The Canadian Health Minister last week released updates to Canada’s national nutritional guidance that de-emphasize the role of dairy in a healthy diet. The new Canadian Dietary Guidelines and Food Guide, which are equivalent to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate, roll the dairy category into a protein group and now depict a glass of water in healthy meal graphics.

“Countries develop dietary guidance based on their own assessment of nutrition science and their populations' dietary needs, which vary around the globe,” said Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory affairs. “While it’s unlikely that Canada’s recommendations will have an impact on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we are still closely monitoring the situation as the U.S. government continues the process of releasing new guidance next year.”

IDFA expects the process for updating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to be delayed due to the partial government shutdown. In the next step, the departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) will select a variety of nutrition and medical researchers, academics and practitioners and task them with creating a report to inform the guidance.

IDFA has analyzed Canada’s new guidance for members below.

Food Guide for Consumers

  • In addition to recommendations about foods and beverage choices, the guide also makes several recommendations about eating behaviors. These include mindful eating, cooking at home and eating with others. It also encourages consumers to use food labels and be aware of food marketing.
  • Graphic visuals show a plate filled with half fruits and vegetables, a quarter of protein foods and a quarter of whole grains. The plate is accompanied by a glass of water.
  • It eliminates dairy as a separate group. Dairy is rolled into the protein group along with meat, seafood and plant protein. The guide also encourages increased plant protein consumption to meet protein recommendations.
  • The guide doesn’t include any recommendations for amounts servings of foods that should be consumed.
  • It encourages consuming unsaturated fats over saturated fat.
  • The guide lists saturated fat, sodium and sugar as nutrients to limit.
  • The guidance recommends water as the beverage of choice, although it identifies lower fat unsweetened milk as another healthy beverage option.
  • It recommends lower fat dairy products, specifically unsweetened milk and yogurt, as well as lower-sodium cheese, as a protein food. It discourages higher-fat dairy consumption due to the saturated fat content.
  • It discourages consumption of “highly processed foods."

Dietary Guidelines for Policymakers and Health Professionals

The new guidance:

  • Encourages consumers to be aware of their food environment, such as which foods and beverages are available at home, in stores and restaurants, as this can have an influence on what and how they eat or drink;
  • Calls for foods and beverages that are offered in publicly funded institutions to similarly align;
  • Discourages consumption of sweetened milks and includes them in the definition of sugary drinks. It also claims that there is no benefit to non-nutritive sweeteners and states that plain dairy products should be consumed instead; and
  • Encourages food labels and food labeling to be used to make healthy choices.

For more information, contact Michelle Matto, R.D.N., IDFA’s nutrition and labeling consultant, at