1.2.4. The New Canadian Food Guide

Canada’s Food Guide

The new Canada’s Food Guide promotes healthy eating and overall nutritional well-being, and supports improvements to the Canadian food environment.

Healthy Eating Recommendations

Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. It is also about where, when, why and how you eat.

Be mindful of your eating habits

Cook more often

Enjoy your food

Eat meals with others


Make it a habit to eat a variety of healthy foods each day.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.

Limit highly processed foods. If you choose these foods, eat them less often and in small amounts.

Make water your drink of choice

Use food labels

Be aware that food marketing can influence your choices

Building a Healthy Plate

Source: © All Rights Reserved: Canada’s Food Guide: Plate. Health Canada. Adapted and reproduced with permission from the Minister of Health, 2019.

Canada’s Food Guide encourages eating vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods often to develop a healthy eating pattern and maintain your health.

Vegetables & Fruits

Vegetables and fruits are an important part of a healthy eating pattern. Eating a variety of vegetables and fruits may lower your risk of heart disease

Fill half of your plate with red, orange, and dark green vegetables and fruits, such as kale, bok choy, kalo (taro), tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, apples, mango, papaya, guavas, blueberries, and strawberries in main and side dishes. Vary your choices to get the benefit of as many different vegetables and fruits as you can. For snacks, eat fruits, vegetables, or unsalted nuts. Water should be your drink of choiceand fruit juices should be avoided as they are now considered sugary drinks.

Vegetables and fruits have important nutrients such as:

  • fibre
  • vitamins
  • minerals

Include plenty of vegetables and fruits in your meals and snacks.

Opt for different textures, colours and shapes to fit your taste. From apples to zucchini, choose plenty of vegetables and fruits.

Try a variety of vegetables and fruits such as:

  • pears
  • apples
  • berries
  • broccoli
  • peaches
  • cabbage
  • leafy greens

Choosing and Preparing Healthy Vegetables and Fruits

Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits can all be healthy options.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits, take little time to prepare, are a healthy and convenient option, and are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables and fruits.

Frozen Vegetables and Fruits

Choose frozen vegetables and fruits without:

  • added sugars
  • added seasonings
  • breading or rich sauces

You can add frozen vegetables and fruits to soup or chili.

Canned Vegetables and Fruits

Choose canned vegetables with little to no added sodium.

Drain and rinse canned vegetables to lower the sodium content.

Choose canned fruit with little to no added sugars.

Use the food labels to help you compare canned vegetables and fruits.

The % daily value helps you see if a food has a little or a lot of a nutrient.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit can be a part of healthy eating, but it can stick to your teeth and cause cavities. If you choose dried fruit, eat it with meals.

Preparing Vegetables

Try healthier cooking methods like:

  • baking
  • roasting
  • steaming
  • stir-frying

Enhance the flavour by adding:

  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • flavoured vinegar
  • fresh or dried herbs or spices

Fruit and Vegetable Snack Ideas

Vegetables and fruits make quick and healthy snacks. There are lots to choose from and many healthy ways to prepare them.

Vegetable Snacking Tips

Keep cut up fresh vegetables in the fridge for a quick and healthy snack. Try:

  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • carrot sticks
  • celery sticks
  • cucumber slices

Fruit Snacking Tips

Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter as an easy snack to grab.

Add fruit to whole grain cereals or lower fat yogurt. Try:

  • bananas
  • mangoes
  • frozen berries
  • canned peaches packed in water

Freeze seedless grapes on a tray and enjoy them as a snack.

How To Eat More Vegetables

Here are some easy ways to eat more vegetables:

  • Add canned pumpkin or squash purée to any soup to make it extra rich and creamy.
  • Wash, chop and refrigerate or freeze extra vegetables when preparing meals so you have extra for meals the next day.
  • Use pre-bagged vegetables that can be quickly tossed in a salad, stir-fry or casserole. Try:
    • baby carrots
    • green beans
    • leafy greens
  • Serve raw vegetables with your meals. Try:
    • cucumber
    • cherry or grape tomatoes
    • red, yellow or green peppers
  • Try new recipes that call for different types of leafy greens such as:
    • kale
    • spinach
    • bok choy
    • Swiss chard
    • mixed salad greens

How To Eat More Fruits

Fruits are a delicious addition to your day. Here are some easy ways to eat more fruit:

  • For dessert, choose:
    • oranges
    • fruit salad, with little to no added sugars
  • Add fresh fruits to salads. Try adding sliced:
    • pears
    • peaches
    • strawberries
  • Add frozen fruits to baking.
  • Wash, cut and refrigerate extra fruit so you can have some on hand for meals and snacks.

Whole Grains

Fill a quarter of your plate with quality whole grains such as 100 percent whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, and pasta. All the grains you choose should be whole grains. Read the ingredients list on food labels carefully to determine if a food is comprised of whole grains.

Whole grain foods have important nutrients such as:

  • fibre
  • vitamins
  • minerals

Whole grain foods are a healthier choice than refined grains because whole grain foods include all parts of the grain. Refined grains have some parts of the grain removed during processing.

