When I question what Canada’s Food Guide is teaching our kids about healthy eating, I must consider what guidelines I could give them that would help them be the healthiest, happiest, longest living children on the planet.
So why wouldn’t we logically look towards the trustworthy publication put out by the all-knowing authority that creates Canada’s Food Guide, (or the US Food Pyramid for that matter)? Well, because despite the fact that we have a relatively high standard of living and have a government that supports the self-proclaimed superior western medical model, we certainly aren’t topping the longevity list for living the longest, healthiest lives. Why aren’t we? And who is? This really causes me to wonder if we are teaching our children the right thing…
It is well documented and accepted that diet determines about one third of the longevity equation. So when asking the question, what should we be teaching our kids about healthy eating, it makes most sense to begin by examining what the healthiest populations on the planet eat, those that can lay claim to being right at the top for longevity rates. What do they have in common? What foods do they eat more of? Less of?
Here is what I found:
The Okinawa population in Japan is the oldest, healthiest demographic in the world, and a 25 year study was conducted with conclusions that stated their diet is “lower in calories, carbs and salt and higher in nutrients such as calcium, iron, and vitamins” than their Japanese counterparts. It was also found that they “eat as low down the food chain as possible,” including “very low meat intake”.
And within Italy there exists another little miracle population, so called the ‘village of eternal youth’ by scientists since their elderly live to a healthy 95 (as opposed to a sick 95). Tracy Lawson went so far as to live in the village for three years with this population and she reported her findings. “The people there live in harmony with the land, the seasons, and each other. A Mediterranean diet is widely accepted as one of the healthiest in the world and theirs is described as hyper-Mediterranean.” And here are the secrets she discovered: olive oil, garlic, shallots, onions, and red wine (no problem!!), lots of fruits and vegetables, eating food in season, less red meat and butter, only lean meat when it is consumed, oily fish often, and beans and legumes usually, to replace meat protein.
Okay, so I then decided to look deeper into the diet plan that does the best job of eating low on the food chain: plant-based diets, and find out if there is any additional evidence out there that confirms this type of diet is superior. Let me tell you, I not only found evidence, but found the research to be extensive and the evidence plentiful! This link takes you to a site with further links to many studies. In addition, this site shows an example of a new food guide idea that proponents of plant-based diets have created to encourage new thinking. Much clinical research and many well respected studies have been conducted about the role of plant-based foods and have documented its ability to reduce disease, and have “revolutionized our thinking about heart-healthy foods.” And if you do your own research, you will find sites such as this one that outline plant-based foods high in protein, eliminating the need for red meat to get sufficient amounts. And still other studies that have urged physicians to incorporate this knowledge into their practice and spread the word!
Canada’s Food Guide – A Criticism
So what, again, is the word we are spreading and teaching to our kids about healthy eating? And why aren’t we being revolutionary? Canada’s Food Guide and the USDA Food Guide both give guidelines based on eating reasonable serving sizes from each of the categories daily, and both have categories for grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, here is where the discrepancies lie (excuse the pun):
Both guides teach our children that they should be consuming daily doses of meat – a diet practice that has been proven to be far inferior to consuming other protein sources! Both guides even name one of their overall categories MEAT and consider the proven healthier options (yes, proven) as ‘alternatives’. In fact, the US Food Pyramid proclaims that meat is an excellent source of protein for our bodies, and on its list of suggested lean choices for this entire category, red meats are the first four and fish is only at the bottom! Haven’t the studies conducted by our very own physicians, in regards to red meat versus other types of protein consumption, shown that the list should be in the opposite order, and that the other protein sources, so-called ‘alternatives’ should be now placed at the top?!
When looking further at the food guides with a critical eye, I became very suspicious of another overall category: MILK. Both guides heavily advocate for milk, Canada’s Food Guide suggesting that we drink two cups every day, and the US Food Pyramid claiming that milk is the best source of calcium that exists. Really? Nowhere in the studies of the healthiest populations on the planet does it say they consume a couple of glasses of milk as a key component of their health and longevity secret. Strange then for milk to rank so high by our food guides that it too gets its very own category. I definitely needed to learn more about this.
I became even more disheartened by the food guides and the message being sent to our kids about healthy eating when I found out that for this too, there are many respected studies out there that actually prove milk to be an inferior source of calcium. What I learned is that many varieties of plant foods contain more calcium and contain calcium in a form that is much better absorbed by your body. These foods also provide your body with many other nutrients you need at the same time, something milk does not. In fact, milk has been proven (yes, by physicians, through multiple clinical trials, documented in medical journals) to DEPLETE your body of calcium. If you are questioning the milk myth yourself, here and here are a couple of links that inform you of how, in reality, milk depletes calcium and both contain references and/or links to studies that support this finding. Not to mention the links to studies that prove the multitude of other risks associated with milk consumption (including cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease).
And to further criticize the guides, why does Canada’s Food Guide suggest we LIMIT trans fat? Shouldn’t it be telling us to ELIMINATE trans fat given the fact that this man-made fat is horrifically linked to heart disease? Why can’t I find anywhere in the food guides anything about eating raw vegetables, when possible, to maximize nutrients? Why don’t the guides teach our children the skills they need to learn food combining as it is so important to getting the right amount of protein and calcium from the absolute best sources – plant-based foods? Why isn’t the food guide pointing out that olive oil is far superior to any other? And at the very least, why doesn’t it teach about the difference in food quality, red meat especially, and the fact that eating no meat or only organic, free-range meat is a necessary choice over other red meats that are cheaper but proven to be top cancer causers?
Canada’s Food Guide – In the Classroom
Canada’s Food Guide directs the curriculum our children are learning in their classrooms. And so I continue to question…Shouldn’t the classroom be leading edge? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children the most current information, and teaching them to view both the old and the new with their own critical eye? Why are we using this old fashioned, well-disputed, very flawed guide when we have access to much better information? And if Health Canada is to slow to change its publication, why isn’t the curriculum itself modified to require that students look at this guide critically and consider the evidence available to us? Why wouldn’t we want the children in our country to be taught the very best information and become the healthiest kids on the planet?
And my biggest question: why haven’t the food guides modified their milk and meat category names to ones that coincide with the nutrients they provide rather than a food type that has extensive research that opposes its benefits?
That leads me to question yet another thing….who is benefiting from continuing to send these out-dated messages to our children?? I have my suspicions….but maybe that is something for a different day….and a different post….
One thing I do know, is that I cannot deny the evidence that is out there. And now, armed with this knowledge, I must follow the old adage, when you know better you do better. I am eager to begin incorporating more plant-based meals into our weekly regimen. And I am eager to spread the word.
Question life, because that is always your prerogative.
Your thoughts and questions? Ideas on how to spread the word? Your plant-based meal ideas?
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