Thank you for the opportunity to provide opening remarks on the revision of Canada's Food Guide. I'm very pleased to be here to discuss this important initiative.
Canada's Food Guide has a long tradition of providing Canadians with healthy eating information. Since 1942, the food guide has not wavered from its original purpose of guiding food selection and promoting the nutritional health of Canadians.
The importance of promoting healthy eating and the challenge posed by obesity and nutrition-related chronic diseases have never been greater. Today, more than one in five Canadians live with chronic diseases, and rates are rising every year.
Even more disturbing is that risk conditions like obesity and hypertension are now starting to show up in children, which places them at higher risk for chronic diseases later in life.
The science has established again and again that poor diet is a primary risk factor for these conditions. This is why Health Canada launched the comprehensive healthy eating strategy in October 2016. The healthy eating strategy is made up of complementary, mutually reinforcing initiatives that will make it easier for Canadians to make healthier choices for themselves and their families.
For instance, take the shopping experience. We want to make it easier for Canadians by using a revised food guide for planning, by using tools such as the updated nutrition facts table and the proposed front-of-package labels to select healthier foods, and by having a food supply with lower amounts of sodium and no industrial trans fats.
Therefore the strategy includes important mandate commitments to promote public health by restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children; eliminating trans fat and reducing salt; and improving labelling on packaged foods, including front-of-pack labelling initiatives.
Revising Canada's Food Guide is a fundamental component of the healthy eating strategy.
The food guide is a very important and significant evidence-based policy vehicle. This revision is undertaken with great seriousness by those of us in the department and others across Canada, because Canada's food guide is used to define what healthy eating means, as well as underpinning policies and programs where Canadians live, work, and play.
Canadians and stakeholders have high expectations for the revision of Canada's food guide, and we are up to the challenge. We are committed to ensuring that the food guide remains evidence-based, is linked to public health priorities, and effectively communicates healthy eating guidance to Canadians. These are all elements that were highlighted in the Senate report on obesity.
It was with this in mind that we implemented an evidence review cycle in 2013 to allow for the regular review of the evidence underpinning Canada's food guide and other guidance documents. While we've always reviewed the evidence base, we now have formalized our process.
The review confirmed that Canadians are not consuming enough plant-based foods, like vegetables and fruit, and that they are consuming too many foods and beverages high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. We also found that the current Canada's food guide is not meeting the communications needs of all users. Some want simplified messages, and others want more information, including the evidence behind the healthy eating recommendations.
There are high levels of integration of the food guide into policies and programs; however, there are challenges in interpreting and applying guidance, especially the serving sizes.
As we revise the food guide, we also need to consider the changing environment, which is increasingly cluttered with competing and often conflicting messages. This erodes public confidence in our healthy eating guidance. Canadians will be reassured that the new food guide is trustworthy if they know and have confidence that Health Canada is reviewing the evidence during the revision process.
Revisions to the food guide will be guided by the best available evidence to support the health of Canadians, including the 2015 “Evidence review for dietary guidance”. We recognize the importance of understanding the totality of the evidence base and continue to monitor the most recent data on healthy eating. We consider relevant evidence such as high-quality, peer-reviewed systematic reviews, and reports from leading scientific organizations and government agencies, including the World Health Organization, World Cancer Research Fund, and the U.S. dietary guidance committees.
For instance, there is strong convincing evidence that diets higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and fish, and lower in red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including risk factors such as high blood pressure and elevated blood lipids.
Sodium, sugars, and saturated fat continue to be nutrients of public health concern. There is strong convincing evidence that higher intakes of sodium have been associated with higher risk of high blood pressure. There is strong convincing evidence that higher intakes of added sugars from foods and/or sugar-sweetened beverages have been associated with higher risk of increased body weight in children and in adults, and type 2 diabetes in adults. Higher intakes of sugar-containing beverages has been associated with higher risk of poor oral health in children as well.
There is strong convincing evidence that lower intakes of saturated fat, when replaced by unsaturated fat, are associated with lower risk of increased LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, as well as a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
The new food guide will also take into consideration the context in which food choices are made, including food supply, current patterns of consumption, behaviours associated with food choices, as well as how dietary guidance is used and implemented.
