Carbs or Fat – which one should we eat less of?


Since 1977, Health Canada and Canada’s Food Guide have been promoting a diet which is high in carbs (45-65%) and low in fat (20-35% ) and which recommends that no more than 7% of fat comes from saturated fat — with the goal of lowering heart disease.

As elaborated on in an earlier blog, prior to 1977, the obesity rate [measured as Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg / m2] of Canadian adults was <10% and in 1978, only 15% of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

As a result of lowering dietary intake from fat and increasing it substantially from carbohydrates, what happened to obesity statistics? Diabetes statistics?

Obesity became an epidemic.

In adults the prevalence of obesity [body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2] went from 10% in 1970-72 to 26% in 2009-11! In children, that rate doubled to 29% of children and adolescents being overweight or obese by 2007 and by 2011, obesity prevalence for boys was 15.1% and for girls was  8.0% in 5 to 17 year olds.

Based on waist circumference, 37% of adults and 13% of youth are currently considered abdominally obese.

Diabetes rates almost doubled.

In the 1970s, the rate of Type 2 Diabetes in women was 2.6% and 3.4 % in men, in the 1980s that number rose to 3.8% for women and 4.5% for men.  In the 1990s the rate was almost double what it was in 1970; 4.7% for women and 7.5% for men.

Now get this: Type 2 Diabetes contributes to increased risk of heart disease.

So in an effort to reduce rates of heart disease by lowering fat intake and increasing carbohydrate intake, rates of Type 2 Diabetes doubled — which in turn, raised the risk of heart disease! Ironic.

If eating a high carbohydrate, low fat diet is associated with higher rates of obesity which in turn results in a higher incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, what is the option? Isn’t it also a problem to eat a low carbohydrate / high fat diet… isn’t a high fat diet bad for you?”.

This is the question that we will begin to answer in this article and conclude in the next one.

Are all fats the same? Is extra virgin olive oil in the same category as bacon? Or fish oil as lard?

The Health Canada guidelines recommend eating low fat dairy products, lean meat and using a “small amount — 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 mL ) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise“.

1. We are told to use a small amount of unsaturated fat per day; what is an unsaturated fat and are they all the same?

2. Is the fat in dairy products and meat “bad” for you?

I am going to answer the first question in this article and the second question in the next one.

1. What are the different type of fats.

There are two main classes of fats — saturated fats and unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fat can be further classified as polyunsaturated fats and mono-unsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats include everything from omega-3 fats from fish oil to the fat found in omega-6 fats found in canola oil and corn oil. More about what makes it an ‘omega-3’ or ‘omega-g’ below. Omega-3 fats, especially the long chain ones from fish oil (e.g. DHA, EPA) are heart-healthy and are anti-inflammatory and have been found to be protective against heart disease. Refined seed oils that are high in omega-6 fats are pro-inflammatory.

Monounsaturated fats such as those found in avocado and nuts or cold-expressed from olive oil or avocado or nuts and seeds are considered by Health Canada and the writers of Canada’s Food Guide as the healthiest (and thus, preferred) kind of fat.

We’ve been told to eat a “low fat diet” but are all fats the same? Are omega-3 fats from fish to be lumped together with fat from bacon? And if we eat a diet low in saturated fat, will our “bad” cholesterol (LDL) go down?

Most people have heard that of the fats taken in from the diet, saturated fat is “bad” for you and mono-unsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat is “good” for you.  Before we deal with whether this is true, let’s define what these are.

There are some basics that we need to cover, to ‘follow’ the discussion as to whether saturated fat in the diet results in high LDL cholesterol and high Triglycerides (TG). I’ll try to make this much less painful than it may have been when you first learned this.

  • fatty acids are molecules made up of a carbon backbone.  Think of it like a train with cars connected together.  Actually think of it more like “fuselage” of a plane (which will become clear as to why, below). The body is made up of carbons all in a row.
  • if there are no double bonds in the carbon chain, it is a saturated fatty acids because something can bond at every carbon along the carbon chain.  Think of those molecules that bond to a carbon as “wings” sticking off the fuselage.
  • if there is one double bond in the carbon chain, it is an unsaturated fatty acid. It is “unsaturated” because no other compound can bond where the double bond is. So it can have “wings” every where else along the carbon chain (which makes it unsaturated) but not at the place where the one double bond is.
  • if the carbon chain has more than one double bond, it is called a polyunsaturated  fatty acids (PUFAs).
  • there can be a double bonds off one of the carbons in the carbon backbone chain.
  • where the double bond off the carbon backbone is located determines whether it is an omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid or an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid.
  • all omega-3 fats have their first double bond in the same place on the carbon chain (away from what is called the ‘carboxyl’ end).  All omega-3 fats have their first double bond starting at the 3rd carbon (away from what is called the ‘carboxyl end’).
  • all omega 6 fats have their first double bond starting at the 6th carbon (away from the carboxyl end)

That’s pretty well all the chemistry you need to know.

So we’ve heard that we should decrease our intake of all fat, especially saturated fat as it leads to high LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides (TG) but is that true?   2. Is the fat in dairy products and meat “bad” for you?

3. Is saturated fat in the diet the only source?

Spoiler alert!

Our bodies not only make fat, they synthesize saturated fat!

We will cover the making of endogenous (“in the body”) saturated fat in Part 2, coming soon!

Meanwhile, remember that most people’s extended benefit coverage rolls over a the end of the year; which is coming up in only 5 weeks and most plans cover visits to a Registered Dietitian.

