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Dietitians educate public on new national food guide

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March was nutrition month and dietitians across Fort Frances recently put healthy eating under the spotlight.

In partnership with the Fort Frances Public Library two information sessions were hosted on March 28 to teach people about the new Canada's Food Guide that was released earlier this year.

Attendees learned from the experts about how to use the new food guide, plan for meals, develop healthier eating habits, and cook healthy recipes themselves.

“It was a group effort from all the dietitians in the Fort Frances area, we were trying to think of what a good topic would be for the year,” explained Rylee Blasky, Fort Frances Family Health Team dietitian.

"It just so happened that there was the role out of the Canada Food Guide in January and it left many of Canadians with a lot of questions.

“So we thought this might be the perfect way to tie in nutrition month, the new food guide, and talk about the new plate model . . . as a community event,” she added.

The former food guide featured the “food rainbow” which has now been discarded and transformed into a much simpler template.

The new guide features a plate that is meant to represent a nutritious meal for Canadians, with one half consisting of fruits and vegetables, one quarter as whole grains, and a quarter as protein foods.

There are no longer four food groups but rather a focus on mostly eating fruits/vegetables, and instead of focusing on eating meat, incorporating protein foods—which include dairy products and plant based proteins—into your diet.

The key messages are to drink water, limit fruit juice or liquid sugar, go light on animal proteins, and avoid processed foods.

Blasky said she was glad to finally see the new food guide come out, noting that the old one was long overdue and outdated, having been last revised in 2007.

“I think we needed something that was more visual and relatable for Canadians to look at as a tool to help them make good decisions with balancing their meals,” she remarked.

"As well, making sure that they are eating mindfully, so not having too much on their plate or not also denying or restricting them any snacks, so just eating when they're hungry and stopping when they're full.

“A lot of times it's coming down to just being more mindful, so again just knowing when food environment might play into someone's food choices,” Blasky added.

She also noted that the healthy habit messages on the back of the food guide are an important addition.

They remind Canadians to be mindful of their eating habits, enjoy their food, cook more frequently, eat meals with others, read food labels, limit foods high in sodium, sugar, or saturated fat, and be aware of food marketing.

Meanwhile, Blasky said the Canada's Food Guide event at the library had a great response from the public and it was very interactive for those who came out.

“We were all really happy with the turnout, the number of questions that people were asking, and we thought it was a really fun day overall,” she lauded.

After an introduction explaining the reasoning behind the new food guide and how it works event attendees split up into groups and cycled through four stations.

Each station had a different dietician offering information about different health issues and gave out samples of easy-to-make healthy recipes.

“People learned a little bit more information on eating fibre, meal planning on a budget, how to prevent chronic disease, and label reading," Blasky lauded. "That really helped people get a lot more information out of the workshop.”

She found that many of the people who came out were pleasantly surprised by the different samples of healthy recipes that they tested.

Many didn't realize they would enjoy eating lentils so much or didn't know the benefits they could have from consuming plant based proteins.

Others learned that they don't always need to put meat on their plate; instead they could eat something like an egg or soy product, Blasky noted.

Moving forward when local dietitians are at community events they will be handing out the new Canada's Food Guide and educating people on the new model.

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