This will result in a new food guide that provides a foundation for healthy eating. This includes encouraging the regular intake of nutritious food and beverages as part of a foundation for healthy eating, describing the types of food and beverages that have the potential to negatively impact health, and acknowledging skills and knowledge as a practical way to support healthy eating.
The revision of Canada's Food Guide is taking into consideration the cultural diversity of Canada and the broader context within which food choices are made. This means that we are considering that the types of food available to Canadians vary across the country and access to nutritious food can be a challenge for some.
Our aim is to revise the food guide to reflect new evidence and communicate our guidance in ways that better meet the needs of different users, including health professionals, policy-makers, and the general public. Therefore, an important part of this work is considering the views of stakeholders, experts, and the general public.
We are consulting a broad range of stakeholders and Canadians to promote the involvement of, and consider the views and perspectives of, a wide variety of participants who are interested in or affected by the revision. This includes provincial and territorial governments, non-government organizations, health professionals, academics, and consumers. Canadians from across the country, from varying backgrounds, areas of expertise and interest have provided input into the revision of Canada's Food Guide.
To maintain public confidence in the revision process, my office—that includes me—is not meeting with representatives from the food and beverage industry during the policy development of the new Canada's food guide. However, all stakeholders and Canadians, including industry, were invited to provide input through online public consultations. In fall 2016 we asked stakeholders and Canadians about their needs and expectations for a revised food guide. In summer 2017 we asked for feedback on our proposed healthy eating recommendations. The level of interest in these consultations speaks to the importance of Canada's food guide to stakeholders and Canadians.
About 20,000 submissions were made to the consultation in fall 2016, with approximately 6,700 contributions to the consultation this past summer. As part of our commitment to openness and transparency, we are making more information available to Canadians and stakeholders. This includes making the results of our consultations publicly available through “what we heard” reports, as well as making stakeholder correspondences and meetings publicly available.
Input from public consultations and experts, along with focus testing with the public, will be considered as we finalize the suite of Canada's food guide tools and resources. The new food guide will look very different from the current six-page version. We are changing the way we communicate our dietary guidance to provide relevant, consistent, and credible dietary guidance to Canadians. New healthy eating recommendations and supporting resources for Canadians will begin to be released starting in 2018. They will include a dietary guidance policy for policy-makers and health professionals and supporting resources for Canadians.
We are confident with the process that we are undertaking to revise Canada's food guide. We are using the best and most relevant recent evidence in our decision-making, and consulting Canadians to ensure that our guidance is useful and relevant. The potential to affect the nutritional health of Canadians is real. Canada's food guide will continue to play a critical role in defining and promoting healthy eating. The new food guide will make an important contribution to the long-term health of Canadians as a fundamental component of the healthy eating strategy. We want to make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians.
Honourable members of the Standing Committee on Health, thank you for inviting us to appear before you to discuss the revision of Canada's Food Guide.
My name is Nathalie Savoie. I'm the chief executive officer for Dietitians of Canada.
Dietitians of Canada is the national professional association for registered dieticians. We aim to advance health through food and nutrition and to provide leadership in shaping food and nutrition policy. Dietitians are passionate about food. There are more than 10,000 dieticians in Canada. We all share a deep appreciation of food and a curiosity to understand the science behind it. Like all regulated health professionals, we undergo comprehensive and rigorous training both on the job and in university. You can find dietitians working everywhere, including in health care, education, government, media, the food industry, business, and many other sectors.
Dietitians of Canada and our members are pleased to see many advances in food and nutrition policy within the mandate of this government. We fully support Health Canada's healthy eating strategy, which aims to create food environments in Canada that make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians. We've provided input to consultations on marketing to children, front-of-package labelling, prohibiting partially hydrogenated oils, and sodium reduction. We also support “A Food Policy for Canada” led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which is designed to set “a long-term vision for the health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food”. We applaud the broad interdepartmental collaboration.
The dietary guidance policy document and suite of public education tools will be the foundation to guide food selection and promote the nutritional health of Canadians. Dietitians of Canada and our members have provided input to part one and part two of the dietary guidance consultations, incorporating input from more than 800 members from all areas of practice.