If you want to maximize your 2015 benefits, be sure to contact us now.

Have a look at the services we offer and feel free to click on the “Contact Us” tab above, to find out how to get started.

Copyright ©2017 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this blog, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

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What Food Needs to be Thrown Away after a Power Failure

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) advises that in the event of a power failure, an unopened fridge will only keep food cold for about four hours. So here are some guidelines to follow if you have been out of power for longer than that.

What do you need to get rid of?

Any food that spoils quickly and has been stored above 4 C for two or more hours should be tossed. This includes:

  • raw, thawing and leftover meat, poultry and seafood — including processed meat products such as hot dogs, sausages and cold cuts
  • any canned meat or seafood that has been opened
  • leftover pizza with meat toppings
  • any items that have come in contact with raw meat juices
  • fresh eggs, hard-boiled eggs in shell, egg products and dishes
  • salads containing meat, chicken, egg or seafood, as well as potato salad and pasta salads containing mayonnaise or vinaigrette
  • casseroles, soups and stews
  • gravy, stuffing and broth
  • milk (dairy and soy), cream, yogurt, sour cream and cream-filled pastries
  • baby formula
  • soft cheeses like brie, Edam, Camembert, cottage cheese and cream cheese, shredded cheese
  • cut fresh fruits, pre-cut and pre-washed packaged greens, opened vegetable juice, cooked vegetables (including potatoes) and tofu
  • leftover cooked pasta and rice, fresh pasta and open containers of pasta sauce
  • opened fish sauce and oysters sauce (but Worcestershire, soy, hoisin and barbecue sauces should be fine)
  • opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish that has been left above 10 C for eight hours or longer

(Source: CFIA and

What to do about food in your freezer

If you have a fully packed chest freezer or fully packed freezer compartment of your refrigerator, your food may stay frozen for up to 48 hours, according to the CFIA, but if it is only half full or is an upright, expect your food to have thawed within 24 hours.

If you bought bags of ice within 2 hours of the power going out, you may have been able to keep the food at a safe temperature (below –  4 C).

If you had thawed food in your fridge that still feels “refrigerator cold” or is partially frozen, it can be cooked and eaten safely.

What food is safe to keep if the power goes out?

The good news is that some items you normally keep in your fridge will last longer if the power goes out.

Those items include:

  • ketchup, mustard, relish, pickles and olives
  • peanut butter and jam
  • butter and margarine
  • bread, rolls, tortillas, cakes and muffins (but throw out cookie, biscuit and roll dough)
  • fruit pies (but toss out custard, cheese-filled or chiffon pies, quiche and cheesecake)
  • raw fruits and vegetables, including fresh mushrooms
  • opened canned fruits and fruit juices
  • grated parmesan or Romano (or combined) cheese in a can or jar
  • hard cheeses, such as cheddar, Swiss, Colby and provolone
  • processed cheeses
  • opened vinegar-based dressings (but, get rid of opened creamy dressings)


What do you do if you’re unsure about they safety of your food?

When in doubt, throw it out.

Just because you can’t see or smell any spoilage doesn’t mean the food in question is safe to eat. No food, regardless how costly is worth risking getting food poisoning over.

Disinfecting your fridge / freezer

Once you’ve discarded everything that needs to be thrown out, be sure to disinfect the inside of the fridge with a mild bleach solution and wash any soiled cloths used in the clean-up process in hot soapy water, with a bit of bleach. This will prevent contaminating other surfaces or food with the bacteria from the spoiled food.  Wearing gloves while doing this is also a good idea.  If you don’t have any available, be sure to wash your hands well with hot soapy water long enough to sing “row row row your boat” or “Mary had a little lamb”.

While you may have lost costly food items and had the inconvenience of having no power for an extended period of time, following these simple steps will help minimize the risk of getting ill or making someone else ill from spoiled food.


(Source: Nick Logan, Global News)




Weight Gain as a Hormone Imbalance not a Calorie Imbalance

scaleWeight gain is not caused simply by taking in more calories than you burn (the so-called “calorie-in / calorie-out” model).  Calories in and calories out are interdependent factors, so when calories are restricted the body actually slows its metabolism, lowering the energy it uses for vital bodily functions. Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE) can decrease by as much as 30-50% in order to spare calories!

On the opposite end, when too many calories are taken in by someone who is already overweight, the body will try to get rid of them by increasing its Basal Energy Expenditure, usually by speeding up respiration, increasing heart rate and breathing and generating more heat.

The body does this because its ‘set point’; the weight at which your body likes to be and will tend to stay with very little effort, is highly regulated. It really isn’t that easy to gain or lose weight if we haven’t already compromised this built-in homeostatic mechanism.

That is why trying to control calories doesn’t work for long term weight loss. When we restrict calories, and increase our exercise, our body responds by increasing hunger, initiating craving (especially for foods such as simple carbs that can be broken down quickly to glucose for your blood) and by decreasing the amount of energy it uses.

Have you ever skipped a meal or lowered your calories so much that you feel cold; even though the room is at an adequate temperature and you are dressed appropriately? You are shivering because your body is sparing calories it would normally use for heat generation.


Body Weight is Regulated by Hormones

Body weight is not really under our control as much as we’d like to believe.  It is a tightly regulated process that involves a variety hormones including leptin (a hormone that regulates fat stores by inhibiting hunger), ghrelin (a hormone that increase hunger when your stomach is empty) and insulin, which plays a very significant role in hunger, eating behavior and fat management.

