Healthy Eating for Canadians

Topic Overview

To stay at a healthy weight and prevent disease, Canada's Food Guide recommends that you make it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day, limit highly processed foods, and be aware of things that can shape the food choices you make.

Choosing healthy foods

When you choose healthy foods regularly, you can start to make healthy eating a pattern. Patterns of healthy eating help keep you well, and lower your risk for disease. Here are things you can do to make healthy eating a pattern for you.

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits.
    • At meals, try to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits. And make sure the types you choose have a good variety of colours, textures, and shapes that you enjoy.
    • Choose vegetables and fruits for snacks during the day, too.
    • Vegetables and fruits can be fresh, frozen, or canned. Just make sure you choose options with little to no added sugar, salt, or seasonings and sauces.
  • Eat whole grain foods.
    • Whole grains have more nutrients than refined grains, and more fibre, too.
    • Choose whole grain options for bread, oats, rice, and pasta. Quinoa is a good choice for a whole grain, too.
  • Eat a variety of protein foods, and include protein foods with healthy fats.
    • Protein foods include things like eggs, lower-fat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, seafood, nuts and seeds, beans, peas, lentils, and soy products.
    • Choose the types that come from plants more often than the types that don't.
    • Choose foods that have less saturated fat.
    • Choose more foods with healthy fat, like nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, and vegetable oils.
  • Make water your drink of choice.
    • A lot of drinks are high in calories, sugars, sodium, and fat.
    • Water is good for your health and helps you stay hydrated without adding calories to your diet.

Limiting processed foods

Highly processed foods often have a lot of sugar, sodium, or saturated fat. And too much sodium, sugar, and saturated fat can increase your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

  • Limit the amount of highly processed foods you eat. Some examples of these types of food include things like:
    • Candy.
    • Fast food.
    • Sugary drinks.
    • Frozen meals (like pizzas, or premade dinners).
    • Processed meats (like bacon and sausages).

Being a careful consumer

Knowing what is in the food and drinks you buy, and learning about how they're marketed and sold, can help you be wise when shopping. Here are some things you can do to make smart choices in the store.

  • Use food labels to help you make healthy choices.
    • Food labels tell you what ingredients are in a product, and if it has a lot of nutrients or a lot of sugars, salt, and fat.
    • Labels can also help you compare foods and drinks, so you can choose the best options for you.
  • Watch for food marketing.
    • Brands advertise their foods and drinks in ways that will make people want to buy them. This means that ads might make you see a certain food as healthy, or trendy, or good for your lifestyle.
    • When you know about food marketing, you can question why you want to buy a certain item and decide whether it is a healthy choice.

Practicing healthy habits

Choosing nutritious foods is a key part of healthy eating. But so is choosing healthy habits around food. When you build healthy food habits, you can make healthy choices more often. Here are some healthy food habits to practice.

  • Pay attention to when, how, and why you eat.
    • Ask yourself questions to help you find out if you have eating patterns you might like to change. For example, "Do I skip meals when I'm busy?" "Do I eat more than I need to when I wait too long to eat?" "Is it harder for me to make healthy choices when I'm stressed or upset?"
  • Cook more often.
    • When you plan and cook your own meals, you are in charge of what is in them. This means you can avoid processed foods more easily and choose healthy ingredients instead.
    • Involve others in planning and preparing meals. This lets you learn from others. It also lets you model and share healthy eating habits with people you care about, like your friends and family.
  • Enjoy your food.
    • Different things help different people enjoy their food. Some people enjoy growing their own food, while others really like shopping for their ingredients. Some people enjoy food most when they eat with others, while some prefer a good meal enjoyed alone.
    • Make food choices that reflect the foods you like, the ways you like to eat, and the culture and traditions that are important to you.
  • Be safe.
    • Always store and prepare your food safely in order to avoid illness.
    • Know the safe eating recommendations for special groups, and follow them. These groups may include:
      • People who are pregnant.
      • People with certain health conditions.
      • Small children.

Credits

Current as of: August 22, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine
Colleen O'Connor PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine

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