Canadian Broadcasting Corporation CBC  News were earlier this month discussing the upcoming new Canadian Food Guide (similar idea to our Food Pyramid).

In essence, the new Food Guide is going to be promoting the reduction of sugar, processed foods, saturated fats, full fat dairy produce and meat (especially processed meat). They will be recommending the Canadians to increase their consumption of fibre-rich foods and plant based sources of protein. I must say that I am especially impressed with their focus on less sugar and more fibre, two of my favourite nutritional topics!

Some of the changes are aiming for prevention of cancer linked to bad diets, or conditions such as diabetes. The officials are hoping that change in sugar intake will also help with the battle against childhood obesity. If the new Food Guide comes to use as planned in 2018, it will be the new guide for health professionals in Canada. The officials behind the research are hoping to base the new plan on scientific evidence without having any input from the food industry.

Whilst the final Canadian Food Guide is not yet available for viewing, I recently viewed (as a refresher!) the latest Irish Food Pyramid,issued 2015. Sadly I think there are a lot of changes needed to be made to this, and as making these changes is so slow, we are probably not going to see any new guidelines anytime soon! For example, the recommendation ‘shelf’ for vegetables, salad and fruit still has even a picture of a glass of  juice in the ‘shelf’. 200ml of juice could contain over 20g (5 teaspoons!) of sugar and NO fibre! There is no guideline for how many of these servings should be of vegetables rather than fruit, which contains high amounts of fruit sugar.

I am passionate about working to prevent ill health in Irish children as I believe the future health of our nation lies in the hands of our children and young adults. Like Canada, we are facing such crisis with childhood obesity. We need to be open about this, and act on this by supporting the whole family in adapting to a lower sugar diet.

The only way to lose weight in a healthy way and successfully keep it off is to learn new habits. This applies for people of all ages, including children. One of the main reasons people cannot stick to a diet is that they’re feeling hungry, and fibre helps us stay full during a diet. When we need to reduce total daily calorie consumption in order to lose weight, it becomes even more important to get enough of fibre from a low calorie source such as vegetables. I have years of experience in helping children and teenagers in losing weight, and I must say the biggest problem isn’t actually junk food and treats, it’s the lack of vegetables in their diet!

Many parents of my younger clients are happy that the child eats fruit, and don’t seem so concerned about lack of vegetables in their diet. Doctors still often recommend the best sources of fibre being wholemeal bread, brown rice, fruit and cereals. But with excess weight to lose, one needs to eat LESS of these energy dense, high carbohydrate foods and eat MORE low energy dense, low carbohydrate but high fibre vegetables!

The proposed changes in Canada are not likely to come to action without some opposition. Their local dairy farmers and food manufacturers Canada are already concerned about the expected loss of revenue. This is frightening- why should the food industry have any control of what we are recommended to eat ourselves or feed our children? Didn’t the industry already cause the obesity and health crisis epidemic in the first place, by replacing fat with sugar?

If you need a reminder of the hidden sugars in our Irish diet, you can still watch my Sugar Crash documentary on RTE player.