Taking the Food Guide Too Literally

Author: Kelly Lehmann  •  Date: April 21, 2014  •  Appears in: Community, News

Taking the Food Guide Too Literally

A couple of months ago in Winnipeg, MB, a daycare charged a mother a fee because the lunch she packed didn't contain a grain. The lunch she had packed contained roast beef, carrots and mashed potatoes, homemade leftovers from the previous night. The daycare, spotting that there were no grains, supplemented the lunch with Ritz crackers and charged the mother for the supplement ($5 per child).

There is so much wrong with this! The food guide is one possible way to achieve your nutrient requirements. From speaking to groups locally, clients tell me the food guide is not very clear on what to eat. The serving sizes are confusing, and the options pictured don't really represent the choices in todays marketplace, nor do they represent the healthiest options in some cases.

The grain group is there because of our requirement for carbohydrates, fibre, certain B-vitamins; like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate and minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium. These nutrients are also found in a meal made up of vegetables and protein foods (such as meat and beans.)

This misguided daycare provided Ritz Crackers which are low in fibre, high in sodium and only a source of some of those nutrients because of fortified flour. I'm also guessing the kids ate those Ritz crackers first and if they were still hungry they would go on to eat the potatoes and carrots and roast.

The family was refunded the charge after much discussion and public outcry, but it is these stories that really highlight to me that North Americans have lost their common sense when it comes to eating. Because of so much media attention to nutrition, reports of single studies or poorly conducted studies that produce headlines and mixed messages, we've lost the ability to look at a home cooked meal and believe it is healthy.

Resources put out by Health Canada, like nutrition facts labels and Canada's Food Guide, aren't useful without a professional teaching you how to read it. It is a case of too much information for consumers who can't understand the info. (Even the "common" terms carbohydrate or calorie can't be defined by most).

My advice? If you find you feel overwhelmed by all the info out there, it’s always great to talk to a Registered Dietitian who can help you sort through the info. But most of all lets try and get back to eating with common sense.

Kelly Lehmann


Kelly is a Registered Dietitian in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. She does consultations both in person locally, and online across the country - www.okanaganrd.com. She blogs about food, cooking, family, fitness and balancing it all (as best as I can!) - www.okanaganrd.blogspot.ca.
Read more by Kelly Lehmann

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