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New Canada Food Guide meal resonates best in BC, not so much elsewhere

The veggie-loaded, almost meatless plate on Canada’s newly released Food Guide actually reflects how many young British Columbians eat, When you look at the proteins, there’s almost no meat, just a little bit of chicken, a little bit of fish and a little bit of beef, said Rebecca Coleman, a vegetarian food blogger and mom.The rest of it is tofu, beans and a piece of an egg, not even a whole egg. It’s just crazy how different it is from the last guide.While the 2007 food guide depicted a whole fish and a roast of beef, in the 2019 version those animal proteins are reduced to a few bite-sized morsels. Milk used to be front and centre, but no more.Today, half the plate is covered with a variety of fruits and vegetables, one quarter by whole grains and the remaining quarter by mostly non-meat protein sources, including seeds and legumes. Cheese and milk have disappeared entirely, with just a dollop of yogurt, or possibly sour cream, left to represent dairy.This is a very vegan-friendly plate, said Coleman. When I saw it I thought, Wow, (the government) is kind of getting me.

This is the world in which I live and we have a very big vegan and vegetarian population, Coleman said. If you want to eat that way, Vancouver is the city to do it in.Even people who eat meat are deliberately eating less of it. Per capita beef consumption in Canada has dropped from almost 40 kilograms a year in 1980 to 25 kilograms today, according to Statistics Canada.It feels like no one just eats meat and potatoes anymore, just no one, said Coleman. The new guide really encourages people to eat from a wider spectrum of foods.Eating the ingredients suggested by the Food Guide and avoiding processed foods will likely require some home cooks to acquire new skills. Pulling together a dish from vegetables, grains and legumes is trickier than frying a pork chop.

For this guide to work, we are going to need a lot of education, said a Dalhousie University food researcher, Sylvain Charlebois. People know what to do with a piece of beef or chicken, but it may not be as clear for things like lentils and tofu.People were concerned that the food choices on offer would take too long to prepare and more than half believed the grocery bill would jump, according to a study led by Charlebois.But following the recommendations of the new guide will likely lower your family’s grocery bill by almost seven per cent, compared with following the more-meat-laden guidelines of the 2007 version, the study found.While the guide strongly recommends eating at home for better nutrition and to save money, Canadians are less likely than ever to cook at home.The guide ignores the fact that we spend 35 cents of every food dollar outside the home, said Charlebois.

It tells us nothing about how to spend that money.Restaurant sales have more than doubled in the past 20 years and 71 per cent of Canadians regularly order takeout.Prepared food services businesses that drop off up to a week’s worth of ready-to-eat meals at a time are the fastest-growing segment of the food industry.The guide ignores people’s desire for speed and convenience altogether, he said.People want more convenience because they have no time and that is a huge barrier to adoption.The guide’s recommendations to take more time over meals and cook more often are almost quaint in their naivet when the amount of time that we spend preparing food has been dropping steadily for decades, said Charlebois.

The vast majority of Canadians go through something I like to call life, he said. People travel, they get ill, they work and go to school, they have kids who go to hockey and gymnastics, you name it.It prevents people from being disciplined about food.While the Food Guide may have caught up to B.C. it appears to have zoomed right past mainstream Canadians.Nearly two-thirds of Canadians don’t use Canada’s Food Guide, according to Charlebois. Among those who have bothered to look at it, 20 per cent didn’t like the food choices, while another 20 per cent say it doesn’t fit their dietary needs.

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