Our members have a high level of agreement with the scope and accuracy of Health Canada's evidence review, as we indicated in our response to part one of the consultation. The evidence review cycle for dietary guidance is Health Canada's systematic approach to gathering and analyzing scientific and population data relevant to dietary guidance. Dr. Hutchinson talked a bit about that. In that review, the most convincing evidence is related to healthy dietary patterns—the combination of higher consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and seafood, and the lower consumption of red and processed meats, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. We concur with this conclusion.
In part two of the consultation, Dietitians of Canada members were in general agreement with the evidence-based guiding principles and considerations, understanding this dietary guidance as a health driver contributing to food policy in Canada. As health practitioners and knowledge translation experts, dietitians had many recommendations for Health Canada. The interpretation section under each guiding principle—explaining what this means for Canadians, for instance—we found excellent, but we recommended an additional interpretation around what this will mean for food policy in Canada in order to position health as a driver in the interdepartmental work on a food policy.
We need system-level policy to improve food environments, with stores and food services consistently offering healthier choices so that it's easier and more accessible for all Canadians to choose the healthy foods recommended. We have a lot of food choice in Canada, but it's not all healthy.
Now I will share some examples of what dieticians specifically said to Health Canada in response to the guiding principles and considerations described in the consultation, part two. The first guiding principle was about what to eat:
||A variety of nutritious foods and beverages are the foundation for healthy eating.
More specifically, it called for:
||Regular intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein-rich foods—especially plant-based sources of protein
||Inclusion of foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat, instead of foods that contain mostly...saturated fat
We recommended that Health Canada have more clarity in their message about “especially plant-based” protein in order to ensure consistent messaging in the future and avoid misunderstanding.
We asked also for food-based directional statements, if “protein-rich foods” was to be the language in public education tools. We felt that the public would need direction to make sure they get adequate intake of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron in that group.
We also asked for more clarity about “replacement of saturated fat by polyunsaturated fat”. What does it look like in terms of food choices? We felt that the elimination of artificial trans fats, mandatory by the end of next summer, will already improve the profile of fat intake in Canada.
We also recommended including a reference to policy for drinkable water in all communities across Canada as a mandatory standard. Again, we recommended integration of environmental considerations to preserve water resources and reduce dependence on bottled water. With respect to population-specific guidance that our members work with daily, we recommended more age-specific guidance, such as that for children and for adults over 70, and we acknowledged that changes are needed in the indigenous food guide, emphasizing that Health Canada must consult directly with indigenous educators and traditional knowledge keepers to identify what tools are needed.
Guiding principle two described what to limit or avoid to maximize benefits to health, and it talked about processed or prepared foods and beverages high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fats. With this particular guiding principle, we recommended including a clear definition of what prepared or processed food means. For example, frozen vegetables or frozen fruits are industry-processed, but they contain no added sugar and no added salt.
We also recommended including direction about limiting red meat and avoiding processed meats—it's in the evidence review but it's not there in the dietary guidance—and also including facts about alcohol and Canada's low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines in public education tools. We advocated again for nutrition facts table information to be mandatory for all standardized industrially processed foods, such as deli foods in grocery stores and foods in chain restaurants, and we suggested that more discussion is needed about policies that will encourage industry reformulation to reduce added sugars, especially in foods and beverages that also contain natural or intrinsic sugars, such as, for example, flavoured milk, or flavoured soy beverages, or canned fruit.
Guiding principle three was about the knowledge and skills that are needed to navigate the complex food environment and support healthy eating. This would be a new addition to Canada's food guide. Our feedback to Health Canada was very supportive. It addresses both how to eat, which is important, and the need for food literacy and food skills. Dietitians are uniquely qualified and positioned to help Canadians navigate the food environment to achieve healthier outcomes. It's our specialty. We collaborate with our patients, our clients, the industry, government leaders, and communities to deliver reliable life-changing advice.
In closing, we commend Health Canada on taking a broader approach to eating; providing evidence-based guidance on food and beverage choices; acknowledging the importance of eating habits, food environments, and food literacy; and adding a layer of considerations that include the determinants of health, cultural diversity, and environmental sustainability.
