Food for Thought: International food guides could shed some light into healthy living

Canada's Food Guide is a great tool to make sure you are eating healthy. The diet information is depicted in a rainbow shape to make it easy to read. It is organized by food groups and takes into account a persons age and sex when recommending servings of each food group per day. It gives examples of different food choices from each group and even suggests what one serving size should look like. Plus, for extra consideration, the Canadian Food Guide makes mention of healthy eating habits and appropriate activity levels.

What you may not know, however, is that Canada's Food guide is specifically tailored to our country, and that other countries have food guides of their own depending on their diet and food availability.

So how does our food guide differ from the others? Well, first of all, the format of each country's pictorial food guide is a little different. They can be colour coded like our own, a pyramid structure like the Food Guide found in the USA, a wheel shaped pie graph or a pagoda.

Whatever the structure, each food guide provides a custom and healthy diet guideline for its home country.

The Mediterranean Food Guide is structured as a pyramid, for example, and differs greatly from any food guide found in North America. It incorporates olive oil as its own section and suggests eating red meat only a few times a month. It also suggests a glass of red wine per day as a healthy choice. I think the Mediterranean Food Guide is my absolute favourite one.

The food wheel from Mexico lists beans and legumes as their own category instead of bunching them in “Meats and Alternatives” like we do in Canada. The beans and legumes category is recommended in higher quantities than animal meats in Mexico, next to grains and starches.

The Australian Food Guide is also a circle graph, with a side note that suggests drinking plenty of water. This is probably due to their warmer weather and prolonged sun exposure as compared to what we are used to in Canada. They also have a separate “sometimes” category for junk foods like burgers, pop, fries and ice cream.

In order to completely understand our own eating habits while making healthy decisions, it's a good idea to compare our diet to those around the world. Not every food suggestion from other countries will apply to us, but some international food philosophies could truly benefit just about anyone.