Basics of a nutritious diet

One of the most essential things you can do to preserve your health is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. In reality, your lifestyle choices and behaviours, such as eating a balanced diet and staying physically active, can prevent up to 80% of early heart disease and stroke.

A heart-healthy diet can help you reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by doing the following:

  • cholesterol levels are being improved
  • lowering the blood pressure
  • assisting you in maintaining a healthy weight and blood sugar level

What does a healthy, balanced diet look like?

Every day, the Canadian Food Guide suggests consuming a variety of healthful meals. This means consuming more plant-based foods and consuming less highly processed or ultra-processed foods.

A balanced diet should include the following foods:

1. Eating a lot of fruits and veggies

  • This is one of the most crucial dietary practises. Fruit and vegetables are high in nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fibre) and can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you satisfied for longer.
  • At every meal and snack, half your plate should be filled with vegetables and fruit.

2. Choosing whole grain foods

  • Whole grain bread and crackers, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and hulled barley are all examples of whole grain meals. They are made with the whole grain. Fibre, protein, and B vitamins included in whole grain meals help you stay healthy and fuller for longer.
  • Instead of processed or refined grains like white bread and pasta, opt for whole grain choices.
  • Whole grain meals should make up a quarter of your plate.

3. Eating protein foods

  • Legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meats, including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yoghurts, lower fat kefir, and low-fat and low-sodium cheeses are all good sources of protein.
  • Protein aids in the development and maintenance of bones, muscles, and skin.
  • Every day, consume protein.
  • At least two servings of fish per week should be consumed, while plant-based meals should be consumed more frequently.
  • Dairy products are a high-protein food. Choose unflavored, lower-fat choices.
  • Protein meals should make up a quarter of your plate.

4. Limiting highly and ultra-processed foods

  • Highly processed foods, also known as ultra-processed foods – are foods that have been altered from their natural state and contain a large number of additional components. Important elements including vitamins, minerals, and fibre are typically lost during processing, while salt and sugar are added. Fast food, hot dogs, chips, cookies, frozen pizzas, deli meats, white rice, and white bread are examples of processed foods. Learn more about ultra-processed foods here.
  • It’s fine to eat certain less processed meals. These are foods that have been minimally altered yet contain few industrially produced ingredients. Foods that have been minimally processed retain nearly all of their vital elements. Bagged salad, frozen vegetables and fruit, eggs, milk, cheese, flour, brown rice, oil, and dry herbs are some examples. When we say don’t consume processed foods, we don’t mean these minimally processed items.
  • Ultra-processed foods make up over half of Canadians’ diets, according to study funded by the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

5. Making water your drink of choice

  • Water is good for your health and keeps you hydrated without adding calories to your diet.
  • Energy drinks, fruit drinks, 100 percent fruit juice, soft drinks, and flavoured coffees are high in sugar and have little to no nutritional benefit. It is quite simple to consume empty calories without recognising it, resulting in weight gain.
  • Even if it’s 100 percent fruit juice, stay away from it. Fruit juice has some of the same nutrients as the fruit (vitamins and minerals), but it also contains more sugar and less fibre. Fruit juice should not be used as a substitute for fresh fruits. Fruits should be eaten rather than drunk in Canada.
  • If you don’t have access to clean drinking water, you can satisfy your thirst with coffee, tea, unsweetened lower-fat milk, or already boiled water.