Dietary Guidelines for Good Health

Topic Overview

To stay at a healthy weight and prevent disease, Canada's Food Guide recommends eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. It's important to balance the food you eat with your activity to maintain your weight, drink alcohol in moderation, if at all, and limit foods high in salt, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and added sugar.

Activity is also an important part of the picture.

Get enough nutrients within your calorie needs

  • Eat and drink a variety of foods that are high in nutrients. Choose from within and among all the basic food groups (vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives) while choosing foods that limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
  • Eat only the calories you need to maintain your weight by following a balanced eating pattern, such as Canada's Food Guide or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan. The number of calories you need each day depends on your age, on whether you are male or female, and on your activity level.

Weight management

  • To stay at a healthy weight, balance calories from foods and drinks with the amount of calories you burn.
  • To prevent gradual weight gain over time, make small decreases in calories from foods and drinks, and increase activity.

Physical activity

  • To promote health, psychological well-being, and a healthy body weight, get regular physical activity and limit sedentary activities.
  • Try to get 2½ hours a week of moderate to vigorous exercise. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.footnote 1

Food groups to encourage

  • Eat enough vegetables and fruit while staying within your calorie needs. Most adults need 7 to 10 Food Guide servings of vegetables and fruit each day.
    • Choose a variety of vegetables and fruit each day. Select from all five vegetable subgroups (dark green, orange, legumes, starchy vegetables, and others) several times each week.
  • Eat 6 to 8 Food Guide servings of grain products per day. Whole-grain and enriched products are best.
  • Have 2 to 3 servings of low-fat milk or alternatives every day.

Meat and alternatives

  • Choose lean meat and alternatives made with little or no added fat or salt.
  • Choose meat alternatives such as beans, lentils, and tofu often.
  • Eat at least two Food Guide servings of fish such as char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and trout each week.

Oils and fats

  • Eat about 2 to 3 tablespoons (30 to 45 mL) of unsaturated fat each day. Don't forget to count fats used in cooking or added as a spread or condiment.
  • Choose non-hydrogenated, soft margarines. They are low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Limit saturated and trans fats found in butter, hard margarine, coconut oil, and shortening.


  • Choose water most of the time.
  • Skim and low-fat milk, fortified soy beverages, and 100% fruit juices are healthy choices when you include them in your Food Guide servings per day.
  • Limit sugary drinks and alcohol. These beverage are usually high in calories and have little nutritional value.


  • For good health, less is best. Most people shouldn't eat more than 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.footnote 2
  • Choose and prepare foods with little salt.

Food safety

To avoid foodborne illness:

  • Clean your hands, surfaces that come into contact with food, and fruits and vegetables. Do not wash or rinse raw meat and poultry. Washing or rinsing meat and poultry makes it more likely that bacteria may spread from the meat or poultry to kitchen utensils, counter tops, and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Do not prepare fruit and vegetables on the same cutting board that you use for raw meat.
  • Keep raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods separate while you are shopping, preparing, and storing food.
  • Cook food to a safe temperature, to kill microorganisms.
  • Chill (refrigerate) perishable foods promptly and defrost foods properly. Never thaw frozen meat, poultry, fish, and shellfish at room temperature. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave. If you thaw food in the refrigerator, be sure juices do not drip onto other food. Place these foods on the lowest shelf, never above ready-to-eat foods. Cook food immediately after thawing.
  • Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk or any products made from unpasteurized milk, raw or partially cooked eggs or foods containing raw eggs, raw or undercooked meat or poultry, unpasteurized juices, and raw sprouts.



  1. Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (2011). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines For Adults. Available online: Accessed October 28, 2014.
  2. Health Canada (2009, updated 2012). It's your health: Sodium. Available online:

Other Works Consulted

  • Health Canada (2011). Eating well with Canada's Food Guide. Also available online:


Current as ofNovember 7, 2018

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Colleen O'Connor, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

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