition@hc-sc.gc.ca if you are interested in printing these files.
  • Canada’s food guide snapshot - PDF files for the snapshot and the postcard among other resources can be found on the CFG website here. Print files for professional printing of the Canada’s food guide ‘snapshot’ can be made available upon request. Please submit the Application for Copyright Clearance on Health Canada Works if you are interested in printing these files.

The Ministry of Health is establishing a time-limited provincial task group to support coordination and consistent implementation of the new dietary guidance into provincial and regional policies and practice within British Columbia. This task group will be co-chaired by the Office of the Provincial Dietitian and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), and will report to the Prevention and Health Promotion Policy Advisory Committee.

The Ministry will review provincial policies, guidelines, and resources and identify opportunities for strengthening existing provincial dietary guidance to align with the new federal guidance.

In early Fall, the Ministries of Health and Education will be surveying school administrators as the initial phase of a multi-component evaluation of school food environments. Additional phases are also expected to take place during the 2019-20 school year. In addition, Health Canada is currently determining what further guidance may be needed for health professionals and policy makers to support specific populations and settings. Following this, the Ministry of Health will be working with the Ministry of Education and other health and education partners to review nutrition policies and resources for schools, including the Guidelines for Food & Beverage Sales in B.C. Schools and the related School Meal and School Nutrition Program Handbook to support alignment. While the work to review is underway, the Guidelines for Food & Beverage Sales in B.C. Schools should continue to be applied in their current form.  

The new food guide has considered food costing within its’ development and encourages more affordable nutritious options, such as frozen, canned or dried foods. Plant-based proteins, which are encouraged to be eaten more often, are typically less costly than animal-based options.

It is recognized that many British Columbians are challenged with the affordability of healthy eating, and that food insecurity has a profound impact on physical, social, and mental health and well-being. It will require an all of government approach to consider public policies (for example, those related to income assistance, poverty, and provision of service in rural and remote communities) to create the conditions by which all Canadians can follow the diet recommended by Health Canada for best health.

Until notified, the current nutrition standards as outlined in the Residential Care Regulation, based on the 2007 food guide, remain in place.

The current Residential Care Regulation identifies the provisions required to ensure appropriate nutritional care for residents and references the “current edition” of Canada’s food guide. However, given the change in guidance from recommending portion size and frequency to a focus on proportionality of foods, Health Canada is currently determining what further guidance may be needed for health professionals and policy makers to implement the dietary guidance within specific populations and settings.

The Province will assess the Residential Care Regulation and the supporting resources, Audits and More and Meals and More, for alignment with the new federal dietary guidance after Health Canada has released further guidance as deemed necessary. The 2007 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide will be considered the “current edition” until this information is released, the regulation is revised and supporting resources are in place.

In BC, the Community Care and Assisted Living Act’s Child Care Licensing Regulation (CCLR) and Director of Licensing Standards of Practice set the requirements for all licensed child care facilities. Operators of licensed child care facilities must comply with both the regulation and the standards. The provincial initiative Appetite-to-Play (ATP) offers an interactive website that includes statements that directly or indirectly relate to a requirement for licensed child care facilities.

Please refer to the ATP website for Healthy Eating Recommended Practices, which are provincially endorsed better practices, as well as the meal planner tool. New CFG messaging has already been integrated into Appetite to Play.

For pregnancy:

Please continue to refer to Health Canada’s Prenatal Nutrition Guidelines, based on the 2007 Canada’s food guide, until further notice.

Health Canada is currently determining what further guidance may be needed for health professionals and policy makers to support specific populations and settings, which may include guidance for pregnancy.

For infants and toddlers:

As the food guide is intended for Canadians 2 years of age and older, it does not provide guidance for infants and toddlers under 2 years of age. Health Canada provides recommendations for infants and toddlers 6 months through 24 months of age in Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants (2014). These guidelines remain current and can continue to be used.

Canada’s new food guide is available online. HealthLink BC’s website is being updated to reflect the new food guide. In the interim, the healthy eating tools and resources on the HealthLink BC website remain safe and trusted sources of information. For more information about healthy eating, please visit the HealthLink BC website or contact a HealthLink BC registered dietitian.

Registered dietitians are available by calling 8-1-1, or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Translation services are available in over 130 languages. HealthLink BC’s registered dietitians offer web-based, telephone and email services to provide nutrition information, education and counselling to B.C. residents and health professionals.

For more information on the evidence behind the 2019 Canada’s food guide, please refer to these resources:

For more information on the revision process for Canada’s food guide or development of new tools and resources, please refer to Health Canada’s website or contact Health Canada at nutrition@hc-sc.gc.ca.

 

Last Updated: July 2019

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