Dietitians are passionate about the potential of food to enhance lives and improve health. We applaud the government's commitment to advancing food and nutrition policy in Canada. As leaders in advancing health through food, Dietitians of Canada and our members look forward to our continued collaboration with the government to shape the future of eating and healthy living for all Canadians.
Honourable members and invited guests, thank you for this opportunity to reflect on revisions to Canada's food guide.
Canada's food guide, which was first released in 1942 as Canada's official food rules, has been a pivotal document for both individual counselling and policy. As a representative of the Canadian Paediatric Society, the CPS, I wish to acknowledge our support of the government's commitment to review and enhance food policy in Canada, including ongoing assessments and revisions of Canada's food guide.
The CPS is a voluntary professional association representing more than 3,000 pediatricians, subspecialists, residents, and others who care for children and youth. The CPS is committed to advancing the health of children and youth by nurturing excellence in health care, advocacy, education, research, and support of its members. Our current strategic framework is guided by the principles of nurturing every child's promise, ensuring access to care, and achieving equity.
As professionals dedicated to improving the health of children and youth, we are acutely aware of the importance of healthy nutrition in optimizing children's health and development. We are also cognizant of the important influence that families and the food environment play in the quality and quantity of foods consumed.
Daily, we are confronted with the effects of poor nutrition on our children and youth. Non-communicable, nutrition-related chronic diseases place a staggering burden on Canadians and Canadian society. This is reflected by increased morbidity, increased health care utilization, decreased quality of life, premature mortality, and reduced economic productivity. Most important, these diseases are largely preventable and often begin in childhood.
It is through this perspective of maximizing beneficial impacts on the health of children and youth that I will focus many of my comments today.
The CPS has been following the current process for revisions to Canada's food guide. We are aware of Canada's healthy eating strategy, initiatives to reduce sugar consumption, and the nutrition north Canada program. The CPS has a history of working closely with Health Canada and other associations.
The CPS has been encouraged by Health Canada's process in revising Canada's food guide. Enabling significant public consultation and restricting the potential adverse influence of industry are positive components. Health Canada's proposed guiding principles are succinct, evidence-based, and comprehensive. The recognition of the importance of providing guidance in the Canadian context with the integration of the concepts of the socio-economic determinants of health, cultural diversity, and environmental sustainability is vital.
Specifically, we are supportive of the advice provided in the proposed guiding principles of encouraging water consumption, the regular intake of a diversity of fruits and vegetables, and increasing plant-based sources of protein. We are supportive of limiting the intake of processed and prepared foods high in sodium, salts, and saturated fats, as well as the avoidance of beverages high in sugars. We agree with recognizing the essential importance of food literacy and skills in selection and preparation. On an associated topic, we strongly support Health Canada's decision to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils in foods.
It is our hope and expectation that the proposed guiding principles will be adequately reflected in the advice and tools developed by Health Canada in the revised Canada food guide.
There are, however, a few issues to highlight for specific attention. It is important that Canada's food guide continue to be framed as just one component of a national food strategy. Canada's food guide and associated tools must be evidence-based, address cultural variability, and allow practicality of use. It must remain a tool for policy development that can be leveraged to optimize food environments.
It is vital that implementation of the advice provided in Canada's food guide is inclusive of vulnerable populations, including those at risk because of age, literacy, finances, and/or culture. Tools need to be developed specifically to ensure vulnerable populations are reached. For children and youth, this may include formats designed for social media, web- and phone-based applications, and/or the school curriculum. These formats need to be multimodal and attractive for the users. Other groups that will need to be targeted include those consuming alternative diets, such as vegetarian, vegan, and/or gluten free.
Canada's food guide and the associated tools should enable individual users to understand nutrition quality and energy balance.
Youth will need to learn the skills to understand nutrition labelling. Portion size will be a key component to address. This is a complex issue and will vary based on age, gender, and food type. Related to this is the importance of ensuring that appropriate-sized portions are served in restaurants and other venues.
