We are so happy to see Canada’s revamped food guide finally reflect relevant themes around healthy eating and lifestyle! Although nutrition is highly dependent on one’s lifestyle and we consider this a guide, not a rule book, we believe this a great start and a very welcome change. Rooks to Cooks had the pleasure of connecting with Karen Gilman, a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist, and we asked for her key take aways to share with our readers. We thank Karen for her valuable and helpful commentary and suggestions! Link to Canada’s Food Guide: https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/

Karen Gilman: As a holistic nutritionist I have never paid much attention to food guides choosing instead to work with clients and provide them with custom meal plans based on their individual needs. However, the recent launch of the new Canada’s Food Guide has been getting lots of press, so I decided to take a look and see what all the noise was about.  I was pleased to see how well-rounded the new food guide is, and I am happy to share the TOP 4 things that really resonated with me:

1. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.

As a holistic nutritionist with a special interest in vegetarian diets, I was pleasantly surprised with the addition of this recommendation. Yeah! I absolutely love this. Yes, as Michael Pollan said “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Photo by Karen Gilman

As someone who has been following a mostly vegetarian diet for about 30 years now, plant-based proteins have always been the hero on my plate. However, most people think of animal-based options when it comes to protein. As a mom with a vegetarian daughter, I am always asked how she gets her protein and I always tell people there are so many options, even for those who say they hate tofu.

Things like beans, lentils, chickpeas are all great plant-based options you can incorporate into your meal or build your meal around. Nuts and seeds and even vegetables have protein.  It really isn’t difficult to get enough protein following a plant-based diet but you don’t have to go plant-based all the way. Start with “Meatless Monday” and then add more plant-based meals as you become more comfortable and find options your family likes.  Trying adapting family favourites and make tofu stir fry instead of chicken or make black bean tacos instead of meat tacos.

2. Have plenty of vegetables and fruits.

It may come as a surprise to lots of people that half their plate should be made up of fruits and vegetables. I think a lot of people have been following the old “protein, carbohydrate and a side of veggies” mantra for preparing meals with the traditional meat, potatoes and a side of veggies. This veggie half of your plate can be anything from a single vegetable, a mix of vegetables or even a green salad. Or make soups and stews with lots of different vegetables. Believe it or not but you don’t need as much protein as you think and vegetables have protein too!

3. Be mindful of your eating habits.

This was a really insightful addition to the Canada Food Guide. Not only is it important what you eat, but how and when are also important.  Are we eating because we are hungry or are we eating because we are bored or even stressed or anxious? It is important to look for our internal cues, so we eat when we are hungry. And, of course, enjoy our food. Food should be savoured and not inhaled on the go. If we eat in a relaxed manner, our bodies will be able to digest our food properly and absorb all those amazing nutrients.   

4. Cook from scratch.

Now here’s an idea! Cooking from scratch. I think our culture has moved away from the notion of cooking from scratch. It seems everyone is too busy to cook these days which is so unfortunate. We need to get back in the kitchen, not just for ourselves but for our kids. How are they going to be able to feed themselves? We don’t want them to eat a diet full of fast or processed food. That’s not going to help the ever-increasing rate of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.  Just basic skills like learning how to make an omelet or even boiling pasta will go a long way in helping them be self-sufficient when they move out on their own.

Rooks to Cooks offers our kids just this chance. Forget about all those YouTube food videos! Hands-on cooking is where it’s at. At Rooks to Cooks kids will not only learn how to cook but to become more comfortable and confident in the kitchen.  Kids also gain the opportunity to expand their palate by trying new foods. How awesome is that?? Too many of our kids eat the same thing over and over again. At the Rooks to Cooks cooking classes, chef instructors take the time to explain about nutrition and how to safely navigate a kitchen. Kids will come away with a keen understanding on how important cooking really is and how easy and fun it can be.

About Karen Gilman: Karen is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist who is passionate about supporting families with vegetarian children. Even if you don’t have vegetarian children, but are looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins into your family’s diet, Karen can provide you with some guidance.

To get in touch, please email Karen at:  karen@nutrilicious.ca or sign up for her newsletter at: www.nutrilicious.ca and grab a copy of her e-book Vegetarian Teen Basics For Busy Parents.

Photo by Kailee Mandel