A healthy diet, that is, a balanced diet is one of the most effective ways to protect your health. In fact, up to 80% of heart disease and premature stroke can be prevented through choices and lifestyle habits such as a healthy diet and physically active living.
Your diet can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by :
- improving your cholesterol levels;
- lowering your blood pressure;
- helping you manage your weight;
- controlling your blood sugar levels.
What is a healthy, balanced diet?
Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating a variety of healthy foods every day, choosing plant-based foods and limiting highly processed or highly processed foods.
A healthy diet includes :
1. Lots of vegetables and fruit
This is one of the most important eating habits. Vegetables and fruit contain many nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber) and help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full for longer.
Vegetables and fruit should make up half of all your meals and snacks.
2. Whole grains
Whole-grain foods include bread and crackers, brown and wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and hulled barley. These foods are made with whole grains. They contain fiber, protein and B-complex vitamins to help you stay healthy and full for longer.
Choose whole-grain options instead of processed or refined grains such as white pasta and bread.
Fill a quarter of your plate with whole-grain foods.
3. Protein foods
These include fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, lean red meats – such as game -, low-fat milk, yogurt and kefir, and low-sodium, low-fat cheese.
Protein contributes to the formation and health of bones, muscles and skin.
Eat protein-rich foods every day.
Try to eat at least two meals of fish a week, cook vegetable-based foods.
Dairy products are a good source of protein. Choose options with less fat and no flavorings.
Protein foods should make up a quarter of your plate.
4. Little or no highly processed or highly processed foods should be used.
Foods that have undergone extensive processing, also known as highly processed foods, are foods that have been modified from their original food state and to which many ingredients have been added. During processing, important nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber are often removed while salt and sugar are added. Examples of processed foods include fast food, hot dogs, potato chips, dry cookies, frozen pizza, deli meats, white rice and white bread. Learn more about highly processed foods.
Some foods that have undergone little processing have good nutritional quality. These are foods that have been slightly modified in some way, but contain few industrial additives. Minimally processed foods retain most of their essential nutrients. These foods include packaged salads, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs, milk, cheese, flour, whole grain rice, oil and dry spices. We do not refer to minimally processed foods when we advise you not to consume processed foods.
A study funded by Heart + Stroke found that almost half of the daily caloric intake of the country’s population comes from highly processed foods. Learn more about the study
5.Lots of water
Water promotes health and helps you stay hydrated without caloric intake.
Sweetened beverages, including energy drinks, fruit juices, 100% pure juices, soft drinks and flavored coffees, contain a lot of sugar and have little nutritional value. It’s easy to drink empty calories without thinking about it, which can lead to weight gain.
Avoid fruit juices, even if they are 100% juice. Although they have some of the nutritional benefits of fruit (vitamins and minerals), they contain more sugar and less fiber than fruit. Everyone should eat fruit rather than drink the juice.
When fresh drinking water is not available, stay hydrated with coffee, tea, unsweetened low-fat milk, or boil water.
Top 5 tips from the experts
Prepare most of your meals at home using whole or minimally processed foods. Choose a variety of proteins to brighten up your meals. Choose fun names for each day to help you plan. Have a “Veggie Friday” with this meatless recipe.
Plan your meals every week – this is very important for quick and easy meal preparation. Check out our shopping tips here.
Choose recipes that contain lots of vegetables and fruit. You should fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit at each meal. Choose brightly colored vegetables and fruit each day, including orange and dark green vegetables. Sugar-free frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are a perfect substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Try this recipe.
Avoid sweetened beverages and drink water instead. Unsweetened low-fat milk is also a good way to stay hydrated. Keep a reusable water bottle in your purse or car so you can refill it wherever you go.
Eat smaller meals often. Eat at least three meals a day with snacks between meals. When you wait too long to eat, you’re more likely to make choices with little nutritional value. Keep easy-to-eat snacks (like this one) in your purse or bag for emergencies.