Both Canada and the US have versions of a food guide which outlines recommended daily intakes for the four main food groups. Started during the rationing of WW2, both countries have revised their guides a number of times since then.
Canada’s last revision was in 1992 where we went from “the four food groups” to a rainbow design to show that some items can and should be consumed more frequently. The US went with a pyramid design, although both guides are fairly similar in regards to quantities.
The main thing both guides have in common is that both are heavily influenced by the various food lobby groups (what boards, cattle farmers associations, dairy boards, etc) whose clients have a vested interest in having the goverment encourage people to eat specific foods.
The revised Canadian guide was supposed to have been released in spring 2006, and is now slated for some time in early 2007.
CBC is reporting that the revised guide does not take into account the increased portion sizes of many foods, which might lead people to overconsume certain items such as bagels or muffins, which are significantly bigger now than they were 15 years ago.
Also under consideration are issues such as availability and diets for various ethic groups. Traditionally, the food guide has reflected a standard Caucasian “meat and potatoes” diet, with little effort to accommodate the very different diets of First Nations peoples or of immigrants whose diets are based on other staples such as rice, tofu, beans, etc.
In 2005, it was reported that the guide would offer variations for different ethnic diets as well as a way to accommodate differing serving sizes, but it sounds as if there’s still some work to do, particularly if following the guide as a way of ensuring a healthy diet ends up causing people to gain weight.