Nutrition

For a lot of people, nutrition and activity are two of the most important staples of leading a healthy lifestyle. And while a lot of what we focus on here is activity (more specifically, being active on trails), we cannot forget the importance of eating well, whether it’s for running competitive ultras or for just being the healthiest version of yourself.

The new Canada’s Food Guide (CFG), released last month, is the latest in a long line of federal government publications designed to help Canadians eat more nutritionally. The CFG can be traced back to WW II, when the Federal Government was trying to encourage rationing as well as promote healthier eating.

Reading some of the comments after the most recent CFG release, one might think we had just entered an Orwellian world where we are being told what we can and cannot eat. The word ‘Guide’ appeared to have been misinterpreted as ‘Law’, with the assumption that the government was now mandating what we consume. Expect strict enforcement with door-to-door visits by the CFG Police ensuring your consumption of sugar and processed foods is down or risk fine and/or imprisonment…

Others have said the guide is a waste of tax payers’ money because nobody pays attention to it, as evidenced by the growing rates of obesity and generally poor nutrition habits. Let’s reverse that thinking a bit – generally poor nutrition habits and chronic diseases are increasing…so the government should do less to help prevent these diseases. Oh, but continue to pay for treatment of them. Uhmmm, “an ounce of prevention vs a pound of cure”, anyone?

Risking going out on a limb here, I’m going to express my opinion that I like this particular edition of the Guide. I think the previous version from 2007 was, as many noted, more cumbersome and difficult to immediately understand. And, let’s face it, if it’s not easy to understand at a simple glance, many people may not examine it any further.

I also like and respect the recommendations to a more plant-based approach, which research is continuing to demonstrate is healthier for us and the planet.

The basic elements of the Guide are:

  • eat lots of vegetables and fruits
  • eat more plant-based proteins
  • choose whole vs processed or refined grains
  • limit your consumption of processed foods (because they’re bad for you and they generally taste bad), and
  • drink more water instead of sugary drinks (including fruit juices).

Pretty simple stuff. Pretty straightforward reminders, with lots more detail (including science) to support and back up these recommendations if you’re so inclined.

One of the things I really like about the CFG is the recommendations that go beyond the food items themselves. Several simple but important reminders for us all:

Be mindful of your eating habits – which involves being aware of the following:

  • how you eat
  • why you eat
  • what you eat
  • when you eat
  • where you eat
  • how much you eat

Other simple reminders include to cook more (vs going out for meals or simply warming some processed food in the microwave); to enjoy your food (often related to cooking your food); and to eat with others (one of the most important, I think, and related to enjoying your food).

So, no, Winston, the federal government is not mandating what and how you eat. They, along with nutrition experts from across the country and beyond, are simply trying to help you, me and everyone else live healthier lives. If that ends up saving them money in expensive treatments, great! That’s your money they’re saving, by the way.

What are your thoughts on the Food Guide?

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