Nunavut food guide puts spotlight on country foods
"You don’t need to eat caribou with a side of rice and peas to be healthy"
Looking for something healthy to eat?
The new edition of Nunavut’s food guide hopes to direct people in Nunavut to country foods.
In the guide, launched Oct. 26 at the legislative assembly, country foods are featured separately from the four-food group model promoted in Canada’s food guide.
One of the guide’s centre-fold pages is dedicated to the four food groups — which include meat, vegetables and fruit, grains and dairy — while the other shows the variety of wildlife harvested in Nunavut, under a headline saying “all country foods are healthy.”
“The attempt was made to show that country food is an important part of healthy eating,” said territorial nutritionist Jennifer Wakegijig who attended the launch. “So what we’re saying in these two different pages is that a traditional way of eating is balanced. You don’t need to eat caribou with a side of rice and peas to be healthy.
“When people eat a variety of country foods — different animals and different parts of the animal — they can have an excellent intake.”
Eating store-bought foods can be more complicated, Wakegijig said, and that’s what the four “healthy food” food groups illustrate.
This is the first time Nunavut’s food guide has been updated since it was launched in 2002.
A food guide has existed in Canada since the 1940s. The Northwest Territories even designed its own guide, which included aboriginal foods.
But Nunavut health officials first came out with a made-in-Nunavut guide because they wanted an up-to-date guide which would be more relevant to the territory.
However, Nunavut’s first food guide needed to be updated because its portion sizes were out of date, Wakegijig said.
The back page of the guide illustrates suggested portion sizes with the use of hands. For example, a balanced store-bought meal should be made up of one handful of meat (or alternatives), one handful of grain products, two handfuls of vegetables or fruits and one glass of water or milk.
The nutritionists, teachers and community members who were consulted all suggested a stronger emphasis on traditional foods, she said.
The guide also discourages store-bought items like potato chips, pop and energy drinks.
And it says to choose fats wisely, suggesting Nunavummiut consume fats from fish or sea animals, canola and olive oil in the place of lard or processed meat products.
The guide was launched a day after a hearing where officials from the Nutrition North Canada program heard from several MLAs who want to see country foods factor more into the federal food subsidy program.
Health and Social Services Minister Tagak Curley also accused officials of failing to recognize Inuit culture in the program’s design.
But this new version of the Nunavut’s health guide was funded at least in part by Nutrition North.
The rest paid for through federal community health programs.
And, unlike the cost of most healthy foods in Nunavut, this new guide is free, and will be available in local health centres next month.