To understand how significant a role insulin plays in weight regulation, let’s look at a situation where there is insufficient insulin. Type I diabetes results from the destruction of the insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells stemming from an autoimmune disorder. One of the hallmarks of this disease and it’s very low levels of insulin is severe weight loss. Type I diabetics need to take insulin injections to correct for the insulin deficiency but the more insulin that is taken, the more weight gain there is. As insulin levels go up, hunger is triggered and we feel the urge to eat.

Insulin is one of the major controllers of the body set point.

As mentioned, if we don’t take in sufficient calories, then our body decreases our Basal Energy Expenditure so that we end up maintaining our body weight in response to whatever the number of calories are that we take in.  The issue in weight gain is not how to reduce calories but how to reduce insulin.


Insulin as the Main Factor in Weight Gain

When we eat food, our body releases insulin in response to the rise in glucose in our blood, coming from the digested food. Insulin acts as a messenger to instruct the body’s cells to absorb glucose, in effect reducing blood glucose levels.

Insulin resistance is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to insulin and fail to respond normally to normal levels insulin, leading to higher blood sugar. The pancreas tries to compensate to this condition by producing more and more insulin.  As long as the pancreas is able to produce enough insulin to overcome this resistance, blood glucose levels remain normal but when the pancreas can no longer produce enough insulin, the blood glucose levels begin to rise.

Initially, this added rise in blood glucose happens after meals (when glucose levels are already at their highest) and more insulin is needed – but eventually these higher levels of glucose are seen first thing in the morning when the person hasn’t eaten for 8 or 10 hours. When blood sugar rises abnormally above specific clinical levels, the person is diagnosed as having Type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance is often called “pre-diabetes” because it precedes the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

Consistently high blood glucose levels along with insulin resistance lead to cells that are starved of glucose even though there is plenty of glucose in the blood. Since the cells aren’t getting any of the glucose even though it is there, it is not available to the cells because insulin is not binding it and taking it in. As a result, hunger signals are sent to the brain, leading to eating, even though the person has recently eaten.

As more and more glucose accumulates (both from the food being eaten and as you will see in a minute, through the making of glucose due to the effect of cortisol, another hormone) the high levels of glucose trigger the body to store the excess glucose as body fat.


The Effect of Stress on Weight Gain

Cortisol, the so-called stress hormone also plays a role in weight gain. Let’s look at another medical conditions to illustrate the effects of cortisol. In Cushing Syndrome, cortisol is over-produced by the body and weight gain results.  When we give people a synthetic form of cortisol as a medication (e.g. prednisone) they get something called Cushinoid Syndrome.  That is, they look like they have Cushing ’s disease. Not only do they gain weight, but there is a particular distribution of this weight gain called truncal obesity which means that fat is gained around the belly, rather than on the arms and legs.

In adrenal insufficiency (also known as Addison’s disease) which produces the opposite effect, the adrenal gland becomes damaged due an autoimmune condition and is unable to produce cortisol.  The hallmark of Addison’s disease is weight loss.

So what role does cortisol play in healthy individuals? Cortisol is released as a result of ordinary events such as waking up in the morning or exercising, but also is released in response to physiological and psychological stress.  Physiological stress might be an illness or injury and the release of cortisol services a needed function to make sure we have enough glucose to heal.

Under stressful conditions, cortisol also plays the role of providing the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores via gluconeogenesis in the liver. This energy can be helpful in a “fight or flight” type of stressor, such as when one is being chased by something however under constant levels of psychological stress, elevated cortisol over leads to higher levels of glucose being made from protein in the body the long term.  So in addition to glucose coming from the food we eat (exogenous sources), we now have the body making its own glucose (endogenous sources).  The combined exogenous glucose from good and the endogenous glucose triggered by cortisol, now leads to even higher blood sugar levels that without the long term stress.

With continually high levels of cortisol, the body will take fat that is stored as triglycerides in our liver and relocate them to visceral fat cells — those under the muscle, deep in the abdomen. Just like in Cushing’s syndrome, we now see truncal obesity triggered by stress, mediated by cortisol.


Weight Gain is due to Hormonal Triggers and not a Lack of Will-Power

Cortisol also directly influences appetite and cravings by binding to hypothalamus receptors in the brain, triggering us to eat and crave foods that are easily broken down to glucose.  Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones that stimulate appetite. Simple carbohydrates like bread, pasta, candy and pop are common foods that people reach for in response to these craving because they are easily broken down to simple sugars. So, it is actually the higher levels of cortisol that lead to increased appetite and in particular cravings for high-calorie foods, not simply a lack of will-power.

As you can see, we don’t really control our body weight any more than we control our heart rates.  To a large degree, body weight is regulated automatically under the influence of hormones; hormones that indicate to eat and indicate when we are satiated.  Hormones signal our bodies to increase energy expenditure and when calories are restricted, hormones will slow energy expenditure.


Why All Diets Work and often All Diets Fail

It doesn’t really matter which diet people follow, whether it is Atkins, South Beach, or the good old fashioned low fat, low calorie diet, all diets in the short term produce weight loss. Yes, some are healthier than others, but they all “work”.

One would hope that by continuing to eat according to what ever diet we’ve chosen and by exercising, that our body’s set point would reset at a lower level, but this doesn’t happen.

Insulin levels stay high, continuing to drive hunger and eating.

How does this affect weight loss?

