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David Baxter

Mar 26, 2004
Canada's Food Guide should seek inspiration from Brazil: researcher
CBC News
March 5, 2016

The poster can be found in almost every Canadian school: A rainbow representing the food we should be eating. Green for vegetables. Yellow for grains. Blue representing dairy and red for protein.

But a Canadian researcher who helped Brazilians rethink how they eat says Canada's Food Guide should stop focusing on the four food groups but should instead look to eliminating processed food.

Earlier this week the Senate released a report on Canada's obesity crisis. The report, titled Obesity in Canada, pushes for a tax on sugary drinks, a ban on food and drink advertising aimed at children and government subsidies for healthy food.

It also makes 21 recommendations in total for dealing with Canada's obesity crisis, including a call for the federal government to rewrite Canada's food guide without any input from the food and beverage industries.

Emphasis on fresh food
Jean-Claude Moubarac, a researcher in the nutrition department at the University of Montreal, said Brazil's food guide isn't based on the four food groups like in Canada, but instead looks at how food is processed. "It's based on the type of processing and the observation that people who consume more fresh and minimally processed food, they have the best diet," he told CBC's All in a Day.

The Brazilian guide, released in 2014, says the cornerstone of people's diets should be fresh, unprocessed food. It limits the use of oils, salt and sugar and recommends people avoid ultra-processed foods made with refined flours, sugars and starches. Moubarac said that rules out chips, most frozen foods and sugary drinks.

It's a guiding principle he thinks Canada could learn from.

"In Canada we're grouping together things like sausages and chicken within the same group. We want to orient people into choosing the best quality of food that is out there. These are foods that are close to nature," he said.

The South American country's guide also looks at lifestyles. It moves beyond a do and don't list and calls for people to cook their own meals from scratch and eat with friends and family.

Food industry shut out from talks
"[Ready-made food is] convenient maybe at the moment because you don't have to cook but the [health] costs associated with these products are very high," Moubarac said.

The Brazilian guide also teaches people to be critical of food advertising. When Brazil was rethinking its food guide Moubarac said the food industry wasn't part of the initial consultation. They were only allowed to weigh in during the public consultation stage.

"Now we see some researchers who are linked to the industry who are heavily criticizing the science behind the food guide. But if you look worldwide the Brazilian guide has been said to be one of the best models in the world," he said


Forum Supporter
Aug 5, 2004
10 Easy Ways to Cut Processed Food From Your Diet
By Dana Leigh Smith, EatThis.com

Why should you care about processed foods? A huge reason as it turns out. The luxury of these convenient foods comes with a cost you might not have considered: Your health.

You’ve likely heard the term “processed food,” but it’s not always obvious what falls into this category. According to Lauren Minchen MPH, RDN, CDN, a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist based in New York City, the term describes anything edible that no longer looks how it once did in nature or something that never existed in nature. She also notes that foods under this umbrella are typically chemical-laden and sold in jars, boxes and bags.

Even if you’re aware of the benefits of whole foods, making the transition to a clean diet can be a struggle. Processed foods are downright addicting (no you weren’t imagining it!). “These foods are so hard to say no to because they are loaded with added sugars and fats, which physically change how they feel inside the mouth,” explains Minchen. “This altered texture and taste actually makes the body crave more.” Yikes!

The best way to dive in to a processed food detox and fight back against addiction is to start with easy-to-cut things that you eat everyday. Don’t hone in on eliminating your favorite foods right away though, notes Minchen. That could set you up for failure. Click through the slides to see which foods are easiest and most beneficial to cut first. Eliminate one food at a time and cut out more once the first swap seems like second nature. You may be surprised just how easy it is to cut back and, eventually, cut out processed foods.

1 Begin With Your Breakfast Bowl
Many boxed cereals are loaded with preservatives, artificial coloring and added sugar, salt and calories, so Skip the Cap'n Crunch and Frosted Flakes and opt for an alternative with a short ingredient list. Slow-cooking, whole grain, steel cut oats fit the bill. It’s only minimally processed and a huge step in the right direction.

To eliminate all processed foods from your morning meal opt for an omelet topped with avocado and fresh vegetables. Serve with a side of mixed fruit for added fiber and vitamins.

2 Consider What's In Your Coffee Cup
Although coffee beans have to be somewhat processed to get from the forest to your cup, this morning pick me up maintains most of its nutritional integrity, placing it into the “minimally” processed category. To keep your java as natural as possible consider what else you mix into your brew. Swap flavored creamers (which are often loaded with colorings, artificial flavors, and corn syrup) for a splash of cream and a shake of cinnamon for flavor. Nix artificial sweeteners and use a small serving of sugar in the raw instead.