Whole grain foods have more fibre than refined grains. Eating foods higher in fibre can help lower your risk of:

  • stroke
  • colon cancer
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes

Choosing and Preparing Healthy Whole Grain Foods

Enjoy a variety of whole grain foods such as:

  • quinoa
  • whole grain pasta
  • whole grain bread
  • whole oats or oatmeal
  • whole grain brown or wild rice

Some grain foods can have a lot of added sodium, sugars or saturated fat. These include foods like:

  • breads
  • muffins
  • crackers
  • pasta dishes

Make Sure Your Choices Are Actually Whole Grain

Whole wheat and multi-grain foods may not be whole grain. Some foods may look like they are whole grain because of their colour, but they may not be.

Read the ingredient list and choose foods that have the words “whole grain” followed by the name of the grain as one of the first ingredients like:

  • whole grain oats
  • whole grain wheat

Whole wheat foods are not whole grain, but can still be a healthy choice as they contain fibre.


Use the nutrition facts table to compare the amount of fibre between products. Look at the % daily value to choose those with more fibre.

Preparing Whole Grain Foods

Whole grain foods can be tasty and nutritious without adding highly processed sauces and spreads. Enjoy the true taste of whole grain foods.

Try healthier ways to prepare your whole grain foods by:

  • leaving out or reducing the amount of salt added during preparation
  • limiting the amount of sauce or spreads you add
  • adding vegetables, vegetable oils, spices and herbs to enhance flavours

Whole Grain Snack Ideas

Whole grain foods make quick and healthy snacks. There are lots of choices and many ways to enjoy them. Try:

  • whole grain cereals
  • whole grain crackers
  • whole grain baked pita “chips”

How To Include Whole Grain Foods

Here are some easy ways to eat more whole grain foods:

  • Try a new whole grain each week:
    • farro
    • freekah
    • amaranth
    • buckwheat
  • Mix different whole grain cereals in your bowl and enjoy with lower fat white milk or unsweetened plant-based beverages.
  • Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, whole grain cereal or whole grain toast.
  • Keep a variety of whole grain foods in your pantry. Try:
    • oats
    • quinoa
    • brown rice
    • whole grain pasta
    • whole grain bread

To increase the amount of whole grain foods in your recipes, try adding:

  • barley, bulgur and quinoa to soups, salads and stir-fries
  • brown or wild rice to white rice for more fibre and a nutty flavour



Select a variety of protein foods to improve nutrient intake and promote health benefits. Each week, be sure to include a nice array of protein sources in your diet, such as nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, poultry, soy, and fish and shellfish. When choosing meat, select lean cuts. Be conscious to prepare meats using little or no added saturated fat, such as butter.

You can eat a variety of protein foods as part of a healthy eating pattern.

Protein foods have important nutrients such as:

  • protein
  • vitamins
  • minerals

Choose protein foods that come from plants more often. Plant-based protein foods can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can be beneficial for your heart health.

You don’t need to eat large amounts of protein foods to meet your nutritional needs. Try to eat protein foods such as:

  • eggs
  • lean meats and poultry
    • lean cuts of beef, pork and wild game
    • turkey
    • chicken
  • nuts and seeds
    • peanuts
    • almonds
    • cashews
    • nut butters
    • sunflower seeds
  • fish and shellfish
    • trout
    • shrimp
    • salmon
    • scallops
    • sardines
    • mackerel
  • lower fat dairy products
    • milk
    • yogurt
    • lower sodium cheeses
  • beans, peas and lentils
    • brown, green or red or other lentils
    • peas such as chickpeas and split peas
    • dried beans such as black beans and kidney beans
  • fortified soy beverages, tofu, soybeans and other soy products

Choosing and Preparing Healthy Protein Foods

There are many different types of protein foods to choose from. Make healthier choices.

Beans, Peas and Lentils


  • dried beans, peas and lentils to soak and cook at home
  • low sodium canned beans, peas and lentils, or rinse and drain them to reduce the amount of sodium

Nuts and Seeds


  • dry roasted nuts and seeds without added:
    • sugars
    • fat (oils)
    • sodium (salt)
  • peanut butter or other nut butters that list peanuts or nuts as the only ingredient. Choose ones with little to no added:
    • sodium
    • sugars
    • saturated fat

Fish and Shellfish


  • canned fish with little to no added sodium
  • fresh or frozen fish and shellfish that has not been:
    • breaded
    • battered
    • deep-fried

Lean Meats


  • skinless poultry
  • lean cuts of meat such as round and loin
  • fresh or frozen meat and poultry without rich sauces
  • meat prepared with little or no added sodium or saturated fat

Milk and Dairy Products


  • lower fat cheeses
  • unsweetened lower fat yogurt
  • unsweetened lower fat milk

Soy Products and Fortified Soy Beverages


  • low sodium soy products
  • unsweetened fortified soy beverages

Preparing Protein Foods

Try healthier ways to prepare your food by:

