Disclaimer: 1) This is a long post – go grab your coffee. 2) If you are easily lured in to following any sort of dietary “plan” this post may be triggering. There is also mention of calories. Please either skip this post or read with caution if you feel this may affect you.
In Canada, we have what is called “The Canada’s Food Guide.” In the states, there is something very similar called, “My Plate.” Nearly every country has their own image – be it a pyamid, spinning top, house or stairs – that acts as a nutritional guideline which, if followed, is meant to ensure people acquire their daily required vitamins and minerals to stay, well, healthy. I’m personally partial to Hungary’s artistic simplicity…anyone else?
I’ve never been one to really follow Canada’s Food Guide. This past summer, my dietician was the first professional to actually refer to, and take out, the chart. I did find it somewhat helpful, at least in the notion of ensuring I had each, or at least 3 out of 4, of the food groups in every meal. Eating with this goal in mind automatically ensures a more well rounded, balanced day of eats with – hopefully – the right balance of nutrients that your body needs. And with no food groups – or “fear” groups – being left out!
So last week, I decided to take one day where I would try to follow Canada’s Food Guide to the ’t.’ I was curious to see how it felt to get in the exact number of servings of each food group that the guide recommends (for my age and sex). I wanted to see which recommendations felt hard to reach and which maybe felt like too little.
6-7 servings of Grains (G)
1 serving = 1 piece of bread, half a bagel, 3/4 cup cooked oatmeal, 30g cold cereal (of any sort), or 1/2 cup cooked rice/quinoa/pasta/whole grains etc.
7-8 servings of fruit or vegetables (F/V)
1 serving = 1 piece of fruit, 1/2 cup berries or veggies of any sort, 1/2 cup cooked leavy greens or 1 cup raw leafy greens etc
2 servings of milk or dairy (D)
1 serving = 1 cup milk or fortified milk alternative, 50g (1 1/2 oz) cheese, 3/4 cup yogurt\
2 servings of meat and meat alternatives (proteins – PRO)
1 serving = 75g cooked meat or fish, 3/4 cup beans or legumes, 3/4 cup tofu, 2 eggs, 2 Tbsp nut butter or 1/4 cup nuts
Note: the gram measurements are not the amount of protein, rather the weight of the entire meat source
To ensure I was having the “correct” amount of servings, I had to keep my day of eats simple. Rudimentary. It’s far too hard to know the serving sizes when you eat a casserole or piece of baking. I planned my day out in advance, and actually had to try more than once to get it “right”…. it was much harder than I thought it would be!
** Important note
Obviously trying to strictly adhere to this guide is NOT a reasonable, or even healthy thing to do on any sort of long term basis. It is a guide, and should only be seen as such. Not only would it drive you crazy and limit you from more complex meals and treats, but it would keep you in a place of food micromanagement, which is the opposite of true health, in my opinion. ALSO – as you will see in my concluding thoughts – I actually had to RESTRICT some things that I would have normally had to get to these serving suggestions. Therefore, please do NOT see this day as something you should strive to achieve and do not think that I am going to try and change my eating from now on because of what I found from doing this experiment.
Thank you to the usual crew for hosting this week’s WIAW.
60 grams cold cereal (30g Enviro Kids Peanut Butter Pops + 30g Organics brand Raisin Bran): (2 G)
3/4 cup 1% milk: (>1 D)
1 banana: (1 F/V)
1/2 cup berries: (1 F/V)
Organics Raisin Bran / Peanut Butter Pops / Banana / Almond Milk / Cinnamon / Strawberries / Blueberries
Thoughts: There. was. no. protein.
This breakfast felt fine at the time, but by 11/11:30 I was starving. Usually I’m not eyeing my lunch until 12:30 or 1:00. I tend to have peanut butter (or eggs) at my breakfast, but it didn’t fit in to the plan I had made. This was proof that I need that protein and/or fat in the morning.