3 Get the “Yuck” Out of Your Yogurt
In its most natural state, plain yogurt is a nutritional champion. It’s loaded with gut-healthy nutrients and has an ingredient list you can actually pronounce. You run into trouble when you eat sweetened varieties with added fruits and flavors. These add-ins are a sure sign the yogurt has been processed. Look for varieties made with milk and live active cultures. Top with freshly-chopped fruit, honey and cinnamon for natural flavor and sweetness.

4 Dress Your Salad Smarter
Heading to the salad bar is a good move if you want an unprocessed midday meal. Raw veggies are as natural as it gets, but be wary of salad bar toppings like crunchy noodles, bacon bits and croutons which are not considered “clean” eats. Salad dressings are also loaded with scary ingredients that extend its shelf life and make the texture more appealing. In lieu of these processed varieties Minchen suggests combining lemon or lime juice (squeezed fresh from the fruit) with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add sea salt and pepper as desired for a fuller flavor. Leave your homemade dressing at work and dress your salad back at the office.

Bonus: You’ll also save on cash. Dressing weighs down your salad considerably, spiking the price of your grab-and-go option. The little extra step of making your own dressing means more money in your pocket, and that’s something we all like.

5 Build a Better Sandwich
Popular lunch meats like ham, turkey and roast beef are highly processed and loaded with sodium, chemicals and nitrates which can increase heart-disease risk and spike blood pressure. Instead of taking a number at the deli counter, shop for fresh, uncooked, uncured meats and roast them at home over the weekend. Once the meat has cooled, cut it into slices so it’s simple and quick to pile between bread during the week. Speaking of bread, look for organic varieties with whole grains listed as the first ingredient. This is as close to unprocessed as you can get.

6 Snack Wisely
When hunger strikes, snacking is inevitable, so make sure you have smart picks at hand. Clear the packed cookies, crackers and snack bars out of the cupboard and make room for unprocessed alternatives like fresh fruits, raw nuts and seeds, veggie slices, hard-boiled eggs, seasoned chickpeas, and kale chips. To make your own crisps at home break kale into bite-sized pieces and toss with sea salt and two teaspoons of olive oil. Bake at 250 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, or until crisp.

If you’re in pinch and need to pick up a processed snack look for options with less than five whole food ingredients, suggests Minchen. Sea Salt Pipcorn and Cashew Cookie L?RABARS (made from just cashews and dates) fit the bill.

7 Ditch Fake Fruits and Vegetables
While munching on fruits and veggies is typically a no brainer, not all produce is created equal. Applesauce, fig cookies and orange juice are examples of fruits gone rogue and should be cleared from your cabinet. Frozen veggies with added sauces are also “clean” eating no-nos. Instead, stick to whole, fresh produce that isn’t sold in a bag, box or can.

8 Pick a Better Pasta
Pasta smothered in tomato sauce is a family dinner favorite, but it’s also highly processed. Instead of boiling up whole wheat or white pasta, pierce a spaghetti squash with a sharp knife and place it on a baking tray. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and bake it for an hour. After the squash has cooled, slice it in half and use a fork to remove the seeds. Then use the fork to comb out long spaghetti strands and place in a serving bowl. Toss with olive oil, fresh minced garlic, saut?ed fresh tomatoes, and fresh herbs to taste.

9 Add Flavor with More Favorable Fats
While whipping up dinner, stay away from processed oils such as canola, margarine, and Crisco, suggests Minchen. Instead use unprocessed cooking fats such as olive, coconut and almond oils and organic butter. Whichever option you choose, just remember: Fats should be used in moderation to keep calories in check and weight gain at bay.

10 Shop Smarter for Your Soy
Vegetarians, vegans and carnivores alike often turn to soy-based products as a meat free way to add protein and essential vitamins to their diet. Frozen veggie burgers, which typically contain soy ingredients, are popular vegetarian picks, but they are also highly processed. For a more natural soy snack munch on steamed edamame (soy beans still in their pods) and top with salt. Pop the beans out of their pods and add them to Asian-inspired stir fries and salads to create a meal.


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Feb 14, 2016
What a nice article!
I also want to add some tips: using sunflower or safflower or grape seed oil in combination with apple cider vinegar is another tasty dressing.
Making your own bread with whole grains and wheat germ is not difficult.
I am not sure I would like squash pasta, but I am not a pasta lover any way. However, one can make healthy pasta with a pasta maker, I have looked into buying one
To me all chips is unhealthy. The healthier varieties are crazy expensive and barely have any nutritional value. From my last review of the evidence on organic foods, I concludes that I am okay without them. There is not enough evidence to justify the higher price from what I read and from conversations with dietitians.
Eating things like leeks, garlic, onion and ginger seems to be healthy.

I have stopped buying white sugar long time ago. Still fighting to eliminate pop from the house.

Instead of fries, we eat boiled potato salad or roasted potatoes. I find them very tasty, especially sprinkled with summer savoury, red pepper, salt and fresh garlic paste.

What tips do the other members have?
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