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Beef still belongs on Canadian food plates: dietitian

“It’s a myth that we’re eating too much protein”
steak dinner shutterstock

Media chatter about the new Canada Food Guide was incorrectly framed on plant-based protein versus meat protein, according to media personality and dietitian Carol Harrison.

“Nowhere in the Canada Food Guide does it say we should eat less red meat,” she told the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association conference in Moose Jaw.

In fact, the new food guide gives beef just as prominent a place as any other protein and “we should be eating all these foods.”

Protein diet content was bumped up to one-quarter of the food plate.

Foods in the guide are not interchangeable. “Every food has a unique package of nutrients” from omega three in fish, fibre from lentils to choline from eggs, amino acids and Vitamin B12 from beef.

Beef offers a nutrient dense food.

“Few foods can match the nutrient density of beef” – an excellent source of five nutrients, good source of four, and a source of three.

“It’s hard to pack more nutritional goodness in such a small package.”

A piece of beef about the size of a deck of cards (75 grams) has 184 calories and 26 grams of protein. 

To get the same amount of protein you would have to have seven tablespoons of peanut butter or two bowls of hummus or two cups of black beans or 700 calories of almonds.

Canadians don’t eat enough vegetables and fruit with only five per cent of our calories from fresh red meat.

“Fifty per cent of the calories are coming from natural processed food, prepared packaged sweet and baked goods, pop, chips. 

“It’s out of control. These foods are high in calories and they are low in nutrients. The focus on animal versus plant protein ignores this tsunami of health problems coming our way if we don’t address the ultra-processed foods.”

Key Canada Food Guide statements recommend eating less processed foods and more whole foods.

Clever marketers are putting plant-based labels on everything from cookies to beer, distracting from the real food needs.

“Food should be all about minimally processed or whole foods versus those that are ultra-processed.”

Harrison tackled health and environmental claims of the Beyond Meat burger.

“When we say people should eat more plant-based foods an ultra-processed Beyond Meat burger is not what we had in mind. Beyond Meat burger actually has 22 ingredients and 11 nutrients that have been added to make the burger. And beef is just a single ingredient.

“What is the environmental footprint of 22 ingredients and 11 nutrients? What is the environmental footprint of 50 per cent of all our calories from processed food?”

Dehydrated pomegranate juice is a Beyond Meat burger ingredient, with a large carbon footprint being grown far away, picked, transported, crushed, and dehydrated for the plant-based burger. 

She said Canadians don’t eat enough protein, averaging 17 calories on a recommended scale of 10 to 35 calories.

“It’s a myth that we’re eating too much protein.”

Ron Walter can be reached at

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