Also, I had planned and expected to use a whole cup of milk on my cereal (I do not measure but assumed it would naturally be at least a cup). I was shocked when measuring out 3/4 more than covered my cereal and thus I did not want to use the whole cup. This was a good lesson that I’m not getting the serving of calcium/vitamin D/dairy that I thought I was when I have cereal.
2 slices bread: (2 G)
60 g canned tuna: (>1 PRO)
1/2 cup raw carrots: (1 F/V)
~ 2 Tbsp mashed avocao + 1/2 Tbsp mayo (N/A)
Tuna salad sandwich (made with mashed avocado, mayo, salt + pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, dill, mustard, lemon juice) + carrots
This felt good. Half a can of tuna was 60 grams which was just under a recommended serving. It was actually really nice thinking, “oh I need to have these carrots because I want to make sure I have a good amount of fruits and vegetables in my day,” rather than having them only because I was hungry.
Medium (16oz) 2% latte (1 1/2 cups milk): (1 1/2 D)
I may have only had a small latte (~1 cup) but since I learned the amount of milk I have at breakfast is not as much as I thought, and since I did not have cheese on my sandwich like I normally do, I went for the medium to get in more dairy.
That being said, I do hear things about the nutrients (calcium and Vitamin D) in milk becoming denatured when a) heated and b) mixed with caffeine, so I’m actually not sure if a latte is or should be considered a milk and dairy source??? Boo 🙁
100 g salmon: (<1 PRO)
1/2 cup brown/wild rice blend: (1 G)
1 cup roasted broccoli: (2 F/V)
1/2 cup sauteed red pepper and mushrooms: (1 F/V)
Salmon baked in Lindsay’s Honey BBQ glaze / roasted broccoli, mushrooms, peppers / wild+brown rice blend
I wasn’t sure 1/2 a cup of grains was going to feel like enough, but it satisfied me. I always feel like I get most of my vegetable intake at dinner, so this amount felt normal and preferable to me. In fact, without measuring I probably would have had more than this. The salmon I had came in 100g fillets (as I think most packaged portions are) and cutting it down to 75g would have felt far too small for me.
4 cups homemade popcorn: (2 G)
Necessary chocolate because no day can end without chocolate: (N/A)
Popcorn / Lindt chocolate
Protein: just over 2 servings (+)
I am shocked at the amount of recommended protein. 2 servings!? Only 2 servings!? If vegetarian, I could see how this would make a bit more sense as 75 grams of meat protein is a lot more condensed than 3/4 cup of beans or tofu. In fact, in my first attempt at this day, I made a ham sandwich for lunch and was surprised at how little ham equaled 75 grams. On that day I also had peanut butter with my breakfast, which is usual for me, but then I ended up far over the recommended servings. Having my usual peanut butter or eggs would have held me over a lot longer than this day’s breakfast did.
I have always thought it was common knowledge to try and have protein with every meal – for energy and satiety – but there’s no way this could be done by following the guide’s recommendation. I think this needs to be adjusted?
This is the one I was most nervous for.
For anyone who read this post, you know that grains/wheat have been my greatest struggle in my recovery to normal eating. I know on a daily basis I never take in 6-7 servings of grains. I would guess maybe more like 4-5. When planning this day, I guessed that I would feel like I was eating a lot of “carbs.” Now that I look back, I do see that it was more than I usually have. But in the moment, at the time during each meal, it felt okay. Canada’s Food Guide reminds us that carbs/grains are a very large, essential part of our nutrition for proper health and that having more than we may think we need is actually for our benefit. However, I still question whether 6-7 servings is asking a bit much.
*Note the difference between “grain” and “carb” here. The foodguide does not speak about “carbs.” Many of us – me included – equate potatoes andsweet potatoes as “carbs,”…. but they are not a grain. To the guide they are a vegetable. Therefore, since I will admit I very often have a sweet potato as my “carb,” my average day of eats are definitely short of grains. Something maybe we should be more aware of.