Stringent definitions of what constitutes healthy and unhealthy foods and beverages are vital to consumers and regulators. Specific advice around ways to increase fruit and vegetable intake is needed. This should include education around the benefits of fresh, frozen, and canned food choices when fresh foods are unavailable or more expensive.
Specific education and tools highlighting the beneficial role of adequate fibre in the Canadian diet should be developed.
Effective educational tools and messaging emphasizing the negative impact on health of processed foods high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats is important. Specific attention needs to be directed towards reducing sugar-sweetened beverages.
Consideration would need to be given to how best to present dietary advice in Canada's food guide. Central to this is the decision regarding whether to categorize based on food type, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, milk and alternatives, or in a manner similar to that utilized in the Brazilian dietary guidelines, in which categorization is based on the level of processing. While there are pros and cons to each approach, a hybrid system incorporating categorization by level of processing within each food type may be a useful model.
As outlined in section D of the proposed guiding principles, recognition of the impacts that food production, distribution, and consumption have on the environment is an important consideration. In addition to supporting health, food policies should promote sustainability of the food supply and minimization of the environmental footprint.
The CPS recognizes that industry plays an important role in shaping our food environment and economy. This role can at times be in alignment with favourable nutritional policy and at other times be contradictory to it. Nevertheless, to protect and promote optimal food environments, effective policies would need to be developed to promote optimal actions from industry.
Associated with this is the importance of protecting children from unfavourable influence from industry. To this end, the CPS supports measures to ban marketing of unhealthy foods to children, the use of taxation policy to discourage consumption of unhealthy foods, and the use of subsidies to encourage consumption of healthy foods.
Policies should also be designed to reduce and eradicate poverty, as this is tightly related to food consumption.
The CPS recognizes that many of these issues are being explored by the present government, such as through Bill .
Policies and tools should encourage and facilitate communities and industries to embrace changes designed to improve the food environment. These would include banning unhealthy foods near and in schools, redesigning grocery and corner stores to present fruits and vegetables in a more attractive setting, supporting the proliferation of local farmers' markets, and increasing access to community centres and fitness facilities. It is hoped that such policies will foster a collegial atmosphere in which all stakeholders, including consumers, policy-makers, and industry, are committed to optimizing and strengthening the living environment for Canadians, that being a healthy population with a high quality of life, living in clean environments, and working in robust economies.
Government must leverage policy and, when needed, legislate mandatory and enforceable regulations on industry to effect the desired changes. We believe such activity can be achieved while enabling a strong Canadian economy. Importantly, Health Canada would need to maintain and enhance its commitment to monitoring the effects of implemented interventions to ensure that the desired changes to food consumption and food environment were achieved. To this end, sufficient funding and even expansion of the Canadian health measures survey on chronic disease and nutrition quality will be needed.
In summary, one of our biggest challenges will be using the knowledge and guidance provided by a revised Canada's food guide to effect the individual and societal changes necessary to maximize health benefits for all Canadians. Considerable thought will need to be invested in developing policy, legislation, tools, and messaging that effectively communicate key information on topics such as nutrient quality, portion size, and healthy, active living. Reaching vulnerable populations, including those separated by education, poverty, language, and/or culture, will need to be a high priority. Education, increased nutritional literacy, development of basic cooking skills, and improved food environments will be needed.
Despite these current issues, Canada sits in a relatively enviable position moving forward. We have some understanding of the magnitude of the problem facing us. We have some understanding of the root causes. We have a fair idea of where we want to be. We have evidence to guide us in making the needed interventions to effect those changes, but it won't be easy. For any complex problem, altering human behaviour and environments can be challenging. There can be inertia to change. There can be opposition to change. Interventions will need to be varied, multi-focal, and integrated. Interventions need to be effective, evidence-based, and inclusive.
Disenfranchised and vulnerable populations need to be specifically targeted. Fortunately, Canada is a country rich in financial, intellectual, and human resources. We have shown a willingness and we have a capacity to effect favourable change for all Canadians. We have a responsibility to do so. Health Canada has been engaged in this process and their continuing leadership is vital.
Some of the things you've mentioned of course relate back to the nutrients of public health concern. When one has diabetes, one wants to look at the sugars coming in. Hypertension is very strongly linked to salt intake, and of course saturated fats are linked to cardiovascular diseases as well.
