by Ellen Irving


I decided several months ago I would challenge myself to eat healthier. I thought this might be a fun challenge as I consider myself someone with poor eating habits. My diet has never really included dairy or fruit so I thought this might help me discover foods in those areas that I might like. I thought the best way for me to eat healthier would be to follow Canada’s Food Guide
The Guide started in 1942 as Canada’s Official Food Rules, offering directions for healthy eating, while dealing with food rationing in wartime.

I ordered a copy and it arrived in the mail at the end of February.
  (Yes, you can still receive a brochure by mail). 
I started my challenge the beginning of March and my daily recommendations based on my age were:
 
·         7 portions of vegetables and fruits, one portion = a half cup
·         6 portions of grain products, one portion = a half bagel or a half cup of rice
·         3 portions of milk and alternatives, one portion = 50g of cheese or 175g of yogurt
·        
2 portions of meat and alternatives, one portion = 2 eggs or one half cup of meat or fish.

As I’d never really paid enough attention to the Guide before, a few things surprised me:

·         Some food groups seemed to allow very large amounts
·         The recommended servings  for meat and alternatives seemed extremely small
·         The large number of grain products recommended
·         There was no category for sweets

I kept track and, for the most part, I found the daily serving amounts more than I could manage. During the month I only met my recommend servings 7 times - 3 times with vegetables and fruits, 2 times with meat and alternatives and 2 times with milk and alternatives. The majority of days I only met half the recommended servings for grain products, meat and dairy.
During the month I found myself talking about my challenge with friends and family. When I gave examples of amounts everyone seemed surprised and most admitted that they ate considerable more of some foods than was recommended and considerably less of others.
I read food labels more and discovered how many additives and preservatives were in food. I tried to eat foods without these.
By the end of March I had a better understanding of food portions and I was forced to expand my food range by eating yogurt, drinking milk, and finding fruits I liked. I found by consciously combining food groups it was easier to fill up the recommended portions. As an example, for breakfast one piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a half cup of orange juice gave me one grain, one meat alternative and one fruit.  I found myself thinking of sweets a lot, even though I don’t consider myself a regular sweet eater.  

I continue to look at food labels and select more foods that contain no additives or preservatives.  Occasionally I still find myself bringing up Canada’s Food Guide in conversation. I guess I want to share what my little experiment taught me about eating well.