A few months into our diet, regardless what diet we follow, weight loss begins to plateau.  As the plateau continues, people get discouraged, and think to themselves ‘if I’m not losing weight, then I may as well eat – fill in the blank’. This is either followed by an abandoning of the diet completely and a regaining of the weight previously lost (or more) or by a stubborn insistence to restrict calories and fat even further — leading to a downshifting of basal energy expenditure. It’s a vicious cycle.


But why does Body Weight Plateau in the First Place?

In response to weight loss, the body tries to return to its original set point.  First it slows metabolism to try and slow down weight loss – resulting in slowed weight loss and eventual plateauing.

The reason is because we’ve done nothing to lower insulin levels.

Think of set point like a ‘body weight thermostat’. With a thermostat, when the air is hot enough, the furnace turns off and when it is too cool, the thermostat turns the furnace on.  Regardless what kind of diet a person follows, there will be weight loss effects in the short term, but eventually, even with continued compliance, body weight plateaus and in time, the person begins to regain the weight.


What about exercise?

Surely exercise will help us lose weight, right?

Basal energy expenditure which is the amount of energy we use at rest is estimated to be approximately 12-15 calories per pound.  For someone confined to complete bed-rest, caloric needs are calculated as 1.2 times Basal energy expenditure (BEE).

To visualize the effect exercise has on calorie loss, let’s take a 140 pound person as an example, whose basal caloric needs are 2200 – 2500 calories per day. Say they start exercising.  They start walking at a moderate pace (2 miles/hour) for 45 minutes every day, and burn roughly 104 calories.  Let’s look at that in terms of basal energy expenditure – that is only 4% of the BEE.  Okay, so say the person starts working out at a more vigorous pace, calorie burning will go up, right?  But how much?  6% of BEE?  8% of BEE? That’s about it.

The bottom line is, the vast majority of calories you take it; about 95% of caloric intake is used to heat the body and other metabolic processes, including keeping your heart beating, breathing, digestion, brain function, liver and kidney function, etc.

Set point is a tightly regulated mechanism, like a thermostat.  When we burn more calories through exercise two things happen.  Studies show that people actually end up decreasing their activity outside of the period of exercise and the other is they increase their caloric intake in response to exercise. That’s where the phrase “working up an appetite” comes from.

The reason exercise is not that effective for weight loss is because of metabolic compensation.  We understand this intuitively though, don’t we? When know when we cut calories, restrict certain foods and increase our exercise that our body responds by being more hungry and increasing cravings. We try to take extreme measures only to find that we don’t really have a chance at making the weight loss last long term.

Don’t misunderstand; exercise is good for you.  There are many benefits to regular exercise such as improved cardiovascular function, increased strength and flexibility, and lowering stress which will lower cortisol but weight loss is not one of the significant benefits of exercise.

So if restricting calories causes are energy usage to slow and results in us being more sedentary outside of the times we exercise or eating more in response to exercise, how do we lose weight and keep it off?

To keep weight off long term, we need to address the underlying hormonal trigger to hunger and appetite; mainly insulin. To lower weight and keep it off, we need to lower our insulin level.

There are two aspects to lowering insulin levels (1) the foods we eat and (2) when we eat and this will be the topic of the next blog.




Obesity Rates in Canada and Changes to Canada’s Food Guide

Introduction: Many people look to Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) as the “measuring stick” as to whether they are eating a healthy diet, but did you know that over the years, CFG has changed dramatically? Canada’s first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was introduced to the public in July 1942. This guide acknowledged wartime food rationing, while endeavoring to prevent nutritional deficiencies and to improve the health of Canadians. Over the years the names of the food groups, the serving sizes and numbers of servings has changed.  Serving sizes are now given in ranges; and one has to wonder if these changes have resulted in “over-nutrition”.

Changes in Canada’s obesity rates seems to parallel the changes in Canada’s Food Guide which is the topic of this blog.

Canada’s Food Rules – 1949

The post-WWII “Canada’s Food Rules” of 1949 emphasized people taking in sufficient nutrients to prevent nutritional deficiency as well as to avoid excess, by stressing that “more is not necessarily better”.

Adult guidelines promoted;

canadas_food_rules_19492 cups or more of full fat milk

1 serving of citrus or tomatoes daily & 1 other fruit

2 serving potatoes plus 2 servings other vegetables (preferably yellow or green and frequently raw)

4 slices of bread with butter and 1 serving whole grain cereal

one serving meat, fish or poultry or dried beans, eggs (3x / week), cheese (3x / week)

use liver frequently



Canada’s Food Guide – 1961

In the 1961 version the language softened; with “Guide” replacing “Rules” in the title. Canada’s Food Guide now sought to emphasize its flexibility and wide-ranging application for healthy eating, recognizing that many different dietary patterns could satisfy nutrient needs.

Adult guidelines promoted;

1961-eng1 1/2 cups or more of full fat milk (decreased by ½ cup)

1 serving of citrus or tomatoes daily & 1 other fruit

2 serving potatoes plus 2 servings other vegetables (preferably yellow or green and frequently raw)

4 slices of bread with butter and 1 serving whole grain cereal

one serving meat, fish or poultry, eggs (3x / week), cheese (3x / week) or dried beans

use liver frequently


Nutrition Division, National Department of Health and Welfare (1961). Rules out – guide in. Canadian Nutrition Notes, 17(7):49-50 (cited in Health and Welfare Canada. Action towards healthy eating: technical report. 1990).