In our guiding principles, this is really what we're focusing on as well. We really want to get people to make sure they are consuming foods that have lower amounts of these nutrients of public health concern. That goes partway towards really dealing with that. You've actually seen that emphasis but not just in the food guide. In the whole healthy eating strategy, whether we're talking about the front-of-pack proposal that we have out there or whether with the proposal on marketing to kids that we're looking at right now, those nutrients of public health concern come through. That consideration will be reflected in the types of guides we come forward with. It will be reflected in the policies we're developing. These policies, of course, get picked up by the provinces and the territories and are incorporated into their programs. It will also be picked up by the health professionals like my colleague Nathalie Savoie here and make it easier for them to move forward with that.
Then of course there's the whole side with respect to education, communicating that message out there. We're trying to take a very different approach there as well. We know that it's sometimes quite difficult to get the information on our website. We're taking a very deep dive into creating a new mobile-friendly web portal that should make it a lot easier whether on your phone, your tablet, or your computer. It just makes it a lot easier to get that information. We're trying to develop it in such a way that it is really readily accessible as well. As part of that, of course, we hope that we will be able to develop more focused sorts of messages for different sorts of folks.
We talk about different types of diseases, chronic diseases. We have been working very closely over the last 18 months with the Canadian Diabetes Association, with Heart and Stroke, with the cancer folks, as well as with a whole series of health professionals as well. We're trying to make sure we develop policies and messages that can really be used by all so that we get away from this sort of confusion in the different types of messages that you get together.
Tomorrow, we're actually meeting with Ms. Savoie's folks for, I think, the fifth time in this process to go through and say, “This is what you said to us, and this is how we've incorporated it into our work going forward”. The idea is that by working closely with these different disease-specific groups or health professionals, we actually construct policy and we construct messages that are really applicable for all, and then they get a reinforcement. We reinforce each other instead of giving conflicting messages.
I sometimes think the response we got in the media took away from the words we actually had in the consultation, but it has become obvious to us that there was a problem of interpretation. We are taking the advice we've heard, and we've heard it from other places as well. We're looking at that.
Secondly, with respect to high-fat milk for young children, in no way or form do we want to restrict high-fat milk, when you're actually giving milk. That's certainly something our other witness has been involved with, nutrition for healthy-term infants. We're very clear on that as well.
As to where you go with really high in saturated fats, there is very strong and convincing evidence for wanting to reduce saturated fats, but by substituting in unsaturated fats. I think we got into problems before with the messages that were out there over the last 25 to 30 years to decrease total fat. What that did, as things became reformulated, was to substitute in sugars and salt, so you fixed one thing but then you created all sorts of other problems.
We want to make sure that we don't go down that particular road. That's partially what's behind our thinking in terms of focusing on those three nutrients of public health concern at all times. Again, our proposal for front-of-pack is that by having both of those there, you wouldn't see switching from one nutrient and public health concern to the other, and then just reformulating to make things bad. There is certainly that out there.
Now obviously with respect to research, you can basically find whatever you want out there when you go out and search. On this particular question, when we're talking about dietary fats and cardiovascular disease, there is something from the American Heart Association, which put out its position point just earlier this year. It concludes strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fat, especially polyunsaturated fat, will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease. That's at that particular level and everyone has been supporting it.
But they also put out the point that, to the best of their knowledge, and there was quite a large list of experts working with the American Heart Association, no information from controlled studies supports the hypothesis that fermentation adds beneficial nutrients to cheese that counteract the harmful effects of its saturated fat.
Again, one can get different sorts of evidence out there. But when we look at the types of evidence, where we look at these bodies of academics who are evaluating the different types of evidence, where you're sort of grading the evidence, and it's coming from a body that is not being supported by industry, those are the ones that come through quite strongly.
Yes. I think with the latter, we can certainly do a better job at that.
When the last food guide was done, based on the census and who were the most recent people who had arrived, there were two sorts of things that we did. We did translations, of course, but straight translations based on the top 10 recent immigrants over the last 30 years. We worked on that census. We did that, and at least it was available in their language. That was just a straight translation; it was not an adaptation. I have to point that out.
