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Honest food guide

New Canadian food guide puts too much emphasis on red meat, dairy, say critics

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: honest food guide, nutrition guidelines, health news


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(NewsTarget) The Canadian government has released a revised food and nutrition guide for the first time in more than 10 years but critics say that the guide overemphasizes unhealthier foods, including red meat and dairy.

The food guide is Canada's second-most requested government document, after tax forms. The government spent $1.5 million and four years revising it since the last version, with consultations from more than 7,000 "stakeholders" including dairy, meat and egg producers. Approximately 2 million copies are distributed yearly.

Some of the guide's revisions have been praised by health advocates. For example, it recommends limiting trans fats and foods high in saturated fats and sugar. It encourages more consumption of fruits and vegetables, along with 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise a day for adults.

Other recommendations have been more controversial. For example, the guide explicitly recommends that people consume 2 to 3 tablespoons of unsaturated fat (such as from vegetable oil) per day. It also suggests drinking two cups of milk to ensure adequate vitamin D intake, even though the body can synthesize vitamin D with only a few minutes' daily exposure to sunlight. Critics point out that without explicit calorie guidelines, following these recommendations could lead to weight gain in people of a previously healthy weight.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a specialist in obesity medicine, uses the example of a sedentary, middle-aged woman of average height to highlight this problem:

"[The new food guide] explicitly tells her to consume two glasses of 2 percent milk and three tablespoons of unsaturated fat [per day]," he said. "Together those two choices would constitute over one-third of her total daily calories."

Two cups of 2 percent milk contain 244 calories. Even skim milk contains 90 calories per cup.

"The new food guide is not a weight-loss tool of a diet system," said Dr. David Butler Jones, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer. Instead, he said, the guide is intended to help people make healthy dietary choices.

NewsTarget.com offers an unbiased, free, downloadable food guide at http://www.honestfoodguide.org .

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