Canada’s Food Guide – 1977

In 1977 Canada’s Food Guide underwent a dramatic revision. There were now four food groups, instead of five, as fruits and vegetables were combined since their nutrient content overlapped and the name of those groups changed, too.

The Milk group became Milk and Milk Products, to highlight the inclusion of other dairy foods, Meat and Alternates replaced Meat and Fish allowing for vegetarian choices — but also resulting in the inclusion of things like peanut butter in this category, rather than categorized in the ‘fat’ category as occurs in other systems, such as the Food Exchanges.

Most significantly, serving ranges were added.

The big focus was on more carbs and less fats (regardless of what the sources of those fats were) — there was no differentiation between lard and olive oil. There was a shift to using low fat dairy products and the beginning of generations of “fat phobic” Canadians began.  “Low Fat” products became all the rage.

cfg_history_1977_two_small2 servings (skim, 2%, whole) milk, buttermilk or yogourt (1 serving = 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogourt, 1 ½ oz cheese)

4-5 servings fruit & vegetables (at least 2 vegetables) – cooked, raw or fruit juices, include yellow or green or green leafy vegetables

3-5 servings of Bread and Cereal

2 servings  Meat and Alternates – (1 serving = 2-3 oz lean cooked meat, fish or poultry or 2 eggs or 1 cup dried cooked legumes or ½ – 1 cup* nuts or seeds)


In 1977, there was introduction of a concept of “energy balance”; balancing energy intake with energy output (“calories in / calories out” model) which makes the assumption that basal metabolic rates stays the same.

With the goal of reducing diet-related chronic diseases (such as heart disease and high blood pressure), Canada’s Food Guide encouraged Canadians to reduce salt and fat, without distinguishing between sources of fats. In the process, the quantity of all kinds of fat, including healthy monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and nut and seed oil were all reduced.  Canada’s Food Guide encouraged Canadians to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables without distinguishing between high fiber, non-starchy vegetables and high carbohydrate starchy vegetables. More on that below.

Before 1977, the obesity rate [measured as Body Mass Index (BMI) ≥ 30 kg / m2] of Canadian adults was <10%.  Keep that number in mind. It changes considerably over the years as Canada’s Food Guide recommendations changed.

A report submitted to Health Canada in 1977 by the Committee on Diet and Cardiovascular Disease advised the government to take action to prevent diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure, so the emphasis in the revised 1982 Canada’s Food Guide was towards even lower fat products.

Lower fat in products often meant more sugar (as fructose or high fructose corn syrup) being added to products such as yogourt, to help make up for the missing taste. Portions of nuts and seeds which contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats were reduced in the ongoing push to lower all fat in the diet.

There was a continued shift towards carbs as the main source of calories; not only from Breads & Cereals, but from Fruit & Vegetables too — and in this category, there was no distinction between starchy vegetables (such as potatoes, peas, corn, squash and yams) and non-starchy vegetables, such as salad greens or asparagus.  As a result, a serving of sweet potato was categorized no differently than a serving of salad greens.

Furthermore, a serving of fruit juice was considered equivalent to a serving of fruit; with no concern for the fact that there was no fiber in the juice and significantly more carbohydrates per serving.  Carbs were perceived as “good” and fat was promoted as “bad”.  As a result of these changes, under this new Canada’s Food Guide, one could have 3 glasses of juiceone serving of potato and a tiny salad and “meet” the guidelines.

Canada’s Food Guide – 1982

Adult guidelines promoted;

cfg_history_1982_two_small2 servings (skim, 2%, whole) milk, buttermilk or yogourt (1 serving = 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogourt, 1 ½ oz cheese)

4-5 servings fruit & vegetables (at least 2 vegetables) – cooked, raw or fruit juices, include yellow or green or green leafy vegetables

3-5 servings of Bread and Cereal

2 servings  Meat and Alternates – (1 serving = 2-3 oz lean cooked meat, fish or poultry or 2 eggs or 1 cup dried cooked legumes or ½ cup* nuts or seeds)


Ballantyne, R.M., Bush, M.B. (1980). An evaluation of Canada’s food guide and handbook. Nutrition Quarterly, 4(1):1-4.

Canada’s Food Guide – 1992

In 1992, Canada’s Food Guide became Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.

A new “total diet approach” aimed to meet both energy (calories) and nutrient requirements, resulted in large ranges in the number of servings in the four food groups.

To meet higher energy needs, the Guide encouraged selection of more servings from the Grain Products and Vegetables and Fruit groups – resulting in an even higher percentage of carbohydrates in the diet.

Adult guidelines servings changed as follows:

cfg_history_1992_two_small3-5   5-12 servings of Bread and Cereal

4-5   5-10 servings fruit & vegetables (at least 2 vegetables) – cooked, raw or fruit juices, include yellow or green or green leafy vegetables

2   2-4 servings (skim, 2%, whole) milk, buttermilk or yogourt (serving = 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogourt, 1 ½ oz cheese)

2   2-3 servings Meat and Alternates – (1 serving = 2-3 oz lean cooked meat, fish or poultry or 2 eggs or ½ – 1 cup cooked legumes or 2 Tbsp. peanut butter)


Grain Products were now 1st on list (5-12 servings!); reflecting the shift that most of calories (45-65% of calories) were to come from carbs.

