Welcome to the New Canada’s Food Guide – Eat Well. Live Well.

Please note: The below text is a transcript of what is covered in the video above.



Like many health care and nutrition educational professionals, I have been awaiting the release of the much-anticipated new Food Guide for quite some time now.  I must be honest, upon first glance, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this new guide: where was the colourful rainbow, where were the serving sizes and amounts; where were the four food groups I had come to know and love growing up?!

I decided to delve into the plethora of information and tools provided with this food guide and give it a chance. As one of my co-workers said, “My inner nutrition nerd came out, and I have been spending lots of time getting to know and understand the messages it conveys.”

The former colourful rainbow of food has been replaced with a plate full of a variety of delicious, mouth-watering foods equally as colourful as the rainbow.  The layout of the plate demonstrates how different groups of food should be divided up throughout the day: half fruits and vegetables; a quarter protein food; a quarter whole grains; and water as beverage of choice more often. Limiting sodium, sugar, and saturated fats is also recommended.

While meat and dairy are not as prominently shown, they are still included. Choosing leaner meats and lower fat dairy products is encouraged..  Increasing the frequency of plant-based protein intake is recommended, which in turn will assist with promoting a decreased intake of cholesterol, saturated fats, and increased intake of fibre: all essential for a healthy diet.

Especially new to this food guide is the focus around eating strategies, including: healthy eating in various settings; being mindful of what and how we are eating; food and cooking skills; enjoying food; eating with others; encouraging water as the beverage of choice; recognizing influences on our food choices; tips for eating throughout the lifecycle; the environmental impact of diet; and recipes.

This food guide brings many questions to my mind as it relates to our industry and work:  What do these changes to the food guide mean for food service managers? What opportunities and challenges do food service managers face as a result of the food guide changes? How will this new set of resources further support food service managers?

What do these changes to the food guide mean for food service managers?

With regards to menu planning, the layout and pattern of food on menus will likely not change as much as one might think.  Our menus will still be planned and based upon more than just the food guide. Dietary reference intakes (DRI’s) will still need to be followed. Macronutrient (carbohydrate, fat, and protein) and micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) needs of our clients haven’t changed and will still need to be met.  We will still build our menus around client food preferences, based on feedback from food committees.  Canada’s food guide is designed for the general healthy population; however, our clients often have disease/health related issues that require special therapeutic diets well beyond what the food guide can provide. “Individuals with specific dietary requirements, including those receiving care in a clinical setting, may need additional guidance or specialized advice from a dietitian.” (Health Canada, 2019)

The changes also mean that we, as food service managers, need to review our current menus and procurement policies and processes.  The changes will also guide us in how we educate our clients about a healthy diet.

What opportunities and challenges do food service managers face as a result of this food guide changes?

The new food guide provides an opportunity for planning menus to include fresh foods and plant-based proteins more often in items such as soups, salads, and entrees.

We also have the opportunity to offer a wider variety of plant-based cultural foods (ex. Pasta fagioli, channa masala, hummus, dal, lentil soups, etc.).

The guide offers a further opportunity for the food services and the activities departments to come together to offer healthy cooking programs allowing a chance for clients to try new recipes that they normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to try; to teach mindful eating strategies; to bring clients together and give them the chance to share the joy of healthy food and company.

At first glance, someone in our profession might make the challenge that menus based on this food guide would be costlier due to the emphasis on fresh foods. However, upon review of the resources provided with this food guide, it was noted that “fresh” food includes fresh, frozen, canned, or dried – so meeting the food budget is possible.

Another possible challenge, especially in long term care, is getting clients to select water as a beverage of choice. Client and staff education programs around hydration may need to be reviewed and implemented (if you don’t have one).  Making water more available between meals and snacks may also assist in improving water intake.  In the end, getting adequate fluid into an elderly client is far more important that it’s source.

Another challenge may be wrapping our heads around not having portion sizes and serving amounts to guide us and our clients.  However, in reality the “plate method” – which is similar to how the new food guide is presented – has been used in the past to teach clients about balance and healthy eating.  With less emphasis on number of daily servings and portion sizes, more focus can be placed on the “enjoyment” of eating, which has often been forgotten in the healthcare setting.

How will this new set of resources further support food service managers?

The resource “Canada’s Dietary Guidelines: For Health Professionals and Policy Makers” is a must read for food service managers.  It can act as a resource for updating and developing nutrition policies, programs, and educational resources.

The recipes section of the food guide website offers recipes that could easily be incorporated into healthcare menus.


The “Healthy Eating Recommendations” factsheet is a great resource to share with our clients to help them expand their knowledge of healthy eating.

The additional focus on things such as food skills, eating with others, the environmental impact of diet, eating throughout the lifecycle, mindful eating, etc. presents an opportunity to explore these areas with our clients and help promote these as part of a healthy eating plan.



Health Canada. (2019, January). Eat well. Live well. Educational poster. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Government of Canada.

Health Canada. (2019, January 21). Canada’s Food Guide. Retrieved from Health Canada: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/


Tell us…

What are your thoughts on the new Food Guide? We’d love to hear from you.  Send us an email, connect with us on Facebook, or tell us about it on Twitter @CHA_Learning. You might see your idea in a future post!

CHA Learning and HealthCareCAN would like to express our appreciation for the work that Ami Whitlock has brought to our Food Service and Nutrition Management Program (FSNM). Ami brings a wealth of experience from her career in Education, Food and Nutrition. This is reflected in her course material and her student support and mentoring.