MONTREAL (NEWS 1130) – The latest incarnation of the Canada Food Guide is now out, and it has some major changes, doing away with those traditional food groups and even portion sizes.The guide is being updated for the first time in a decade, to reflect a new approach by Health Canada aimed at promoting healthier eating and lifestyle choice.It’s a move Dalhousie University’s Dr. Sarah Kirk says is long overdue.“Probably the most unique change, if you’d like, is the more plant-based recommendations in the guide. Yes, it does mean that we would be looking at reducing intakes of animal food products, be they meat or dairy foods, and really recommending the increase in more plant-based foods.”The professor of health promotions says unhealthy food are “very prevalent” in Canadians’ food environment, as well as culture. She hopes this guide will help tackle that.“What I think is going to come out of the Food Guide is this real focus on recognizing the complexity of the food environment in which we’re making decisions, and recognizing ways we can support people to be able to achieve and health the foods that they’re eating.”The new Food Guide has less of an emphasis on red meat, and more on plant-based proteins. It also de-emphasizes the daily-recommended intake of dairy, even subbing water as the drink of choice replacing milk.Kirk says she’s also heartened that Health Canada did not take input from industries when making its recommendations.“Personally speaking… there’s a lot of research that supports what’s coming out in the recommendations, and I’m really pleased to see that the Government of Canada is actually being informed by that evidence,” she explains.The new Food Guide was developed with input from science and health experts, and excluded the input of industry to avoid past concerns about political interference.In response to what the beef and dairy industries may think, Kirk points out the recommendations aren’t necessarily saying to cut these items out of your diet completely.“I think they also have to recognize you can’t eat these things, it’s just saying that the balance that we’re having in our diet needs to shift. We want to reduce chronic diseases — and chronic disease account for approximately a third of the direct health care costs that Canadians face.”She points to rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiac disease increasing, as well as rates of cancer.“Rates of cancer are increasing, and they’re very strongly related to the food that we eat,” Kirk adds. “So we have to start recognizing these complex factors that are actually making us sick.”‘Food insecurity’ is a concert: KirkHowever, following a healthy diet may not come easy to everyone. Kirk points to “food insecurity” as an obstacle.“Healthier food tends to be more expensive, and it’s less available,” she explains. “I think we have to recognize that there are a number of Canadians who cannot afford to eat according to Canada’s Food Guide — the previous version or the new version.”The new guide also says to cut back on processed foods, saturated fat and sugary drinks, and increase vegetable, fruit and whole grains intake.“Dietary risks are one of the top three leading risk factors for chronic disease burden in Canada, however nutrition science is complex and often results in conflicting messages. This is why Canadians need credible healthy-eating information to guide their food choices,” Hasan Hutchinson director-general of nutritional policy and promotion at Health Canada, says. “These are the reasons for which it was necessary to revise Canada’s Food Guide.”New messages are also included in the new guide that promote healthy behaviours involving food, such as reminding people to be mindful while eating and to eat meals with others.