Vegetables and Fruit were put 2nd on the list (5-10 servings) and could still be chosen as all carbs (potato, yams, other starchy vegetables, fruit, fruit juice) and along with this, there was a continued decrease in calories from fat (e.g. nut butters went from ½ cup – 1 cup in 1977 to ½ cup 1982 to 2 Tbsp. in 1992)

Also in this Guide, cheese was categorized with milk and yogourt – even though other ways of accounting for food such as the Diabetic Exchanges, classify cheese with Meat and Alternates (and nut butters with fat).

In 2005, there were even more changes to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.  This is the Guide currently in use in Canada.

The numbers of servings were broken down based on stage of life and gender, but continuing the emphasis on high carbohydrate, low fat.  There were different number of servings per day for children aged 2-3, aged 4-8, aged 9-13, adolescent girls (aged 14-18), adolescent boys (aged 14-18), men (until aged 50), women (until aged 50) and then men over 50 and women over 50.

While Vegetables and Fruit were now put 1st instead of Grain Products, these could still be chosen as mostly carbs (potato, yams, other starchy vegetables, fruit, fruit juice), so with Grain Products put 2nd, carbs still formed the bulk of daily calories.

Canada’s Food Guide – 2005

Adult guidelines promoted (adults aged 19-50 years):

CFG 20055-10   7-8 (women) 8-10 (men) servings fruit & vegetables (at least 2 vegetables) – cooked, raw or fruit juices, include yellow or green or green leafy vegetables

5-12   6-7 (women) 8 (men) servings of Grain Products

2-4   2 (women and men) servings (skim, 2%, whole) milk, buttermilk or yogourt (serving = 1 cup milk, ¾ cup yogourt, 1 ½ oz cheese)

2-3 servings Meat and Alternates – (1 serving = 2-3 oz lean cooked meat, fish or poultry or 2 eggs or ½ – 1 cup cooked legumes or 2 Tbsp. peanut butter)

Recommendations include:

Vegetables and Fruit

go for orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes* and winter squash*

*Note: starchy vegetables such as sweet potato and winter squash contain the SAME number of carbohydrates per serving as a serving of Breads and Cereals i.e. 15 g carbohydrate per ½ cup serving compared with non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli and salad greens.

Under this Guide, Vegetables and Fruit can contribute 105 g – 150 g carbs per day (400 – 600 calories per day) if chosen as starchy vegetables and fruit / fruit juice.

Milk and Alternates

The Guide recommends: “Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day” which overlooks the satiety (feeling fuller) effect of higher fat dairy.

“select lower fat milk alternates” – fails to look a the fact that loads of sugar as flavouring replaces the fat, contributing the equivalent of 2 – 4 servings of carbs per 3/4 cup serving (where a serving of carbs as per the Food Exchanges is considered 15 g carbohydrate per serving)

Oils and Fats

The Guide recommends: “include a small amount (2-3 Tbsp.) of unsaturated fat each day.  This includes oil for cooking, salad dressing, margarine and mayonnaise. Use vegetable oils such as canola and soybean” resulting in the decrease of healthy-monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds.


The Guide recommends to “serve small nutritious meals and snacks daily

Three meals AND a few snacks?

What effect have these dietary recommendations had on obesity statistics?

Let’s look at children;

  • In 1978, only 15% of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
  • By 2007, that rate doubled to 29% of children and adolescents being overweight or obese.
  • By 2011, obesity prevalence alone for boys was 15.1% and for girls was at 8.0% in 5 to 17 year olds.

What about adults?

  • The prevalence of obesity [body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2] in Canadian adults increased from 10% in 1970-72 to 26% in 2009-11
  • Based on waist circumference 37% of adults and 13% of youth are abdominally obese.
  • Looking at these numbers slightly differently, as of 2013, there were approximately 7 million obese adults and 600 000 obese school-aged children in Canada

One has to wonder whether this dramatic increase in obesity and overweight after 1977 is correlated to Canada’s Food Guide shift to lower fat, higher carbohydrate diets.

In my  Dietetic practice, I give clients a choice of meal plan patterns because I don’t believe three meals and three snacks per day with 45-65% of calories as carbohydrate is the best way for people to address the matter of their excess weight.

For clients that come to me insulin resistant and/or overweight, I explain based on the literature why I recommend a meal plan pattern based on full meals without snacks with most of the calories coming from heart healthy satiety-offering monounsaturated fats. When clients are able to eat until they are satisfied without feeling hungry between meals and without feeling deprived, they are able to lose weight naturally and relatively easily.

Of course if clients want a meal plan based on the traditional 3 meals and 3 snack meal pattern I provide that for them using current recommendations.  There is no question that both ways, people can lose weight and lower their blood sugars, but my interest as a Dietitian is not only to see people’s weight and blood sugar and cholesterol come down, but to also see them feeling good and being happy with the process.

If you would like more information on the services I offer, please click on the Contact Us tab, above to send me a note.  I look forward to hearing from you and feel free to ask questions, if you wish!



Canada’s Food Guide – an Epidemiological Experiment Gone Terribly Wrong?

Health Canada released a statement this past Tuesday (May 19, 2015) implying they may change Canada’s Food Guide recommendations. Their statement came just a week after a Canadian Medical Association Journal released a report a week earlier (May 11, 2015) summarizing some of the criticisms of the Guide made by healthcare professionals who presented at the Canadian Obesity Summit in Toronto at the beginning of May.  One of the criticism included Health Canada’s current endorsement of 100% juice as equivalent to a serving of fruit.

