Revision of federal food guide throws down gauntlet on junk food

Revision of federal food guide throws down gauntlet on junk food

By Dennis Bueckert

OTTAWA (CP) - For the first time since its debut in the 1940s, Canada's Food Guide includes a paragraph on avoiding junk food - though not under that name.

Tucked away near the end of the revered gospel of good eating is a paragraph suggesting that people wishing to maintain good body weight should limit "foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt."

The sentence got an enthusiastic response from Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, and an outspoken critic of the guide.

"Kudos for them," Freedhoff said in an interview Monday. "Indeed they have dropped the gauntlet on junk food and that is a first."

The free guide doesn't mention brand names but suggests limiting "pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies and granola bars, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, french fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, alcohol, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks."

Four years in the writing, the new food guide does not mention the obesity epidemic, nor it does compare foods in terms of calories.

Instead of providing guidance on calorie intake, the guide focuses on a recommended number of servings from each food category.

The document also takes account of Canada's growing ethnic diversity by including foods from different cultures. People can even develop their own customized guide, using the Internet.

The interactive website is at, which includes information on downloading an electronic copy or ordering a printed one by mail.

Freedhoff says there is too much industry influence in the writing of the guide, which is published by Health Canada.

"To invite the food industry into the creation of the food guide is just asking for trouble. It doesn't make good medical sense to include people with a vested interest in the recommendations."

He said the guide's recommendations on obesity are far too general to be useful. For example, there is no recommended daily calorie intake for the various categories.

"Without talking about calories it really fails to address weight whatsoever. The whole notion of portions invites over-consumption."

Lynda Corby, director of the Dieticians of Canada, dismissed concerns about food industry influence.

"Certainly the food industry was at the table when there was discussion about the key messaging and how to communicate that to consumers because the food industry does interface with consumer a great deal, and therefore their advice on that particular component would be valued."

Corby said it would be a daunting task to give calorie counts for all foods, and most people don't know how many calories they need.

The Canadian Medical Association praised the food guide in general terms but criticized its approach on obesity.

"Canada's Food Guide is a nutrition resource, not an effective weight loss tool because it provides inadequate guidance on daily caloric intake," the association said in a statement.

The guide advises everyone over age 50 to take vitamin D supplements, without mentioning that this vitamin can also be generated by the body through exposure to sunlight.

It also recommends vitamin supplements for all pregnant women.

There is a brief warning against trans fats, and recommendations for exercise.

The Canada Food Guide is the second-most requested government document, after income-tax forms.

Copyright 2007 Canadian Press
Calory intake differs from person to person because of age, genetics and activities. Recommendations on caloric intake may go beyond the scope of the food guide. I recently survived a heart attack and had quad bypass surgery at age 43. I eat almost 3500 calories a day and yet maintain a weight of 175 at 5'11". many folk who are overweight or even obese cannot lose weight on diets of less than 2000 calories a day. Previous to heart attack I ate same calories but emphasis was on saturated fats and even transfats. I ate a local pub twice a day, drank 2-3 xlgTim Horton's cafemochas and ate a chocolate bar every day. One bar has 43% of your fat content for the day. I now eat lots of whole grain bread, fruit and veggies. The fruit may supply a lot of sugar but I have actually lost about 5 lbs since last April.

I think genetics is huge in body shape and size. Eating healthy is paramount. Take it from someone who had to be zapped twice back in to this world, and split wide open from adams apple to appetite to get the message.

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