Last month the Government of Canada came out with a new Canada’s Food Guide that is radically different from the old one. This new guide was formed with a lot of public input, whereas previous versions were influenced heavily by industry input, which was evident in the strong focus on dairy, meat and grains. In this blog I’d like to summarize some of the good and bad in the new guide (in case you haven’t perused it yet), and give you some tips on how the guide can be easily modified for gut-health.
A SUMMARY OF CANADA’S FOOD GUIDE
Here are some of the great things about the new guide that you’ll want to include:
- choose healthy fats: healthy fats are incredibly important, but the Food Guide missed the mark with healthy fat recommendations (see below). Recommended fats that you can keep are olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds.
- water as your main drink
- limit processed foods
- be aware of food marketing
- mindful eating
- eat with others
For more information on these recommendations go to Canada’s Food Guide and click on Food Choices and Eating Habits.
Here are some of the NOT so great things - make sure to avoid these:
- breakfast recipes included with the guide are very carb/grain heavy. Eating the suggested breakfasts can set you up for blood sugar imbalances for the rest of the day.
- corn, canola, peanut, soybean, safflower and sunflower oils are listed as healthy fats, and saturated fats are still considered bad. Butter/ ghee and coconut oil, and saturated fats from pasture raised animals are fats that have many health benefits. Butter is a good source of butyrate, which is important for colon and brain health, and vitamin A (retinol), which supports repair of the gut lining and other epithelial tissues. Coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides, which rapidly convert to ketones in the body and provide energy. Ketones can benefit the brain, and improve biomarkers associated with heart disease (1).
- the grains and legumes recommended in the Food Guide can be okay for some individuals when they are prepared using traditional methods of preparation that include soaking and sprouting, but these foods are problematic for so many people, and in most cases they are not prepared using traditional cooking methods.
A GUT-HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE
It’s pretty easy to fit a Gut-Healthy model into Canada’s Food Guide. I’ve kept the same basic framework of dividing your plate into 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/4, but have switched the contents up a little bit. I’ve included some images of my recent meals, so have a look!
- Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, rutabaga and cabbage, or colourful veggies such as beets, carrots, asparagus and squashes.
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with animal protein that includes pasture-raised meats, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild fatty fish. Meat stocks and bone broths would fit into this category as an important part of a gut-healthy diet.
- Fill 1/4 of your plate with gut-healthy carbohydrates. These will vary depending on what protocol you are on. Fruit fits into this category, and tubors such as sweet potatoes and yams are good if you are on an autoimmune or paleo protocol. If you are on an SCD or GAPS diet, then tubors aren’t normally a part of these protocols, but you may be able to tolerate them cooked and cooled (like a cold potato salad). If you have IBS or SIBO, then tubors are out for now. Honey is well tolerated by most people, and fits into this category.
- Add healthy fat to all your meals. Olive oil drizzled over salads or into soups and stews is great. Cooking vegetables in coconut oil or fat rendered from a pastured animal is yummy, and healthy too!
Remember that this is a framework to start from. We all have different needs, and you have to listen to your body. If you are thriving on a ketogenic diet, then filling 1/4 of your plate with carbs doesn’t work. If you are struggling with hormonal issues or hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction, then you may need a few more carbs. If you have SIBO, then initially you won’t have any carbs, and will then slowly build the amount up as you undergo treatment with a qualified practitioner.
FOR KIDS!: These recommendations are for adults! Children often need higher amounts of protein and carbohydrates, so you can add more fruit, tubors or animal proteins. If you have a picky eater, then don’t worry about specific quantities - just stick with gut-healthy foods.
As you can see from some of my meals, I end up roughly following the guidelines, but am not a stickler about it. While many of my meals don’t contain carbs, I put honey in my tea everyday, so get some extra carbs there, and I like to indulge in homemade chocolate and coconut or almond flour muffins that are also sweetened with honey. In the summer I eat more fruit than I do in the winter, but in the winter I have more root vegetables, so my sources of carbs vary depending on the time of year.
Do you agree with my Gut-Healthy version of Canada’s Food Guide? Let me know if you find it helpful to think of your meals using the 1/2 - 1/4 - 1/4 breakdown as a guideline.
Happy, Healthy Eating!