Water is the New Milk: The U.S. Needs to Get with the Program
That’s right! Cows are obsolete according to Canada’s new dietary food guide that was released on Tuesday, Jan. 22. What was once an image of four equal food groups (vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives) is now a beautifully colorful and detailed image of a plate that has drastically different recommendations. It clears up much confusion on what types of food the public should be aiming to eat. Unlike the mundane blocks of color that make up the United States’ MyPlate, Canada’s food guide is aesthetically pleasing with real examples of food in each category. Additionally, it is no longer just about what you should be aiming to eat for a healthy diet and a healthy planet, but it is also about taking on healthy consumer habits overall.
One of the first noticeable differences is that dairy is no longer its own category. Instead it is recommended to make water your drink of choice, and “lower fat dairy products” is now a small subsection amongst the proteins. The second most noticeable change is that meat is no longer the star of the protein group. Instead the focus is on plant-based proteins. The official website recommends to “choose protein foods that come from plants more often… [because they] can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can be beneficial for your heart health.” When it comes to national dietary advice, Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, writes that, “To advise the public to consume less fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol was to advocate eating less [meat, dairy foods, and eggs], as well as of processed foods high in fats and oils.” The USDA food guide creators have tried to avoid conflict with big money-making meat and milk industries by avoiding recommendations that advise to consume less of them.
By stating directly which foods support a healthy diet, Canada’s new food guide clears up to enter in their age, sex and level of physical activity to learn more about specific portion sizes, it does not specifically state which proteins are healthier. In Canada’s guidelines, there are no listed portion sizes yet, but people can tell by the visual image that they are divided so that half their plate should be of a variety of vegetables and fruits, a quarter be proteins—mostly plant-based—and the other quarter be whole grains. Drink water to wash it all down, and, of course, limit highly processed foods or those that are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fats. All in all, it is a visual that directly states which foods support a healthy diet and is easier to understand and put into practice than trying to have perfectly correct servings sizes anyways.
Alongside focusing on what people should aim to eat, Canada’s new food guide also acknowledges the benefits that come with mindful purchasing, home cooking, and communal eating in order to form healthy habits and truly enjoy the food you eat. It is also advised to look at food labels and consider the influences of food marketing. Would the U.S. ever note that on their food guide given how much companies spend on marketing for fast food, ready-to-eat meals, and soda brands? In 2017 alone, McDonald’s spent 1.51 billion U.S. dollars in advertising, and Coca-Cola spent 3.96 billion according to Statista. Canada’s new food guide is not stopping there with the updates. The government is continuing to make improvements. Documents outlining serving sizes and needs for different demographics are in the works for health professionals and policy makers to use. They will have documents considerate of Indigenous peoples, people with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, and people facing food insecurity. When it comes to educating the public on which foods support a healthy diet to combat heart disease, diabetes and stroke, Canada’s Food Guide has stepped up to bat, and they knocked the MyPlate out of the park. The future for dietary guidelines in the U.S. can be bright, but we need to catch up because “got milk” campaigns are a thing of the past.
By Kristen Viera, Staff Writer