Canada’s Food Guide, “the cornerstone to the country’s approach to healthy eating” has been under scrutiny for years. Comments like “it’s outdated, confusing and broken” have turned many health conscious Canadians to other sources when looking for a healthy diet. I’m not one of those folks. I believe that Canada’s Food Guide works. But to be effective, Canadians need to eat food; real food and not just calories. It is the ‘food’ guide for heaven’s sake!
The difference between food and calories is that food comes from plants or animals and is eaten close to its original form. Potatoes, chicken, rice, vegetables, butter, and eggs are all foods that look like themselves. On the other hand, calories are just imitations of food. Potato chips, imitation crab, smoothies, granola bars, ‘hot pockets’, and cheese spread are examples of marketable calories that the food industry has convinced us is food.
Here’s the thing…If we just stuck to good, old food and avoided the convenient knock-offs we would avoid the excess ingredients that aren’t supposed to be there. Imitation crab is the perfect example…imitation crab uses Pollock, a north Atlantic fish that can be manufactured to form a sturdy gel that is shaped into thin strips to mimic the texture of crab meat. Using Pollock should make the imitation crab meat a protein but it doesn’t. Imitation crab meat ends up with a higher carbohydrate content due to the process of adding sucrose to prevent the gel from degrading during freezing and increasing its shelf life. Cheese spread is another prime example of a product that is predominantly a carbohydrate. This is as opposed to real cheese, which is mainly fats and protein.
We can blame the food industry for manipulating foods into calories but it’s up to us to recognize real food and to stop buying the convenient calories that make up >50% of the grocery store products. As for the effectiveness of Canada’s Food Guide, we’ve been silly to try to use a ‘food’ guide on anything but food.