  • draining off extra fat after cooking
  • trimming the visible fat from meats
  • removing skin from poultry before cooking
  • limiting the amount of sauces, butter or gravy

Try cooking methods that use little or no added saturated fat. These include methods such as:

  • baking
  • grilling
  • roasting
  • poaching

Enhance the flavour by:

  • seasoning with herbs, lemon or salsas
  • using small amounts of oils with healthy fats such as olive and canola

Protein Snack Ideas

Protein foods make healthy and delicious snacks. Try these quick and tasty options:

  • nuts and seeds
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • oven roasted chickpeas
  • hummus with fresh veggies
  • peanut butter on celery sticks
  • lower fat yogurt with fresh fruit

How To Eat More Protein Foods That Come From Plants

Here are some easy ways to eat more protein foods that come from plants:

  • Add soft tofu to a blended soup to make it thicker and creamier.
  • Try a bean salad, lentil and rice pilaf or a bowl of vegetarian chili for lunch.
  • Make your own trail mix by combining your favourite whole grain cereal with a handful of nuts and seeds.
  • Spread hummus on the inside of a whole grain pita and fill with vegetables such as romaine lettuce and shredded carrots.

Each week, plan a couple of meatless meals. As your main course, try using:

  • beans in a burrito
  • tofu in a vegetable stir-fry
  • chickpeas and beans in tacos
  • lentils in a soup, stew or casserole


Dairy as a Source of Protein

If you enjoy drinking milk or eating milk products, such as cheese and yogurt, choose lower-fat or non-fat products. Low-fat and non-fat products contain the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole-milk products, but with much less fat and calories. Calcium, an important mineral for your body, is also available in lactose-free and fortified soy and rice beverage products. You can also get calcium in vegetables and other fortified foods and beverages.

Foods with Healthy Fat

Oils are essential for your diet as they contain valuable essential fatty acids, but the type you choose and the amount you consume is important. Be sure the oil is plant-based rather than based on animal fat. The goal is to reduce the amount of saturated fats in the diet (fatty meats or cheese) while focusing on consuming foods that have mostly unsaturated fats (avocado or nuts and seeds).  You can also get oils from many types of fish, as well as avocados, and unsalted nuts and seeds. It is vital to balance oil consumption with total caloric intake.

Choosing foods that contain mostly healthy fats instead of foods that contain mostly saturated fat can help lower your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is 1 of the leading causes of death in Canada.

The type of fat you eat over time is more important for health than the total amount of fat you eat.

Foods Containing Healthy Fats

These foods contain healthy fats:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • avocado
  • fatty fish
  • vegetable oils
  • soft margarine

Foods Containing Saturated Fat

These foods contain saturated fat:

  • fatty meats
  • high fat dairy products
  • some highly processed foods
  • some tropical oils such as palm oil and coconut oil

How To Choose Food With Healthy Fats

The type of fat you include in your eating pattern matters. Here are some ideas to eat more healthy fats and less saturated fat.

Choose Foods With Healthy Fats

Try different types of fatty fish such as:

  • trout
  • salmon
  • herring
  • mackerel

When preparing foods, use oils with healthy fats, such as:

  • corn
  • olive
  • canola
  • peanut
  • sesame
  • soybean
  • flaxseed
  • safflower
  • sunflower

Include small amounts of nuts as a snack.

Try nut butters such as peanut, almond or walnut.

Try pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Toast them for a snack or add them to salads.

Make your own salad dressing with canola, olive or flaxseed oil. Add balsamic, rice wine or other vinegars. Flavour with lemon juice, dry or Dijon mustard, garlic and herbs.

Limit Foods That Contain Saturated Fat

Limit the amount of foods containing saturated fat, such as:

  • cream
  • higher fat meats
  • processed meats
  • canned coconut milk or cream
  • some frozen desserts like ice cream
  • some desserts and bakery products
  • most deep fried foods, like French fries
  • cheeses and foods containing a lot of cheese

When preparing foods, try to limit the amount of saturated oils and fats like:

  • lard
  • ghee
  • butter
  • palm oil
  • coconut oil
  • hard margarine

Choose lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry. Trim off as much of the visible fat as possible. Drain fat from cooked ground meat. Lean or extra lean cuts of meat can include:

  • pork loin
  • chicken breast
  • sirloin roast or steak
  • inside and outside round roast
  • lean ground poultry
  • wild game such as:
    • deer
    • bison
    • moose
    • caribou

Some processed foods are made with ingredients that are high in saturated fat. Use the food labels to compare products. Choose those with little to no added saturated fat.

Healthy Fat Swaps

Try these swaps to replace saturated fat with healthy fats:

  • On your toast, replace cream cheese with nut butters.
  • For dipping, try making your own hummus or tzatziki to replace spinach or artichoke dip.
  • On bread or rolls, replace butter with olive oil flavoured with balsamic vinegar.
  • When you are cooking, replace shortening, lard or hard margarine with oils with healthy fats such as canola, olive and soybean.


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Fundamentals of Health and Physical Activity by Kerri Z. Delaney and Leslie Barker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.