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Using Canada’s Plate Model for Food Guidelines

Whole foods, home cooking, and lots of veggies and fruit make for a healthy diet.

Before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services puts forth the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans—it’s now soliciting public input at dietaryguidelines.gov for the reveal in 2020—perhaps the authors should look north for inspiration.

Health Canada recently unveiled its overhauled Canada’s food guide, widely hailed for being progressive and up to date with scientific evidence on diet and health, not to mention seemingly free of input from industry representatives. The primary feature is a plate model that encourages people to fill half with vegetables and fruit, one-quarter with protein (from meat, seafood or plant foods), and one-quarter with whole grains. On the side is a note advocating water as the drink of choice.

Absent is a recommendation to eat a certain number of daily food-group servings to meet nutrient needs. That means reduced emphasis on meat and dairy (the advisory committee for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been criticized for bowing to influence by stakeholders in these industries). People are simply directed to eat more whole foods as a means of achieving a healthy diet, since nutrition research has taught us that it’s the overall pattern of our consumption that matters most.

Other recommendations that resonate with many nutrition professionals address not only what to eat but how to eat: Cook more frequently, be savvy about food marketing, and eat often with family and friends. And, no, poutine is not recommended, even in moderation.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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November-December 2020 IDEA Fitness Journal

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