Depending on what they grow, farmers in southwestern Ontario are having different reactions to Canada’s new food guide.
The highly-anticipated document, which was last updated in 2007, eschews food groups and recommended servings.
Instead, Health Canada recommends eating “plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods” and to “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”
On the plate featured on the guide’s front cover, fruits and vegetables make up half the dish, and nuts, beans and seeds are prominent in the quarter dedicated to protein.
Produce growers pleased
Leslie Balsillie, a fruit and vegetable grower on the shore of Lake Erie in Harrow, was delighted with the guide’s emphasis on produce.
“We also actually practice that ourselves in our personal eating,” she said. “We hope that it will make people more interested in trying some different fruits and vegetables — we grow quite a few different ones ourselves.”
Joseph Sbrocchi, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in Leamington, was similarly pleased.
“It basically validates what many people in the produce industry [were saying],” he said, adding that he believes that eating more fruits and vegetables is not only healthy, but good for the environment as well.
“It’s good for the planet, it’s great for people and it’s good for my members — I can’t really find fault with it.”
Balsillie thinks the new guide could also encourage Canadian farmers to grow more produce.
“A lot of the fruits and vegetables that are sold in Canada are imported,” she said. “If there’s more demand and people are looking for more stuff, I think that will encourage more farmers to expand what they’re producing.”
Beef farmer concerned
Joe Dickenson, a beef farmer in Oil Springs and president of the Lambton Cattlemen’s Association, told Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre that the new guide “leaves a lot to be desired.”
“When they started the consultation process … they talked about having a scientific basis and the more that we heard coming out of these consultations, the more we realized that science really didn’t have much to do with it,” he said.
When asked for an example, Dickenson pointed to the guide’s recommendation to consume lower-fat dairy as an acceptable protein.
“Some of the latest scientific studies that have come out on this actually recommend the exact opposite,” he said. “Full fat [dairy] is being found, and has been found in the past, to be a way of limiting intake because you reach a satiety point — you feel fuller — faster, and as a result, you eat less.”
Dickenson doesn’t think the entire guide is bad, noting that he was happy to see it recommend more home cooking and unprocessed foods.
“I think in some ways, this food guide was trying to do too much and it ended up working against itself,” he said.
“It talked about limiting processed foods, but then [also] limiting animal proteins and replacing it with plant protein, or synthetic protein — which is processed.”