The federal government is updating Canada’s Food Guide and I say it’s about time. I have a few bones to pick with the last one. For instance, take the recommendation to eat six to seven grain products per day. That’s the recommended amount for an adult woman; for men it’s eight. I grew up on a grain farm so I’m all for grain products, but that seems excessive.
I usually start my day with a bowl of oats (in the form of porridge or muesli) or a slice of toast with peanut butter, each of which constitutes one serving of grain. At that rate, I’m already behind and the day has just begun. (This particular morning, I had chocolate for breakfast, which I don’t see anywhere on the food guide. Imagine that!)
The first Canada’s Official Food Rules, published in 1942, recommended four to six slices of bread per day, but that was based on wartime food shortages and, no doubt, a lot of good homemade bread. The current food guide expands the list of grains to include pasta, couscous, bulgur, rice and quinoa.
But seriously, if I worked six servings of any one (or a combination of) into my diet, I’d have little room left over for the required number of fruits and vegetables — seven to eight servings per day. That’s a category I don’t want to shortchange. A serving is identified as one fruit or one-half cup. So, blueberries in my oatmeal, an apple for lunch, a few carrots for snacking and a Greek salad for supper. That adds up to six in a stretch. If I fall short, I can always end the day with a bowl of ice cream and raspberries. Oh, but no leafy greens. Maybe tomorrow.
This brings me to the next category in Canada’s Food Guide: milk and milk alternatives. The guide recommends two to three servings per day, including two glasses of milk. The listed alternatives are “fortified” beverages. Now, I have nothing against milk but I rarely drink it. I put a little in my coffee but otherwise I prefer my dairy in the form of yogurt and cheese. It seems to me this category is better called “Dairy” than “Milk.”
However, if the goal is to ingest more calcium, why not call it that and include other non-dairy sources of calcium such as broccoli, okra, rhubarb, tofu, almonds, beans and chickpeas (according to the website of the International Osteoporosis Foundation). This would be a kindness to all those folks who are lactose intolerant, just as listing quinoa, rice, buckwheat and oats is helpful to those who are gluten free.
The fourth and final category in Canada’s Food Guide is meat and meat alternatives. However, if the goal is to eat a certain amount of protein (two servings a day for women, three for men), why give top billing to meat? Almonds, eggs and lentils are not an alternative to meat, they’re great in their own right. Right?
A new version of Canada’s Food Guide is coming out next year. According to a list of guiding principles, released last month, the new guide will promote a plant-based diet, give greater consideration to food restrictions (such as gluten intolerance and veganism) and encourage us to cook at home and eat together.
This recipe fits all four categories of the current food guide and, the way I see it, not an “alternative” in sight.
Chickpeas and Spinach
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 c. finely chopped spinach 1/2 c. finely chopped coriander leaves
- 2 c. cooked chickpeas
- 2 c. stewed tomatoes and their juice
- Salt and pepper
Heat oil in a deep skillet. Cook onion and garlic until soft. Stir
in spinach and cook for a few minutes to wilt. Add remaining ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Serve on its own or with couscous or rice.