There was good news for pulse demand when Canada’s new food guide recommended consumers get more of their protein from plant-based sources, including lentils and chickpeas.
The bad news is that a new study has found that relatively few Canadians are regularly following the guide.
As part of the study - jointly conducted by the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University - the researchers surveyed 1,000 Canadian consumers about whether and how often they use the food guide.
They found 75% of Canadians are aware of the new food guide, but less than a third have consulted it in the last 12 months for advice on healthy eating. Overall, the Canada Food Guide is only the sixth most popular source for nutrition recommendations, the study found.
“The guide is a fantastic tool for telling us what we should be eating and how much, but unfortunately few people are using it as their main source of information,” said Prof. Simon Somogyi, co-lead author and Arrell Chair in the Business of Food in the College of Business and Economics.
Instead, almost 40% of Canadians turn to family and friends or do their own online research for diet guidance. Baby boomers are most likely to rely on cookbooks and magazines, while millennials and Generation Z’ers count on celebrities and social media for nutrition tips.
“It’s not a lost cause, it just means the information contained in the guide may need to be communicated in different ways,” Somogyi said. “For example, if we want millennials and Gen Zs to use the information, then we need to put it out on social media. We need to use the tools that they are using.”
The study also revealed that using the food guide to plan meals will save a family of four $475 annually on grocery bills.
For their cost analysis, the researchers created four plates and compared the portions and foods recommended in the old guide to recommendations in the new guide. They found following the new guide will save Canadian families on average 6.8% of their annual food costs, or about $1.30 a day and $475 a year for a family of four.
“What we found cost-wise is that the new guide is making Canadians more food secure,” Somogyi said. “This is a welcome change because it should allow families with lower incomes to still be able to eat nutritiously.”
The new guide is more affordable for families because it recommends less meat and dairy than the old one and replaces these foods with plant-based proteins, which are cheaper, he added.
However, researchers cautioned the savings could only last a few years due to upward pressure on vegetable protein prices.
Source: DePutter Publishing Ltd.
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