This January, Canada’s Food Guide received its first refresh in over 10 years, and this new edition represents one of the more radical revisions of Canada’s food and nutrition recommendations in the guide’s history.

Compiled by Health Canada, the comprehensive food guide provides guidance on how to eat healthy, affecting eating decisions for many Canadians. The revamped 2019 edition factors in environmental changes and dietary restrictions and preferences into a new approach aimed at promoting healthier eating and lifestyle choices. Through Canada’s Food Guide, Health Canada implements a strategy to make the healthier choice the easiest choice for all Canadians to make.

Plant-based alternatives and other additions

Informed by scientific evidence and dietician-approved recommendations, the new Food Guide is less prescriptive and more inclusive, focusing less on emphasizing specific food groups and serving sizes and focusing more on what, when, and how we eat.

Staying on course, the Guide encourages people to eat healthy foods each and every day, but with more variations in choice. Replacing the former food groups rainbow chart, the new visual model of the guide displays a plate divided into three sections with a huge emphasis on fruit and vegetable produce, plant-based proteins, and whole grains.

In removing specific food and portion recommendations, the guide no longer lists meat and alternatives and milk and dairy products as distinct food categories. No doubt influenced by the plant revolution in the food industry, plant-based proteins, including alternatives like legumes, nuts, beans, and tofu, are given strong recommendations, with consideration for vegans, vegetarians, and non-meat eaters. Additionally, water consumption is prioritized over dairy as the drink of choice with meals.

The value of the Food Guide at work

How do these changes to Canada’s Food Guide affect the workforce? Knowing that your people spend approximately one-third of their weekdays at the office, it’s beneficial for employers to see the value in promoting healthy eating in the workplace and to prioritize health and wellness programs for the wellbeing of their employees.

In the new Food Guide, significant attention is brought to the fact that healthy eating is about more than the foods we eat. Health Canada places great emphasis on how making healthy food choices and adopting healthy eating habits will have a big impact on one’s overall lifestyle and wellbeing. The approach is two-fold: for people to eat well and to live well, the two must coincide and work together for the health and wellness of all.

Applying Canada’s Food Guide to the workplace, there are many ways for employers to encourage their employees to make healthy decisions:

Healthy eating choices in the workplace

According to the Food Guide, people can become more health conscious by being mindful of eating a variety of healthy foods, limiting highly processed foods, and understanding food labels. 

Employers can help their employees develop healthy eating patterns by encouraging the intake of healthy foods. Consider what food and drinks options are currently available to your staff in the communal kitchen and re-evaluate the items that are included in the weekly grocery order. Limit foods high in sodium, sugars, or saturated fats and increase your stock of proteins, produce, and grains. 

To increase your people’s knowledge and awareness of healthy food and nutrition, invest in providing them with food literacy education. Education can be done through informative lunch and learns conducted by nutrition experts and through fun activities such as trivia and fact-sharing.

Wellness program at work: the Rise water challenge

Staying hydrated improves alertness and concentration — both of which are necessary to maintain when at work. Make it a priority to make water your people’s drink of choice.

One of Rise’s most successful wellness programs was our team water challenge:

“We know people can get caught at their desks for hours, so the movement break for water, which is essential for us to function, is beneficial for the body and mind in a multitude of ways,” says Kristin Smerchanski, People & Culture Coordinator at Rise.

The water challenge was widely-received by team members: “People joined in for their own health, as well as for the competitive component. It held an awareness aspect for people as well. More people carry around water bottles now. Even after the challenge, when we have options like lemon and mint for people to add to their water, people will choose water over going for a sugary drink.”

For more on developing and implementing a wellness challenge for your company, read our guide on How to Design an Effective Employee Wellness Program.

Healthy eating habits in the workplace

Building on the example of the water challenge, the Food Guide encourages practicing mindfulness when eating through cooking more often, enjoying your food, and eating meals with others.

Workplaces can support their people in developing food skills and creating a community around the notion of healthy eating in various ways.

To discourage eating lunch at their desk, encourage communal eating through potluck lunches and team socials and get-togethers centered around eating good and healthy food. Potlucks can serve a dual purpose, giving your people an opportunity to practice meal planning and cooking at home.

In creating a healthy eating environment for your employees in the workplace, you are helping your people to eat well and live well, and they will, in turn, work well for your team.

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