Main menu


Healthy eating basics

Healthy eating basics

Eating a healthy and balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. In fact, up to 80% of early heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your lifestyle choices and habits, such as eating a healthy diet and being physically active.

A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by:

  • Improve blood cholesterol levels.
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Helping you control your body weight
  • Control of blood sugar.

What is a healthy and balanced diet like?

The Canadian Food Guide recommends eating a variety of healthy foods every day. This includes eating plant-based foods more often and choosing highly processed or ultra-processed foods more often.

A healthy diet includes:

1. Eat more vegetables and fruits

  • This is one of the most important eating habits. Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber) that help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you fuller for longer.
  • Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits for each meal and snack.

2. Choose whole foods

  • Whole foods include whole wheat bread, crackers, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and shelled barley. It is prepared with whole grains. Whole foods contain fiber, protein, and B vitamins to help you stay healthy and full longer.
  • Choose whole grain options over processed or refined grains like white bread and pasta.
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with whole foods.

3. Eat protein foods

  • Protein-rich foods include legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu, fortified soy drinks, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat including wild game, low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat kefir and low-fat, low-sodium cheese.
  • Protein helps build and maintain bones, muscles, and skin.
  • Eat protein every day.
  • Try to eat at least two servings of fish a week and choose vegetarian foods more often.
  • Dairy products are a great source of protein. Choose low-fat and tasteless options.
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with protein foods.

4. Limit highly processed and ultra-processed foods

  • Highly processed foods, often called ultra-processed, are foods that are switched from their original food source and contain many added ingredients. During processing, important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, salt, and sugar are often added. Examples of processed foods include: fast food, hot dogs, French fries, crackers, frozen pizza, cold cuts, white rice, and white bread.
  • Some less processed foods are acceptable. These are foods that have been slightly altered in some way but contain very few artificial additives. Lightly processed foods retain almost all essential nutrients. Some examples are: packaged salad, vegetables, frozen fruits, eggs, milk, cheese, flour, brown rice, oil, and dried herbs. We are not referring to these minimally processed foods when we advise you not to eat processed foods.
  • Research funded by Heart & Stroke found that ultra-processed foods make up nearly half of Canadians' meals.

5. make your favorite drink with water

  • Water supports health and promotes hydration without adding calories to the diet.
  • Sugary drinks, including energy drinks, fruit drinks, 100% fruit juices, sodas, and flavored coffee, contain a lot of sugar and have little or no nutritional value. It's easy to inadvertently drink empty calories and this leads to weight gain.
  • Avoid fruit juices, even if they are 100% fruit juices. Although fruit juice contains some benefits of fruit (vitamins and minerals), it contains more sugar than fruit and less fiber. Fruit juice should not be used as a substitute for fruit. Canadians should eat their fruit, not drink it.
  • When drinking water is not available, quench your thirst with coffee, tea, low-fat unsweetened milk, and pre-boiled water.