Canada, you’re the latest to acknowledge that pleasure in eating is not only okay, but important! You have left US behind.

Our neighbors to the north have re-written their dietary guidelines to recognize the importance of joy in eating. That’s something the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has been reluctant to do. Canada’s recently released (2019) food guide makes this statement right up front:

Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat.
It is also about where, when, why, and how you eat.

The main points are from Canada with descriptions from me!

  • Be mindful of your eating habits:   You can create an eating environment that supports your eating no matter where you are. This may take some noticing on your part. Where do you eat when you are at work? How is that different from home? Is there food sitting around that may cue you to eat when you don’t even feel like eating? Are you able to pay attention to your senses? The aromas, textures, flavors, and taste of food connect you to your eating experience. Your senses are instrumental in noticing when you are hungry and when you are satisfied. There’s nothing more pleasurable and reassuring than that.
  • Cook more often: Cooking and preparing food often involves a little more planning. When you cook, you learn new skills in the kitchen. Making your own food allows you to use ingredients and seasonings that you like, to save money by not eating out so much, and to prepare extra for lunches or another dinner.
  • Enjoy your food: The benefits of enjoying your food include tasting the flavors, trying new foods, and developing a positive attitude about food. Who knew what the enjoyment factor could do?! You may enjoy shopping for food, preparing and cooking food, or even growing your own food. Bringing culture and food traditions to the table may invoke positive memories that make eating more enjoyable. Think of a meal that was delightful. What was it about that meal? Was it the food? Or the music? Or the company? Or the blanket on the floor? There’s no one right way to eat and enjoy your food.  
  • Eat meals with others: Eating with family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers is a great way to connect and add enjoyment to your life. By eating with others you can have quality time together, share food traditions across generations and cultures, and explore new foods you might not try otherwise. When you eat with others, you are more likely to take your time and appreciate the social aspect of being together. You’re likely to disconnect with devices—and connect with those you’re eating with. For families, mealtime is a great opportunity to bring everyone together to relax over a meal, to talk about the events of the day, and to connect with one another.  

Canada is far from being the first to acknowledge the importance of enjoyment in eating. For instance, Japan released dietary guidelines way back in 2000 with their number one message: Enjoy your meals. Brazil’s 2016 dietary guidelines highlight how and where to eat so that you enjoy the foods you choose, and the pleasures provided by the diet.  

So why not US? For the most part, the 2015-20 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have taken the approach of telling us what to do and what not to do. It may be that a statement such as enjoy your meals was just too trusting. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans tell us to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and less sugar, salt, and saturated fat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans give calorie guides, food plans, portion sizes, and numbers of servings without putting an emphasis on meals. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize food avoidance and impose limits. Being told what to eat and how much of it—that’s not joyful!

Peggy Crum MA, RD, ESI Faculty Member

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