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, 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.

Policymakers, 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.

On an ongoing basis, Health Canada will enhance the content of the Canada’s food guide website, adding more information to help Canadians use the new food guide and support its use in specific life stages, such as pregnancy.

Health Canada is developing additional messaging to support health professionals and policy makers in interpreting the new guidance to help ensure nutrient needs are addressed.

Health professionals are encouraged to use and refer to the new (2019) food guide. Canada’s Dietary Guidelines, the healthy eating resources and the Health Canada’s resources available for download may 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 – The new food guide is intended to be relevant and inclusive of all healthy Canadians. In addition, Health Canada and Indigenous Services Canada are committed to working with Indigenous peoples to support the development of healthy eating tools for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Until this information is available, 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.
  • Menu planning – As the new food guide is less prescriptive than previous versions, additional guidance is needed to support menu planning and evaluation for public institutions and other settings with people living in care. Assisted living residences, licensed residential care facilities, and child care facilities may continue to use the 2007 food guide for menu planning until revised nutrition standards and implementation resources are available.

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

Sources of calcium include dairy products (such as unsweetened lower fat* milk and yogurt 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, and egg yolks. Mostly, vitamin D from the food supply is in fortified foods, including milk, margarine and plant-based beverages. The addition of vitamin D to yogurt is voluntary.

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 to help reduce the amount of saturated fat, not total fat, in the diet.

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 new food guide provides a flexible approach to healthy eating guidance, focusing on proportionality of foods, rather than number and size of servings.

The food guide snapshot shows the proportion of foods that can be used to build healthy meals:

  • 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)

It is important to note that the size and amount of each food on the snapshot is not intending to show how much of them to eat at one time. The images showcase variety by providing some examples of foods that could be served for each grouping of food.

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.

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

In addition to English and French, the snapshot is available in many languages and is available for ordering from the Health Canada website. 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 and inclusive of Indigenous peoples. Additionally, Health Canada and Indigenous Services Canada are committed to working with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to support development of additional relevant healthy eating tools.

Health Canada and Indigenous Services Canada are engaged with national Indigenous organizations as well as the First Nations Health Authority here in B.C. to determine needs and potential engagement processes to inform the development of healthy eating tools/resources for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

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 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 to Health Canada. Please submit the Application for Copyright Clearance on Health Canada Works if you are interested in printing these files.

Provincial policies, guidelines and resources continue to be reviewed for alignment with the new food guide and revisions to reflect the new guidance will be considered when they are updated.

The Ministry of Health, in collaboration with B.C. health authorities has a time-limited task group (Canada’s Food Guide Provincial Implementation Task Group) in place to support coordination and consistent implementation of Canada’s Food Guide within provincial and regional policy and practice.

A provincial/territorial committee that collaborates on nutrition policy and promotion priorities has formed a working group to develop nutrition standards based on the new food guide for school, child care and residential care settings. Once these standards are available, they will be used to inform revisions to policies and guidelines within those settings.

With the release of Canada’s new food guide, the Ministries of Health and Education have worked to identify school nutrition policies and resources that may require updating to ensure alignment with the new food guide. The current nutrition standards outlined in the Guidelines for Food & Beverage Sales in B.C. Schools ("the Guidelines") and the related School Meal and School Nutrition Program Handbook have been identified as requiring revision.

B.C. is currently participating on a provincial/territorial committee that is developing nutrition standards based on the new food guide for key settings, including schools. As well, the Ministries of Health and Education have collected survey data on the current school food environment to understand how the Guidelines are used in practice and what resources are needed to continue to support a healthy school food culture. Once further guidance is available, it will be used in conjunction with the school food environment survey data to inform revisions to healthy eating guidelines and resources within our province.

During this transition, the Guidelines should continue to be applied in their current form. These and other resources can be found here.

Until notified, operators of residential care facilities may continue to provide menus based on the 2007 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. This will be considered in compliance with the current nutrition standards outlined in the Residential Care Regulation.

The Residential Care Regulation under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act references the "current edition" of Canada’s food guide, which is used by facility operators to identify menu plan requirements to meet their residents’ nutrition needs. Since Health Canada released Canada’s new food guide in January 2019, many operators have asked what changes they need to make to their menus to continue meeting the regulations. Operators will not be asked to make changes to their menus until the Province has updated the supporting resources, Audits and More and Meals and More, for alignment with the new 2019 food guide. For more information, see "Key Messages – Canada’s New Food Guide, Licensed Residential Care Facilities."

Until notified, operators of assisted living residences may continue to provide menus based on the 2007 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. This will be considered in compliance with the current nutrition standards outlined in the Assisted Living Regulation.

The Assisted Living Regulation under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act reference the "current edition" of Canada’s food guide, which is used by residence operators to identify menu plan requirements to meet their residents’ nutrition needs. Since Health Canada released Canada’s new food guide in January 2019, many operators have asked what changes they need to make to their menus to continue meeting the regulations. Operators will not be asked to make changes to their menus until the Province has updated the supporting resource, Meals and More, for alignment with the new 2019 food guide. For more information, see "Key messages – Canada’s new food guide, assisted living residences."

Until notified, operators of licensed child care facilities may continue to provide menus based on the 2007 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide. This will be considered in compliance with the current nutrition standards outlined in the Child Care Licensing Regulation.

The Child Care Licensing Regulation (the regulation) under the Community Care and Assisted Living Act sets the nutrition standards in all licensed child care facilities. Since Health Canada released Canada’s new food guide in January 2019, many operators have asked what changes they need to make to their menus to continue to meet the regulation. Operators will not be asked to make changes to their menus until the Province has provided further menu planning guidance in alignment with the new 2019 food guide. However, for aspects of healthy eating advice beyond menu planning, use of the 2019 food guide is encouraged. The Appetite to Play website has been updated to reflect this messaging and will be the best source to receive ongoing updates on implementation of Canada’s food guide within child care facilities.

For pregnancy:

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

On an ongoing basis, Health Canada will enhance the content of the Canada’s food guide website, to support the use in specific life stages, such as 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, contact a HealthLink BC registered dietitian from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, by calling 8-1-1, or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing. 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: September 2020

Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

Thanks to our partners and endorsers: