The key protein changes to Canada’s Food Guide are shaking things up where meat and dairy are concerned. Gone are the basic “four food groups,” serving sizes and number of servings per day. The original guide, developed over 75 years ago, was intended to address nutritional issues of the day, including the effects of wartime rationing. Today’s eating issues are more on the scale of obesity and chronic illnesses that are related to diet, like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.

In 1977 the key protein changes to Canada’s Food Guide included the introduction of the four food groups – milk & milk products, meat & alternatives, grain products and fruits & vegetables. Today there are only 3 main groups; fruit & vegetables, whole grains and proteins.

Key Protein Changes to Canada’s Food Guide

While fruit, veggies and whole grains are still the norm and saturated fats, salts and sugars continue to be the enemy, there is new advice when it comes to protein. When Health Canada was working on the guide last year, the official word was that their focus would be on plant-based proteins, and not on animal based proteins or dairy.

The proteins category still includes dairy and meat but has added an emphasis on plant-based proteins such as tofu, legumes and nuts.  Proteins should make up roughly 1/4 of your plate as well as whole grains, while fruits and vegetables should fill half of your plate at each meal. The glass of milk in the old guide has been replaced with a glass of water.

Focus Now on Plant Based Protein

The new guide takes into account areas of concern that aren’t directly related to what we consume but how we consume it: environmental issues including sustainability and impacts of raising animals for food, animal welfare and the ‘eat local’ trend.

“Plant-rich, low-meat diets have been shown to have modest benefits in terms of all-cause mortality, to decrease our risk of colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease, and to improve glycemic control in people with diabetes. Low-meat diets also reduce greenhouse gases, land use and water consumption by a median of 20 to 30 per cent across studies, which is critical to maintaining planetary health and sustaining our ability to feed ourselves as we move through the 21st century.” (Source)

What About Essential Amino Acids

A standard plant based protein, like in asparagus for example, is incomplete. That is, it doesn’t contain all of the nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, your body needs. These essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. You will need to consume other plant based proteins, in larger quantities, to complete the amino acid profile, in one day.

“For the body to use the protein you eat, it must be broken down into individual amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks of protein as they are absorbed into the blood and transported to different tissues where they are then made into proteins needed by the body to maintain muscles, bones, blood, and body organs.” (Source)

Getting a Complete Protein Without Meat

Of course, you can get a complete meal without meat by following a high protein vegetarian diet that includes foods such as eggs, lentils, quinoa, almonds and chia seeds.

The key protein changes to Canada’s Food Guide also include limiting dairy products such as cheese, cows milk and yogurt – all a good source of  protein. This further emphasizes the importance of ensuring you are getting enough proteins and all the other essential nutrients like iron, B vitamins, minerals, omega 3s, calcium, and fiber, in your daily diet.

Supplementing with a plant based high protein vegan protein powder (like Boomer Nutrition Organic Vegan) can help ensure you are getting these key nutrients if you are limiting meat and dairy in your diet.  Do your homework and learn the difference between pea, soy, brown rice and hemp powders as well are the best dairy or non dairy milk if you are choosing between coconut, almond, rice or hemp.

And as always, eat a variety of foods and cut back on processed and fast foods as much as possible. Cheers to healthy eating!

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Key Protein Changes to Canada's Food Guide