bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

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The relationship between dietitians and the Food Guide


I spend a lot of time explaining the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist to people. I’ve done it on this very blog. I was doing this recently when someone jumped in to say that dietitians go by the Food Guide. It’s funny because I would never think to mention Canada’s Food Guide when explaining the difference between RDs and RHNs to anyone. It’s true that we are taught about the Food Guide during our degree but it’s not something I’ve used much in practice. I can understand why RHNs (and others) would sound a little disdainful when claiming that dietitians follow the Food Guide. After all, I’ve voiced disdain toward the Food Guide myself.

Perhaps some dietitians use Canada’s Food Guide as a bible but I think that most of us, if we use it at all, it’s as a guide. It’s a tool, albeit not a great one; designed to help people make healthy food choices that will meet their nutrient needs. Unfortunately, the government allowed industry to have a voice at the table when the Food Guide was being developed. Industry has the goal of boosting profits. This is generally incompatible with the goal of boosting Canadians health.

Dietitians have many different roles and I certainly can’t claim to speak for all members of the profession. However, in addition to being taught the Food Guide in University we were also taught to think critically. I would hope that this would translate into the Food Guide not being a factor when comparing dietitians and nutritionists.

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Follow Friday: Survey on Canada’s Food Guide


Okay, readers… Here’s your chance to submit your thoughts on Canada’s Food Guide. Everyone can participate, not just those who use the Food Guide in their work. Most of the questions are multiple choice but at the end you can submit comments. A great opportunity to say that you would be more onboard with the CFG if it were based on scientific evidence and the food industry was not allowed at the table. Or whatever you want!

The survey closes on May 17th so you have a week to complete it. It only takes about 5 minutes. Please share it with others so that as much useful feedback can be submitted as possible.


Dietitians of Canada remove themselves from corporate sponsors back pockets!

Exciting news: at the close of Nutrition Month it seems that Dietitians of Canada has heard the pleas of many of us Canadian dietitians. As of next year they will no longer be accepting sponsorship from the food industry! This means members will no longer receive coupons for such products as bologna, nutrition posters prominently featuring pork, or fact sheets developed by multinational soft drink companies. This also means that Nutrition Month will be about improving the nutrition of the general population as it will no longer be driven by the agendas of sponsors such as Dairy Farmers of Canada and Hellman’s Mayonnaise. In the long-term it may even mean the elimination of Milk and Alternatives as a food group on Canada’s Food Guide. Imagine the possibilities that can be explored by a national dietetic body driven solely by scientifically proven nutrition research and common sense!



April Fools! If only it were true…

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Are you getting enough vegetables?

After a month of “busting” nutrition myths it seems only fitting to end with Canada’s Food Guide. Thanks for reading all month and I hope that you’ll continue to read as I return to my regularly scheduled ranting.
Myth 20: It’s too hard to eat all the vegetables and fruit recommended in Canada’s Food Guide.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“It’s easier than you think! Canada’s Food Guide recommends adults enjoy seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day. That might sound like a lot, but serving sizes are not very big. For example, a medium fruit or half a cup of vegetables is all it takes to get one serving…”
What I say:
It is hard to eat all the vegetables and fruit recommended in CFG. That’s why you see campaigns like 5 a Day. If it was easy then we’d be seeing more than half of all adult Canadians eating the recommended number of food guide servings but we’re not. In 2008, 46.7% of Canadians reported consuming vegetables and fruit five or more times a day (Stats Can). Keep in mind that the minimum recommended number of Food Guide servings per day is seven, not five. Imagine how much lower the number of Canadians meeting the actual recommendations would be! So, should we lower the number of recommended servings to better match Canadian diets, just like the physical activity guidelines did? Probably not, it’s good to aim high. Just don’t feel badly if you’re not eating eight servings of vegetables and fruit a day. I know that on most days I’m definitely not. Put away your food guide and try to focus on eating a balanced, primarily plant-based diet and you should be okay.


Will following Canada’s Food Guide cause you to gain weight?

Myth 4: You’ll gain weight if you follow Canada’s Food Guide – it recommends too much food.
What Dietitians of Canada says:
“You may need to choose more or less food depending on your individual needs such as your physical activity level… Enjoy healthy choices from each food group in the amount that is right for you.”
What I say:
I’ve heard this myth a fair number of times. I have to admit, that I wondered if there was something to it. I did the math, which admittedly will vary based on the foods chosen (I tried to chose low-fat but realistic options), and came up with 1631 calories for my day of food intake. I also chose the smallest number of servings, when a range was given, as I’m a relatively small person. That’s really not a whole lot. Pretending I’m only “somewhat active” my estimated daily caloric needs are about 1700. So, following Canada’s Food Guide, I even have some “discretionary” calories! So, I do think that this myth is really a myth. But… I have many other reasons to dislike the Food Guide (check out previous ranting) and I don’t like the way that Dietitians of Canada goes about dispelling the myth. The Food Guide is simply that, a guide, it’s not going to work for everyone but it’s a starting point if (as sadly many people are) you’re completely clueless about healthy eating. Maybe I’m reading too much in between the lines but the way that DC goes about dispelling this myth kind of leaves me with the impression that they think there is some truth in the myth and they just don’t have the guts to stand-up to Health Canada and say so.