The new Canada Food Guide was unveiled last week, turning a new page for health initiatives in the country. In a big update from its 2007 predecessor, the new guide ditched traditional food groups, serving sizes, and fruit juice, while promoting plant-based proteins on a new level.
What the New Canada Food Guide Gets Right
But to effectively promote wellness, we need to adopt a multi-pronged approach. That’s why I was thrilled to see the Canada Food Guide explicitly endorse cooking at home and enjoying meals with others.
The message here? Use your lifestyle to your advantage. Your actions can be a medicine against the chronic illnesses we see from unhealthy eating and sedentariness.
To promote this, we decided last summer to take on offering a program called CHIP, the Complete Health Improvement Program. CHIP covers all the key elements for wellness – physical activity, healthy food habits, adequate sleep, social engagement – and I was amazed at how well the new Canada Food Guide fits into this.
At the expense of meat and dairy, Health Canada now encourages people to focus on getting their protein from plants, in foods like tofu, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, and beans.
Plant-Based Proteins Over Meat
Now, they’re not saying you should become vegan (and neither is CHIP), but making your diet more plant-based is good for your health.
It can seem overwhelming at first, or even unappealing. Some people have the idea that healthy eating means having a lunch of celery and raw carrots – this simply isn’t true.
When you learn what these foods do for your body, it starts to make a lot of sense. Plant-based proteins help prevent chronic illness and promote overall heart health and wellness.
This is why CHIP marries so well with the Canada Food Guide. The program starts with educating you on why this is important, then shows you how to implement it into your life in a practical way.
Without some guidance, transitioning to a more plant-based diet can be challenging. The density of the foods is different, meaning it can take some guess work to get your portions right.
The preparation works differently, too, which is why cooking at home is essential. A lot goes on behind the scenes when food is being processed or whipped up at your local burger joint.
It’s for these same reasons fruit juice is no longer recommended. When fruits are processed, preservatives are added along with sugar, making them no substitute for biting into an orange or apple.
CHIP takes the complications out of this, and soon things like portion sizes and food prep become intuitive.
And there are tangible benefits, too. Replacing empty carbs with healthy proteins can free you from that afternoon crash that usually kicks in around 2:30.
You’ll also notice your preferences changing. After a few weeks in CHIP, one of our staff was really looking forward to a hot dog on his ‘cheat day,’ but in the moment, felt much less excited about it than anticipated.
CHIP and the Canada Food Guide
I expect the recent attention the Canada Food Guide has called to this will lead to more plant-based options showing up in restaurants, offices, and cafeterias. Here in Edmonton we were recently lucky to welcome Copper Branch – the world’s largest vegan restaurant chain – to our hometurf.
Employers can play a role in this as well by offering healthier options to staff. Instead of bringing donuts to the next meeting, grab a tray of veggies and a healthy hummus or bean dip; order vegan chilli (which is surprisingly delicious) and skip pizza at the next staff lunch.
Employers can also encourage staff to take their lunches together and at the same time.
Don’t eat at your desk while reading emails and don’t do it at home in front of the TV either. Take time to actually eat your meal, enjoy the taste, have a conversation, and take a break from everything else. This is as much a part of wellness as eating healthy and being active are.
We’re going to be starting CHIP up again this spring and we’d be thrilled if you could join us, either in person or online.
Again, the aim isn’t to turn you into a vegan. Many of my staff participated in our initial launch of the CHIP program, and all consume more plant-based protein now, but they still enjoy some meat and diary.
The goal is complete and holistic health improvement, which CHIP has been proven to achieve. This includes eating, but only as a component, along with social engagement, physical activity, mental health, sleep, and much more.
If you’re interested in more information, get in touch or click ‘Contact Us’ below!
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