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Lorena Smalley

We have created a new section on our website to provide helpful information, articles, videos, etc on Nutrition!  The Government of Canada website has a wealth of information about our history.  We were thrilled to find this article on the Canada Food Guide and it’s history!

Did you know that Canada’s first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was introduced to the public in July 1942?


Canada’s first food guide, the Official Food Rules, was introduced to the public in July 1942. This guide acknowledged wartime food rationing, while endeavoring to prevent nutritional deficiencies and to improve the health of Canadians. Since 1942, the food guide has been transformed many times – it has adopted new names, new looks, and new messages, yet has never wavered from its original purpose of guiding food selection and promoting the nutritional health of Canadians.

Role of food guides

Food guides are basic education tools that are designed to help people follow a healthy diet. They embody sophisticated dietary analysis, and merge national nutrition goals, data from food consumption surveys, and issues of food supply and production. They translate the science of nutrient requirements into a practical pattern of food choices, incorporating variety and flexibility.

Process to develop the food guides

Little is recorded about the process used to develop the earliest food guides for Canada. We do know that they were developed by the Nutrition Division of the federal Department of Pensions and National Health. Further, the Canadian Council on Nutrition contributed to the development of the early food guides, with each publication from 1942 to 1961 displaying a statement declaring that the guide was “Approved by the Canadian Council on Nutrition”. Appointed by the government in 1938 and remaining in existence until 1969, this group consisted of “scientists, medical experts, and welfare workers brought together from university departments, welfare and health organizations and the government, to discover, study and discuss nutritional problems of national and regional significance in Canada and to make recommendations as to their solution”.

In addition to approving the food guides, the Council spearheaded the development of the first Dietary Standard for Canada (1938) and subsequent revisions to that Standard. Dietary Standards described “the amounts of essential nutrients considered adequate to meet the needs of practically all healthy persons”.These Standards were translated into foods and thus became part of the science that underpinned food guide recommendations.

We also know that the federal Nutrition Division linked with provincial counterparts, as it does today. In 1945, the Canadian Council on Nutrition established the Dominion Provincial Nutrition Committee, a group mandated to assist in the coordination and cooperation of nutrition activities between the provinces and the federal government. This enhanced communication between the front-line and enabled practitioners within the provinces to become a source of advice when revising the food guide. There is evidence that the Council did indeed listen to the requests of the practitioners. For example, in a discussion of the 1949 food guide revision, the Council credits one change to the suggestions of numerous doctors and nutritionists.

This kind of expert input has formed a fundamental part of all food guide revisions. Some revisions emerged from a small nucleus of people, who gathered input from others in informal, yet effective, ways. Today, the process is more structured, complex, and far-reaching, as evidenced by the most recent 2019 food guide revision. Many stakeholders were consulted to ensure that, in addition to the research being conducted, the views of a broad base of Food Guide users were considered.

Food guides then and now

The title of Canada’s food guides has changed over time.

  • Canada’s Official Food Rules (1942) became Canada’s Food Rules (1944, 1949), then
  • Canada’s Food Guide (1961, 1977, 1982).
  • Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating (1992) evolved to
  • Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide (2007).
  • The title changes signify an evolution in the positioning and philosophy of the food guide. This report documents the processes and influences that shaped the development of Canada’s food guides, the changes that occurred from the 1942 Official Food Rules to the 2007 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, and the strategies that were used to encourage Canadians to follow the guides.


CLICK HERE to visit the Government of Canada website to read more about the history of the Canada Food Guide and more!

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