January 25, 2019

The dietitians and nutrition researchers at the Canadian Sugar Institute are broadly supportive of the approach to healthy eating in the new Canada’s Food Guide. The Food Guide encourages Canadians to “Eat a variety of healthy foods each day” but also recognizes that “Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat”. In addition to specific guidance regarding healthy food choices, it highlights the importance of enjoying your food, using food labels to make informed choices, cooking more often, and sharing meals with others.
 
The new focus of the Food Guide on a healthy “eating pattern” is what is most important – “What you eat and drink on a regular basis. Rather than individual foods or drinks, it is your eating pattern that impacts your overall health.” Thus, the new guide is about emphasizing vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods while curbing excess intakes of foods high in sodium, sugars and saturated fat.
 
Health Canada acknowledges that: “Sugars are added to many foods during processing or preparation in order to add: taste (sweetness), texture, colour (browning). Sugars can also be used to preserve foods, such as fruit jams and jellies.” At the same time, Canada’s new dietary guidelines recommend that “sugary drinks and confectioneries should not be consumed regularly” and “sugar substitutes do not need to be consumed to reduce the intake of free sugars.”
 
The latest Canadian sugars consumption report published by Statistics Canada based on the dietary survey data collected as part of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) 2015 suggests that Canadians have been reducing their intakes of free sugars. The report indicates a declining trend in total sugars consumption since 2004. In 2015, the average daily total sugars consumption from all foods and beverages was 101 grams for children aged 2 to 8, 115 grams for children aged 9 to 18, and 85 grams for adults, which demonstrates a reduction of 3, 13 and 8 grams, respectively compared to 2004. When looking at the specific food categories there was a decrease in sugars intake from beverages and from “sugars, syrups and confectionery” in 2015 as compared to 2004.
 
The Food Guide suggests that the majority of total sugars intake should come from intact or cut fruit and vegetables and unsweetened milk. Data presented in the Sugars Consumption report show that “fruit was the greatest source of total sugars”, but also shows that the consumption of unsweetened milk declined for all age groups.
 
The Food Guide encourages the use of food labels to compare and choose products in order to make informed food choices. As part of the Health Canada Healthy Eating Strategy, new information is starting to appear on food labels, which will help Canadians compare the sugars content of products more easily. This includes a % Daily Value for total sugars in the Nutrition Facts table and the grouping of all added sugars ingredients in the List of Ingredients. The new Daily Value of 100 grams for total sugars is not a recommended level of intake but represents the amount of total sugars that can be consumed as part of a healthy eating pattern. To better understand what 100 grams of total sugars per day looks like, the Canadian Sugar Institute has been engaging dietitians in a “Sweet Spot Challenge”. Participants have developed a one-day meal plan consistent with the DV, which demonstrate a variety of examples of how sugars (primarily naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables, and milk products but also small amounts from added sources) can fit within a healthy eating pattern as well as how a small amount of added sugars can be consumed in moderation to contribute to the enjoyment of foods.