Food: Eating Well with YOUR Canadian Food Guide

by Aurélie Goudal

On April 25th 2008, the Honourable Tony Clement, Canada’s Minister of Health, announced that, for the first time, Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide was available not just in English and French, but in 10 additional languages including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi (Persian), Korean, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Tamil and Urdu. Don’t worry if you can’t find the Guide in Creole; there are programs in place to have the Guide taught in this language and many others.

Canada’s Food Guide Celebrates its 65th Birthday

The Guide was designed to prevent nutritional deficiencies and to improve the health of Canadians when food was being rationed during World War II. Since then, it has changed many times. The latest version, released in February 2007, is based on current nutritional science. It outlines the amount and types of recommended food and helps Canadians to make healthy food choices. The prevention of chronic diseases played a major role in developing the Guide.

The 2007 Guide recommends that adult woman between 19 to 50 years of age eat 7-8 fruit and vegetable servings (8-10 servings for a man), 6-7 grain products servings (8 servings for a man), 2 milk and alternative servings and 2 meat and alternative servings (3 servings for a man) per day. The Guide encourages 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity per day; checking the nutrition labeling before buying food and limiting foods high in trans-fat. An entire page of the Guide is dedicated to nutritional advice for different ages and stages of life and to the means of calculating the food servings per meal.

The 2007 Guide considers the changing ethnic make-up of Canada by including a range of foods from a variety of ethnic cuisines (Check here). This latest Guide, which is the result of comprehensive research, is more flexible than it has ever been before because it works with the diets of newcomers. It is very important for many reasons.

A Guide More and More Tailored for Newcomers

Huguette A. Jean-Simon is community nutrition assistant with Toronto Public Health. She teaches Canada’s Food Guide to French and/or Creole-speaking African and West Indies people in the Peer Nutrition Program (for parents and their children). She explains that it is vital for Haitian newcomers to adjust to Canada’s dietary standards, or they could quickly suffer from dietary deficiencies or other health problems. The weather plays a significant role: “For example, in Haiti, dairy products are not very important, because the weather is sunny 12 months a year. In Canada, where there are six or seven months of winter, we lack vitamin D. Here, diabetes and blood pressure are common, while they are rare in Haiti. The community has to cope with this situation because the right nutritional balance is not being struck. We must also encourage playing sports and push our children to be active, while in Haiti this is second nature,” say Jean-Simon.

More Than Nutritional Guidance

The workshops provide guidance for newcomers on an array of issues. In addition to helping participants see how the foods they eat fit into Canada’s Food Guide; they also provide information on shopping, budgeting and other aspects of the Canadian lifestyle.

Jean-Simon concludes, “Through food, we are helping them to better adapt to their new society.” After the six- week class, participants in her workshop are referred to a support group including all the other participants (these groups sometimes include 50 people). Moreover, participants are always taught in their mother tongue. Jean-Simon teaches in Creole, which is a major benefit for participants who do not know English or French. Mixed classes are also available for English-speaking participants.

Canada’s Food Guide is adapted for newcomers for two reasons. On the one hand, for the last 65 years it has been promoting healthy food choices for all Canadians and newcomers. On the other hand, as we have seen, it can be more than that. It can also be an integration tool for adapting to Canada’s food choices.

Resources

Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide: Click here

For a translated version: Click here

Health Canada Website: Click here

Information on the Creole workshop:
Huguette A. Jean-Simon, Community Nutrition Assistant, 416-338-3579.

Information on how to find a workshop in your language:
416-338-7600 or visit the website www.toronto.ca/health/pn/

CNM