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Public Nutritionist: Expensive choices a problem with Canada Food Guide

The introduction of the new Canada Food Guide has a public health nutritionist worried.

Vanessa Hurley fills that role for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. She says while helpful and technically correct, the food guide may be offering up advice that is tough for area residents to follow through on.

“We give this advice but then we know that people struggle to make these guidelines a reality if they don’t have enough money or enough income to be able to carry out what we are recommending,” she admits.

The new guide brings fruits and vegetables to the forefront and those items are a tough ask for low-income families.

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“When people don’t have enough money for food then they are not able to achieve those healthy eating guidelines around vegetables and fruits,” explains Hurley. “So they may end up having to forego those more expensive, healthier options to have enough money to pay for things like a roof over their head and other costs that come up.”

She says that’s why health units along with local and regional governments are constantly working on policies to try and increase how much money a family actually takes home.

“Definitely we need more income if we want everyone to be able to have access to safe, healthy affordable and acceptable food,” Hurley says.

The new Canada Food Guide gets away from the rainbow system, replacing it with a plate with four sections.

“We see what’s called a healthy plate and that really does emphasize the vegetables and fruit,” she points out. “In the old food guide, it also emphasized the fruits and vegetables so that has stayed the same but we also see a section for protein foods which combines your meat alternatives and your milk into one group I guess you could say. We know that some protein foods, as well as fruits and vegetables, are those higher cost items.”

The bottom line is, she says, advice is nice, but if people can’t afford to follow it then the net goals of having healthier people is going to be tough to achieve.

“So we definitely see that in our profession as a barrier,” says Hurley. “That people just don’t have enough money to purchase the foods that we are recommending.”

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