Fruit/Veggies: 6 (-)
I was actually so surpirsed at how hard this was! 7 servings of fruit/veg is a lot!! I always thought I ate a lot of F/V in a day – definitely more than most – and so I thought that if anything, I would be over the recommended servings. But I was under! I actually had an apple planned to go with my latte in the afternoon but I failed to give myself it. I suppose if I had had one of my big salads for lunch the number would have risen a lot quicker, but then I wouldn’t have gotten in my grains!
Dairy: ~ 2.25 cups of cups of milk = just over 2 servings (+)
I feel like 2 servings of milk/dairy is too small. I am aware that cheese in my sandwiches, the odd yogurt, and my lattes are really the only forms of calcium I get in regularly, and so I’ve always thought that I should be trying to get in more. BUT… the food guide, once again, only recommends 2 servings a day!? Isn’t this low? Especially for women? Even I – who does not feel like I eat that much dairy – doesn’t have much trouble getting in this amount. Yet I feel like I should be having more.
Canada’s Food Guide also recommends 2-3 Tbsp of unsaturated fats per day. I am confident I met this between the mayo and avocado on my sandwich (~ 2 Tbsp), the oil used to roast my salmon and veggies (~ 1 Tbsp) and the butter on my popcorn (1 Tbsp). Oh hey look at that, I had more than they recommended. And yet again, I actually think I could have added more avocado to my day for more skin glowing nutrients.
I had to be honest, I was curious to know how Canada’s Food Guide recommendations matched up calorically. The general guide – in more than just Canada – seems to say that 2000kcal is the average amount one should eat for proper nutrition. I wondered if this meant that these serving guides would equal this?
So. NOT counting the addition of chocolate at the end of the day (only counting the food guide servings they recommended), rough calculations tell me that I was actually below 2000kcal. More like 1800kcal. Wow…..I am amazed.
Of course. This does not account for treats, desserts or any “extras” that – hopefully – someone would be consuming in addition to these food group servings. But still. I’m surprised that 6-7 servings of grains with 6-7 servings of fruit/vegetables doesn’t equate to a more substantial, reliable energy source. Calories are not the measurement of health, but I do think this is too low for the average diet. Which leads me to…
I’ve already mentioned my concern about the amount of protein and dairy that is recommended. I feel that each of these food groups are too low, for any age and sex bracket.
The Canada’s Food Guide states – right on their pretty colorful image – that we should “use vegetable oils such as canola, olive and soybean,” and that we should “limit butter, lard and shortening.” Isn’t the more modern nutritional research proving that whole food fats – like real butter – are far better for us than plant based oils such as canola? And what about avocado and coconut oil? There is no mention that fats of these types should be a large part of our diet. And 2-3 Tbsp is surely not enough for me I don’t think.
It also promotes choosing low fat dairy – milks and yogurts – options over fuller fat options. They seem to have a fear of fat…. and isn’t that taking us back like, 15 years? I’d rather have a full fat yogurt with 3 ingredients than a low fat brand full of preservatives and sugar. It also says to limit ice cream. So… that’s to be ignored.The Day I Followed Canada's Food Guide. My problems with its serving recommendations. #nutrition… Click To Tweet
In conclusion, I do think following Canada’s Food Guide can be helpful, as I mentioned before, it can help us look at what we can ADD to our diet to ensure we giving our bodies extra, beautiful nutrients. It can help keep us knowledgable and accountable in knowing the general amount and balance of different nutrients our bodies need. Doing this fills me with a sense of compassion and real ownership of my health, which is a great feeling. However, all our bodies are different and we all have different needs, so by no means is a guide such as this what each person should be looking to follow.
Do you ever try to follow your own country’s nutritional guideline? Is it much different?
Do you think 2 servings of protein is too small? 2 servings of dairy??
Where do you think you would be lacking? Where would you be over?
My journey with hypothalamic amenorrhea continues. My journey recovering from an eating disorder……