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Canada’s New Food Guide: Good for our health and good for the environment

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Though it was a long time coming, Canada’s new food guide has been released to great acclaim and is being praised country-wide by advocates of local, healthy eating.

In our work to encourage individuals and institutions to put healthy, local and sustainable food on their menus, Équiterre is one of those happy advocates. So how exactly does the new food guide align these values and what does it recommend? Three important things.

Number one, the new guide puts food back at the centre of a healthy diet. It says that we should eat less processed food, more plant-based protein, less animal protein, more whole grain foods (which are now more clearly defined) and plenty of fruits and vegetables—enough to fill half our plates. And many of the products in each food group are available in Quebec and Canada.

You may have also noticed that about twenty local foods, which you can buy directly from local farmers, take centre stage on the plate featured on the food guide’s new illustration of the ideal meal.

Combine this variety of healthy foods with organic farming and soil-regenerative agricultural practices and we have a winning formula: one that’s good for the environment, good for our health and good for local producers. That’s the spirit behind Équiterre’s Family Farmers Network, which has been providing over 20,000 families a year with local food for nearly two decades.

The second thing that Health Canada (finally!) encourages us to do is to rethink what we eat: to question our intake of empty calories, which are generally overpackaged, expensive, resource-intensive and not beneficial to our health, our environment or our wallets. We can take it a step further by making sustainable choices when we purchase our food and by working toward zero-waste living.

The third recommendation is to cook more often. And once again, a great recommendation! Good for our health, for our family, for education and for the planet. Here’s to more quality time in the kitchen, learning cooking skills and teaching them to our children—and less time at the shopping mall, for instance. It’s easier on your wallet too. When you make conscientious food choices that are tasty too, the recipe is sure to be a winner.

The most encouraging thing about the new guide, however, and for future public policies, is that Health Canada did not let industry interests affect its recommendations, moving us all in the right direction. Let's hope now that Health Canada will do the same facing the petrochemical industry that is flooding us with pesticides.

By Colleen Thorpe, Director of Équiterre's Educational Programs