Canada Food Guide: flawed and fat forming

The Calgary Herald recently ran an article on the Canada Food Guide being wrong and I know there was a silent cheer

The Calgary Herald recently ran an article on the Canada Food Guide being wrong and I know there was a silent cheer from trainers everywhere.

We’ve known this for a long time. Personally, since the late 90’s. There are some really neat conspiracy theories about the guide being developed by marketing experts who were really trying to sell more grains and dairy during the war and after the depression.

I happen to think that is probably true but it is indeed hard to prove. The official Health Canada webpage says, “Little is recorded about the process used to develop the earliest food guides forCanada”, which is a little too convenient if you ask me, but regardless the fact remains.

By following the food guide we, as a society, have gotten fatter than ever. When we as trainers coach our clients on nutrition, and we are not dieticians, so we have limits on what we can say and advise,and cannot treat or diagnose anything we almost always disagree with the Canada Food Guide.


In a word results. We know through years of experience that the guide is way too heavy on milk products and grains and too light on protein and fat. In her book ‘The Big Fat Surprise’, Nina Teicholz blows the whistle on a lot of old ‘research’ papers that were nothing more than theories and adopted as fact. Fat is in fact, good for us in the appropriate amounts and eggs have never been bad, yolks included.

The Canada Food Guide was developed in 1942 and to be fair we have learned a great deal since then. You have to picture it: in the 1940’s, doctor’s were likely to be smoking during your appointment, including surgery. Drinking water with radioactive radium in it was thought to cure ailments but actually killed people. To ‘cure’ head lice, the doctor would wash your hair with gasoline or kerosene. Babies who were teething were given morphine and if you were unfortunate enough to get syphilis, you were given mercury which is poisonous or malaria, which is potentially deadly, to cause a fever to ‘kill’ the virus.

Penicillin was invented in 1943 for example. So you have to picture what we knew back then and it wasn’t a lot.

More studies than I could read lately are turning the whole thing upside down, finding that fewer carbs and higher fats including saturated ones, are actually better for heart health, not worse. The link between saturated fats and heart disease is now being called a ‘myth’ in peer reviewed scientific journals. So yes, on occasion you can have bacon.

So what is the rule on what to eat? Well, my favourite answer is it depends. Everyone is different. You have different genetics, heritage, digestive patterns, hormones, exercise habits, sleeping habits;you may be younger, older, male, female and many other variables.

Yes, we have basic guidelines that we like to start people on and then as we observe changes over time, we adjust to suit. I will disagree with anyone that says one diet is the end all be all for everyone.That’s just silly. That being said, the basics exist: some protein (like meat, nuts, seeds, dairy), some vegetables (with maybe a few starchy carbs like grain if you like) and some fat. Keep it balanced,don’t eat too much, drink water and exercise.

But 12 servings of grains and only three of protein per day according to the Canada Food Guide? Not a chance. I have never, in 18 years as a trainer, seen that do anything good for anyone. Ever.


Happy Training!

Scott McDermott


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