Canada’s New Food Guide has been out almost a month, and reading the public’s online commentary makes me reflect on how we, as a culture, have not come to terms with the rapid changes that have taken place in our food and activity patterns in the last four generations.
My grandparent’s generation, like many people in our community, grew up eating “farm food” (bacon and eggs, meat and potatoes, fruit and vegetables only when they were in season). This diet sustained good health, their lives were full of physical activity and many are living into their eighties and nineties. Many people are looking at Canada’s New Food Guide thinking, “I have never eaten that way, and I am fine.”
Now move forward to my children’s generation. They are growing up in an environment where I have to be intentional if I want them to meet the minimum activity recommendations for health. This activity is not built into their daily living, but must be paid for by parents. Our food environment has also changed. The easiest and cheapest food to feed my children today is instant noodles (or deep-fried refined starch with a flavour packet that exceeds their daily recommendation for sodium). Children have gone from picking fruit from the tree in their yard to eating colourful “fruit-flavoured” variations of packaged sugar. Most children have access to treats all the time. Again, if you don’t want your children to exceed sugar recommendations, you must be intentional or, my daughter would argue, mean. Families connecting at mealtimes is also becoming less common.
Canada’s New Food Guide is not saying that eating meat and potatoes is unhealthy. It is not a definitive guide to everybody’s health. It is acknowledging that our lifestyles and food environments have changed, and therefore, we need to change how we eat to promote good health.