October 22nd, 2020

SACPA offers food for thought

By Mabell, Dave on October 25, 2019.

A display outlines some of the features of Canadas new food guide as Heather Mathur, a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services, speaks during the weekly meeting of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald


Canada’s new food guide recommends more plant-based proteins – but fewer bottled drinks and juices.

It also calls for more whole grain foods, a Lethbridge dietitian pointed out Thursday, and less processed meat like deli sausages and hotdogs.

Heather Mathur, a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services, outlined the nation’s new diet guidelines during a session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs. Later – after a luncheon meal including chili, baked potato and salad – she fielded audience members’ questions ranging from the benefits of margarine to the nutritional values of frozen food.

She also called for legislation protecting children from junk food advertising, citing a bill that was debated in Parliament recently – but not passed. A similar law in Quebec is credited for leading to healthier eating habits there, she reported.

The nation’s first food guide was issued in 1938, Mathur said. But few Canadians could follow it when the Second World War effort led to food rationing. Some Canadians struggled with malnutrition.

The guide’s subsequent editions have added an emphasis on specific items – the importance of milk was one – and sounded a warning about dietary dangers. Relying heavily on processed foods leads to an excessive intake of sugar and salt, for example, potentially resulting in heart attacks or stroke.

About 20,000 people were involved in creating the latest guide, Mathur said. But representatives of food manufacturing companies were not part of the process.

It’s now widely available on the internet, she said. A second release, due shortly, will offer “healthy eating” menu plans.

Instead of resorting to burgers and fast food, the guide says more Canadians should cook their meals, and then sit down and share the time with family or friends. And fresh water should be “the drink of choice” with each meal.

Asked for specific recommendations, Mathur described margarine and vegetable oils like canola and olive oil as healthier than butter since they don’t contain saturated fats. Albertans’ favourite meal, beef, is included on the recommended protein list, but she said our diet should also include Alberta-grown plant proteins including pulse crops.

“It’s all about balance,” Mathur said.

Food heated in a microwave could lose a little of its nutritional value, she said – cooking it on the stove would be better. But frozen vegetables could actually pack more nutrients than those on display in the stores, because they’re flash frozen soon after they’re harvested.

And potatoes remain an important vegetable, she assured participants. But much of their food value is close to the skin, so it’s best to bake the potato and enjoy all of it.

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