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Your guide to a better diet

Red meat, poultry and dairy are still on
 the menu, but so are other protein foods

Canada’s new food guide is less prescriptive than it has ever been. There are no recommendations for number of servings or serving sizes for any specific food.

There are just broad guiding statements to help Canadians make more healthy eating choices. These statements echo healthy eating recommendations by countries around the world and reflect current research widely accepted by leading health organizations.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that eating more vegetables and fruits is one of the key recommendations of the new guide. Nor that whole grains are recommended over processed flours.

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In a country where obesity, high blood pressure and chronic diseases are on the rise, it’s also understandable that we’re advised to reduce the amount of sodium, sugar and unhealthy fats we eat and that we replace sugary drinks with water.

The recommendation to “eat protein foods” and the subtext in subsequent pages that says “choose protein foods that come from plants more often” is causing the most concern for people.

Does this mean that meat, dairy, fish and eggs are off the table? No, it doesn’t. The guide does not say we should eliminate any of those foods. It is encouraging us to add variety to our diet and not rely so heavily on animal-based proteins.

The benefits of choosing more plant-based proteins go beyond just getting all of our protein needs met. When we eat more plants, we also get more fibre, vitamins and nutrients in fewer calories and without any saturated fat. Eating more plants makes sense if a healthy diet is important to you.

As someone who enjoys eating animal products and is interested in healthy eating, the new food guide reinforces my belief in eating a variety of healthy foods.

I will continue to feed my family meat, dairy, fish and eggs. But not exclusively. We will look for ways to eat more plant-based proteins like pulses, nuts, seeds, whole grains and soy products. We will explore new recipes and add the ones we love to our weekly meal rotation, because taste and enjoyment is important too.

Luckily, finding plant-based proteins is not difficult. As shown in the plant protein chart, there are a variety of options. And, unlike what previous generations thought, there’s no need to worry about combining certain foods to get enough protein. If you’re eating a variety of foods and maintaining the recommended plate proportions (half a plate of veggies, one-quarter whole grains and one-quarter protein) you’ll get everything you need to maintain optimum health.

To get your family on board, start off with meal ideas where the change in protein source isn’t startlingly obvious. Don’t just switch a pork chop with a slice of tofu, that won’t work!

Instead, try vegetarian chili, chickpea curry, bean and rice burritos, or lentil soup. Breakfast and snack time are another great time to introduce more plant proteins.

For breakfast try fruit and nut oatmeal, chia seed pudding with fruit, peanut or almond butter on whole grain toast, apple walnut bran muffins, etc. For snacks try hummus and veggies, no-bake energy bites, fruit smoothies with white beans, nut and seed trail mix, edamame beans, and so forth.

Switching from meat and potato dinners to meals featuring plant-based proteins can be a little daunting at first, but once you try some of the delicious meal options available, you’ll be glad to add them to your weekly rotation. Here are two family favourites.

The Heartiest Vegetarian Chili

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1 medium bell pepper (diced)
  • 2 medium carrots (peeled and chopped)
  • 2 celery stalks (chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder (as mildor spicy as you like)
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 796-ml can diced tomatoes
  • 2 c. vegetable stock (chicken/ turkey/beef stock would all work)
  • 3 cans various beans (drained and rinsed, e.g. kidney, black and navy beans)
  • Greek yogurt, avocado, cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice and parsley (for garnish)

Heat canola oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and pepper and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until soft and beginning to brown.

Add garlic, chili powder and paprika and sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add tomatoes, broth and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Transfer about 1.5 cups of the chili (be sure to include some liquid) into a blender and blend until smooth. An immersion blender can also be used. Transfer blended chili back into the pot and stir to incorporate.

Serve chili with a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice and a dollop of sour cream. Top with parsley for a pop of colour. Add avocado or cheese as desired. Serves 6.

Vegetarian chili.
photo: iStock/Getty Images

Source: Registered dietitians Dara Gurau and Erin McGregor at

Golden Lentil Soup

  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 1 celery rib, diced finely
  • 2 carrots, diced coarsely
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/2 c. red split lentils, rinsed
  • 5 c. vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp. lemon juice to taste
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

In large, heavy pot, heat canola oil over medium-high heat.

Add onion, celery and carrots. Cook until onions are translucent, three to five minutes.

Stir in garlic and cook one minute.

Add cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and lentils, cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover with lid slightly askew and simmer until lentils and vegetables are tender, 15 to 17 minutes.

Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from heat.

Serve as is or purée for smooth consistency. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serves 4.

Lentil soup.
photo: ftlaudgirl/iStock/Getty Images


About the author


Getty Stewart is a professional home economist, speaker and writer from Winnipeg. For more recipes, preserves and kitchen tips, visit



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