The other thing we did—and I say “we”, but this was before I took over the shop, so it wasn't really my food guide at that point, though now I feel it's mine—when developing the choices of the foods that are available, foods that are on the diagram, we once again looked at who were the recent immigrants. You'll see that there was a much larger variety of different types of ethnic foods, we'll call it—foods that are available for all Canadians—in the 2007 food guide than what there was in 1992.
Also, when you go online, you can create your own food guide for yourself. There are hundreds and hundreds of different sorts of foods that you can select. If you go into the meat and alternative section, you can find all sorts of things, and there are a lot more diagrams. You can select the ones you want, make your own food guide that's particular to you, and you can also print that out in a dozen different languages as well.
We made an effort, and certainly I wouldn't consider that perfect, by any means. Since that time, and it's been a number of years now, we went out across Canada and had meetings with different cultural groups across the country to try to get a bit of a handle on what was working and not working with respect to the food guide and how they see themselves.
That's some of the background information we have to work on right now, as we're putting together this new suite of materials.
Thank you, all, for coming.
I remember as a kid getting the Canada health guide at school. I don't know if they still do that anymore. Do they still pass them out at school? I'd take it home, and I'd show my mother and I'd say, “Mum, we're not eating right” because—check the name—we were a Dutch immigrant family, and we didn't have that diversity. It must have been a pretty healthy diet we had because there was no obesity. We were as healthy as could be.
When I look back, I think that the mealtime really centred around suppertime. There were vegetables, and not a lot of meat. When breakfast was served, we consumed an enormous amount of milk, and I think it was whole milk at the time, too.
I'm not being an advocate for any different group. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it worked for us, for the most part. As we developed and grew out of our culture, we started to expand and see what the rest of the world was eating. Especially when we had a little bit of money, we experimented with so many other things.
It would occur to me at least that we, at this time, know what the human body needs. We should also know where that is available. I'm wondering if the food guide would reflect that and present to Canadians, “Here is your horn of plenty”. We have such a diverse country. It's so magnificent that we have all these different types of foods: “This is what your body needs, knock yourself out.”
Is that something along the lines of what we can expect in our food guide?
Yes. When I think of the input we got when we did the whole evaluation of the use and what people are understanding about it, what we got certainly for your Canadian is that when you are concentrating on so many servings of this particular size, it just becomes confusing. That's where we're trying to figure out how we can go beyond that and have actionable guidance that can be brought into your everyday life, so that when you are out shopping, you have the basic principles that make you choose those foods that are better for you; when you are at home, you know how to do the preparation; and when you are out in restaurants, you have the concepts. We have to have the basic concepts to make it easier for people to incorporate this into their daily lives. That's part of what we're going for.
Madam Savoie mentioned that guiding principle number one is really about a variety of healthy foods. When you said a horn of plenty, it made me think of our guiding principle number one. To a certain extent we were saying knock yourself out with these, have lots of the fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Again, in there we talked about lean meats and eggs and low-fat dairy and stuff like that. Those are the things that I think are foundational to what we want to have as a dietary pattern.
Our guiding principle number two came back to the types of things that we want to make sure have some restrictions, because the food supply is different from when we were younger. It's a while back for me here too.
There is a report out today from the Heart and Stroke that talks about—their terminology is a little different from what we use—“ultra-processed” food. These are foods with lots of these sugars and fats and sodium. They estimated that about in half of the food supply, this is really what you're eating.
We're trying to get people back to having those more basic foods and to preparing them themselves. Dietitians of Canada mentioned that as well.
To me, our guiding principle number three is all about health literacy and health skills. I'm thinking that's almost the most important part of what we're doing here right now. You want to be out there, and if you have family, to be shopping with them. You want to transfer those sorts of skills in food preparation to your family, to be eating together, and getting rid of phones and screens when you're eating, so you eat together as a family. You eat together all the time, and we get away from distracted eating.
That component of what we're bringing forward is as important as the individual types of food, and that's working with the different health professionals who can give that sort of advice. We're working with provinces and territories that can perhaps help in that as well by creating the right types of environments for that.