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NICHOLAS MERCER: Trying to find a balance

Dietician Sherry Buckingham stands in aisle featuring some of the big winners of the transition to a new food guide – lentils, chick peas and the like.
Dietician Sherry Buckingham stands in aisle featuring some of the big winners of the transition to a new food guide – lentils, chick peas and the like. - Nicholas Mercer

The big winner of the food guide shuffle in this country might be the lentils. 

An often-forgotten source of protein, they now figure to factor even more in meals as Canada looks to push people towards a diet that is even across the board.

Strolling through aisle 9 — the winning aisle — in the Dominion in Corner Brook, 25-year dietician Sherry Buckingham points to chickpeas, beans and a host of other items as foods that will benefit people as they get used to the latest version of the food guide.

For those curious, at Colemans on Caribou Road, they're in aisle 3, Colemans Garden Centre on O'Connell Drive has them in aisle 3b and at Sobeys in the Valley Mall, you find these victors in aisle 8.

Buckingham grabs a can of beans from the shelf and starts curling it with her right arm. It is an exercise she often does when she takes school-aged children on tours around the supermarket.

She'll ask them what she is doing with the can.

The keen ones will recognize that she is getting a weightlifting session in and attempting to build muscle. From there, they start to connect protein with the building of muscles.

After a quick stop in the aisle, Buckingham explains you can add lentils to soup or salads if you're looking for an extra kick.  

The new food guide — introduced this week — recommends these plant-based proteins become a larger part of your diet going forward.

The food rainbow used to be the cool thing when it came to Canada's Food Guide. It had all sorts of different colours and provided a detailed treasured map that led to a balanced diet.

The latest iteration of the guide is simply a plate. Makes sense considering chances are we all use plates when eating our dinners. Well, except for you monsters that use those really shallow bowls all the time. A bowl is fine for breakfast, but c'mon buddy, let’s lose that thing if you're not eating chili or soup.

Anyway, back to the new design.

It is similar to a demonstration plate Buckingham has been carrying around and using for years. It divides a plate into three quadrants, the largest of which is the fruit and vegetables section.

The next two areas are your proteins — which now include dairy products — and your whole grains.

The next part is what really hits home for me. They recommend that water be the beverage of choice with every meal. I mean it is a fair thing to ask, but we can't seriously be expected to cut juices out, can we?

As Buckingham points out, the guide isn't asking you to cut juices out altogether. Just add a little bit of moderation to your Tropicana consumption.

Dieticians want you to look at eating the whole fruit and not just the sugar bomb that is juice.

The progression of the food guide is based in science and research. There are pages of it found on the guide's website ( and they all lay out what exactly we've found out in the last decade

Through the research, we know that high consumption of red meats can help lead to cardiovascular disease and the digestion of a lot of sugar can spread up the acquisition of diabetes.

Cooking for yourself instead of reaching for prepared foods is just one way to cut back on excess sodium and sugar.

Now, Buckingham and the guide aren't advocating cutting out red meats all together — just the opposite actually.

They recommend limiting how much you eat of it and when you do stay away from the prime rib. Instead, choose a leaner cut of beef.

"I'd even recommend having one meal a week that does not have any meat on it," said Buckingam. "Maybe have a meatless Monday."

When you think about the suggestion of having one day where you don't consumer any meats, it makes some sense.

In the age of climate change and the sheer mass of humanity that exists on this planet, anything we can do to help alleviate the pressure we're putting on the environment.

There are no portion sizes attached to any of this. Buckingham suggests starting small when trying something new.

Don't go into this thinking you have to eat all of the vegetables when you've decided to make a change. That is probably a piece of advice I should heed.

When people hear the word “new,” they usually think of a move to something completely different from what they're used to.

In this case, the new guide really isn't all that new. According to Buckingham, it is information that dieticians have been preaching for years.

It just never appeared in this form.

"We want you eating a balanced meal,” Buckingham said. “That is the goal."

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