Canada’s new food guide has been both praised and criticized for its simplicity. Some love the freedom it offers – a step forward from the old, rather rigid, portion sizes and recommended numbers of servings.Another plus is the move to a more plant-based diet: a recommendation that makes sense for both our own personal health and for the health of the planet. Yet another important and welcome aspect of the new guide are the recommendations to cook and eat at home, and where possible to eat with others – emphasizing the incredibly important social aspects of eating, something we’ve long overlooked and undervalued.
On the downside, some have called the new food guide patronizing and deeply lacking in inclusivity and sensitivity to various cultural diets, beginning with the diets of our Indigenous Peoples, who seem to have been largely overlooked in the new guide.
Still others wonder why dairy products have been reduced to such a minor and unimportant role. If the motivation for this is to reduce our dependence on animals as a food source, then why include pictures of eggs, beef, chicken and fish? The infographic that represents the new food guide does not show a single piece of cheese. Canada has a long and important history of cheesemaking. Cheese and other dairy products have been an important part of our diet since the first settlers arrived on the nation’s eastern shores. We are not alone in our relationship with dairy products — the French, who are the biggest per capita consumers of cheese globally and who eat four times more butter and 60 per cent more cheese than almost all of their western counterparts, have lower rates of obesity and significantly lower rates of coronary heart disease. And while cheese may or may not be the reason, the bottom line is that eating dairy products does not appear to have adversely impacted the French.