Canadian Nutrition Society

Protein-Rich Foods:

Exploring Research Gaps in Translating Dietary Guidelines to Canadian

With the recent launch of the new Canada’s Food Guide (CFG) and supporting resources being developed by Health Canada, there is increased attention around the consumption of plant-based diets and the increased dialogue related to plant and animal-based proteins. In particular, consumers including Canadian families and food service providers that offer support for children (day cares, school lunch programs, cafeterias), are needing clarity and guidance on how to interpret recommendations.

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In light of this attention and need, The Helderleigh Foundation is pleased to partner with CNS to host a one-day workshop that was held in October 2019. This workshop brought together leading experts, including policy makers, healthcare professionals, the agri-food industry and academia/ researchers to:

  • Establish clarity on what is meant by “Protein Foods”.

  • Understand protein food trends, including ‘Plant Forward Foods’ and protein blends within processed food products, with a focus on nutrient density.

  • Determine the guidance to be provided on what, when, how and how much in relation to both choice and portion size under the “Protein Foods” rubric

  • Identify research and knowledge gaps exist.


The workshop was a great success. The resulting manuscript “Translating ‘protein foods’ from the new Canada’s Food Guide to consumers: Knowledge gaps and recommendations” was  published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism (APNM) (27 May 2020). The manuscript identified five key recommendations:

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  1. Establish a consensus over key messages and devise a comprehensive and regular communication strategy for the protein foods category of Canada’s Food Guide;

  2. Review and enforce institutional food policy that safeguard the quality of protein food offerings within institutions;

  3. Prioritize support that focus on children and families in order to provide interventions at a young enough age to support nutrition later in life;

  4. Build capacity through training, tools and resources aimed at registered dietitians, health professionals, diet technicians and educators;

  5. Address knowledge gaps across the research continuum by creating a research program dedicated to exploring protein foods and offering evidence across the research continuum (clinical to epidemiological to consumer studies).

CNS is currently launching its plan for the second phase of this initiative which will focus on informing on three key questions:

  1. What are protein foods and how much do we need?

  2. What are processed protein foods?

  3. How to incorporate a variety of protein sources into the diet?


Activities will include the creation of plain language summaries and fact sheets; an infographic and video competition aimed at university nutrition trainees that will offer information on protein foods, including the different types of protein foods (animal and plant), as well as offer guidance on the amount of protein in different foods and how to include them into the diet. These materials will be used to share with those offering nutritional guidance and incorporated into other resources, including protein cookbooks. CNS will also be producing a webinar series for healthcare professionals, nutrition communicators, other NGOs to increase knowledge and awareness about the latest knowledge related to protein foods.