Canada’s Food Guide (officially called Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide) recommends that Canadian adults consume up to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day (depending on age and gender) and with a half-cup of juice counting as a single serving, it’s easy to see how a person might drink a few cups of fruit juice a day in order to try and meet that requirement.  The problem arises that even a single glass of orange juice can put you over the daily sugar limit recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report entitled Guideline: Sugars intake for adult and children where it concluded that the world was consuming too much sugar and recommended that people cut their intake of sugar to the equivalent of just six to 12 teaspoons per day.

Many popular brands of 100% orange and apple juice sold in Canada contain as much as five teaspoons of sugar per serving so it’s easy to see that if the public is trying to meet their 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables by drinking juice, they will be way over the WHO’s daily sugar limit.

A study from the UK that was just published 2 weeks ago in the European journal Diabetologia linked daily consumption of sweetened drinks including so-called “healthy” beverages like sweetened milk and fruit juice with increased diabetes risk. The study found that for each 5% increase of a person’s total energy intake provided by sweet drinks (even so-called “healthy ones” like chocolate milk and 100% juice) that the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes could rise by 18 %. The study also found that by replacing one sweetened drink with water or unsweetened tea or coffee per day could help cut the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 25%.

This most recent statement from the director of the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion Hasan Hutchinson said the department is currently “reviewing the evidence base for its current guidance” to Canadians and that “depending on the conclusions of the scientific review, guidance for consumption (quantity and frequency) of various foods, including juice, could be updated in the future”. In my opinion, consumption of 100% fruit juice as equivalent to a serving of Vegetables and Fruit is not the only aspect of Canada’s Food Guide that Health Canada needs to re-evaluate.

Shift to a Carbohydrate-based Diet; how has that worked out?

Prior to 1977, Canada’s Food Guide recommended no more than 5 servings of bread or cereal per day for adults and now recommends 6-7 servings per day of Grain Products for women and up to 8 servings of Grain Products per day for men. In 1961, Canada’s Food Guide recommended only 1 serving of citrus fruit (as fruit) or a serving of tomatoes daily & only one other fruit.  Now adults can have any of the recommended 7-10 servings of Vegetables and Fruit per day as fruit (or juice). Even as actual servings of fruit, current recommendations can be chosen as 4-5 times the amount of fruit as in in 1961.

Since 1977 and in ever increasing amounts, Health Canada has shifted their recommendations away from healthy fats and low carbohydrate diets, towards diets where carbohydrates form the main source of calories.  Current recommendations are for 45-65% of calories to come from carbohydrate and only 20- 30% of calories from fat.  Our society has become “fat phobic” thinking all sources of fat are “bad”. People drink skim or 1% milk and eat 0% yogourt and low fat cheese; all the while making sure to have “enough’ carbohydrates; 6-8 servings of Grains Products (including bread, pasta and rice). Hidden as Vegetables are even more carbohydrates as the 7-10 servings of Vegetables and Fruit which are recommended for an adult to eat makes no distinction between starchy vegetables (like potatoes, yams, peas and corn) and non-starchy vegetables (like salad greens and asparagus or broccoli). People can literally eat all their Vegetable and Fruit servings as carbohydrate laden starchy vegetables and fruit and “meet” Canada’s Food Guide!

Canadians are encouraged to fill themselves up on toast or cereal for breakfast, sandwiches or rice for lunch and pasta or pizza (with “healthy toppings”) for supper; all in an effort to “meet” Canada’s Food Guide.

At the same time, people have been conditioned to avoid fats because they believe that fat is “bad”; while making no distinction between healthy fats from avocado, nuts, seeds and fatty fish and fats from chemically cured bacon and nitrite- laden sausage.

What Has Happened to Canada’s Obesity Rates since 1977?

In ever increasing amounts, Health Canada has recommended that we avoid fat and get 1/2 to 2/3 of our calories from carbohydrates? How has Canada’s obesity rate changed since then?

In 1978, only 15% of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

By 2007, 29% of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

By 2011, just the obesity prevalence for boys was 15.1% and for girls was 8.0% in 5- to 17 year olds.

What about adults?

The prevalence of obesity [body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2] in Canadian adults increased two and a half times; from 10% in 1970-72 to 26% in 2009-11.

In 1970-72 7.6% of men and 11.7% of women were considered obese.

In 2013, 20.1% of men and 17.4% of women were considered obese.

And looking at waist circumference rather than BMI, 37% of adults and 13% of youth are currently considered abdominally obese.

So how has Health Canada’s recommendations of a high carbohydrate low fat diet been working out?

Certainly there must be a better way?

There is.

More in my next blog.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn a better way to think about food why not contact me?

I can help you begin to tackle overweight or obesity in a way that encourages eating healthy fat and which are supported by current research literature.

I can also help you learn which sources of carbohydrate provide the best nutrition to meet your daily recommended nutrient intake for vitamins and minerals as well as how to eat in a way that can begin to tackle one of the main issues associated with being overweight; that of insulin resistance.

Click on the “Contact Us” tab above, to send me a note.


Canadian Medical Association Journal, Early Releases (May 11, 2015), Food Guide Under Fire at Obesity Summit,

Janssen I, The Public Health Burden of Obesity in Canada, Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 37 (2013), pg. 90-96

Nutrition Division, National Department of Health and Welfare (1961). Rules out – guide in. Canadian Nutrition Notes, 17(7):49-50 (cited in Health and Welfare Canada. Action towards healthy eating: technical report. 1990).

O’Connor, L, Imamura F, Lentjes M et al, Prospective associations and population impact of sweet beverage intake and type 2 diabetes, and effects of substitutions with alternative beverages, Diabetologia May 6, 2015 [Epub ahead of print]

Statistics Canada, Overweight and obese adults (self-reported) 2009,

World Health Organization, Guideline: Sugars intake for adult and children, March 2015,


Copyright ©2015 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this website, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content. 

Early Introduction of Peanut Dramatically Decreases the Risk of Development of Peanut Allergy

peanut butter A new British study in The New England Journal of Medicine has found that early introduction of peanuts to the diet may offer protection from the development of peanut allergy. The Learning Early About Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study, conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)-supported Immune Tolerance Network (ITN) tested the theory that the very low rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children was the result of early introduction of peanuts in the diet.

What We Know The prevalence of peanut allergy amongst children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, reaching rates of 1.4 to 3.0% with approximately 1.7% of Canadian children allergic to peanuts. Peanut allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis and death due to food allergy . It also puts a substantial social and psychological (stress) burden on those with the allergy as well as their families.  Research has demonstrated that peanut allergy develops early in life and is rarely outgrown. Clinical practice guidelines from the UK (1998) and from the US (2000) recommend the exclusion of foods known to result in serious allergic reactions from the diets of infants considered at high risk for allergy as well as from the diets of pregnant and breastfeeding women who have a family history of food allergy. The problem is that studies in which food allergens have been eliminated from the diet have consistently failed to show that elimination from the diet prevented the development of IgE-antibody mediated food allergy (the ‘gold-standard’ for diagnosis). As a result, in 2008, the previous recommendations for the avoidance of common serious food allergens were withdrawn — but the question remained as to whether early exposure or avoidance is the better strategy to prevent food allergies.

The Background to this Study Several years ago, the researchers of this study had observed that the risk of developing peanut allergy was 10 times higher amongst Jewish children in the UK as it was in Israeli children of similar age and ancestry. This observation was associated with a striking difference in the time at which peanuts are introduced in the diet in these countries: in the UK infants typically do not consume peanut-based foods in their first year whereas in Israel, peanut-based foods such as Bamba® are usually introduced in the diet early (at approximately 7 months of age).  This finding led to the researchers hypothesizing that the early introduction of peanuts may offer protection from the development of peanut allergy. The Learning Early about Peanut Allergy (LEAP) study set out to determine whether the early introduction of peanut in the diet could serve as an effective strategy for the prevention of peanut allergy.  

Study Subjects and Method Dr. Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London led the international team of researchers based on the idea that Israeli children have lower rates of peanut allergy compared to Jewish children of similar ancestry residing in the UK. The study tested the hypothesis that the very low rates of peanut allergy in Israeli children were a result of high levels of peanut consumption, beginning in infancy. In 2006, they recruited 640 children (mean age 7.8 months) who already had an egg allergy or eczema or both (indicators of children prone to a peanut allergy). The children aged 4- 11 months were divided into two groups. The first group of children did not have a peanut allergy in the initial skin-prick (RAST) allergy test while the second group of children had a weakly positive RAST test when the study began. These groups were then randomly assigned into two groups. In one group, the parents were asked to feed their babies peanut butter or Bamba® three times a week until the age of five years of age. The second group were instructed to keep their children’s diets peanut-free until age 5 years. Infants who were randomly assigned to eat peanut products were given an initial food challenge and further RAST allergy testing.  Those who had negative results were given 2 g of peanut protein in a single dose and those who had a reaction to the peanut food challenge were instructed to avoid peanuts. Infants randomly assigned to consumption who did not have a reaction to the baseline challenge were fed at least 6g of peanut protein per week, distributed in three or more meals per week, until they reached 5 years old. Further clinical assessments occurred when the children were aged 4 – 11 months and at 1 year, 2 ½ years and 5 years old.

Source of Peanuts in the Study The preferred peanut source was Bamba®, an Israeli snack food manufactured from 50% peanut butter and puffed corn. Bamba® is the number one selling snack in Israel with 90% of Israeli families reporting buying Bamba on a regular basis. Smooth peanut butter was provided to children who did not like Bamba.  

The Findings Among the 542 infants in the group with a negative result on the initial skin-prick test, 530 were included in the peanut eating group. At 5 years of age, ~ 14% of the peanut-avoiding group and 2% of the peanut-eating group were allergic to peanuts.  This absolute difference in risk of 12 percentage points represents ~85% relative reduction in the prevalence of peanut allergy.

Significance of This Study The study indicates that the early introduction of peanut dramatically decreases the risk of development of peanut allergy and seems to indicate that something can be done to reverse the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy.

Word of Caution Parents of infants and young children with eczema or egg allergy or both should consult with an allergist, pediatrician or their General Practitioner before feeding them peanut products due to the increased risk of these children being allergic to peanut protein.


DuToit, G., Roberts, G., , D.M., Sayre, PH, Randomized Trial of Peanut Consumption in Infants at Risk for Peanut Allergy, N Engl J Med 2015; 372:803-813

Health Canada and AllerGen (Allergy, Genes, and Environment Network of Centres of Excellence), Canadian allergy prevalence study, 2008,



Copyright ©2015 BetterByDesign Nutrition Ltd.  LEGAL NOTICE: The contents of this website, including text, images and cited statistics as well as all other material contained here (the “content”) are for information purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, medical diagnosis and/or treatment and is not suitable for self-administration without regular monitoring by a Registered Dietitian and with the knowledge of your physician. Do not disregard medical advice and always consult your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or before implementing something you have read in our content.