Eating a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. In fact, up to 80% of premature heart disease and stroke can be prevented through your life choices and habits, such as eating a healthy diet and being physically active.
A healthy diet can help lower your risk of heart disease and stroke by:
- improving your cholesterol levels
- reducing your blood pressure
- helping you manage your body weight
- controlling your blood sugar.
What does a healthy, balanced diet look like?
Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating a variety of healthy foods each day. This includes eating plant-based foods more often and choosing highly-processed or ultra-processed foods less often.
A healthy diet includes:
1. Eating lots of vegetables and fruit
- This is one of the most important diet habits. Vegetables and fruit are packed with nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre) and help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full longer.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit at every meal and snack.
2. Choosing whole grain foods
- Whole grain foods include whole grain bread and crackers, brown or wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal and hulled barley. They are prepared using the entire grain. Whole grain foods have fibre, protein and B vitamins to help you stay healthy and full longer.
- Choose whole grain options instead of processed or refined grains like white bread and pasta.
3. Eating protein foods
- Protein foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meats including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yogurts, lower fat kefir and cheeses lower in fat and sodium.
- Protein helps build and maintain bones, muscles and skin.
- Eat protein every day.
- Try to eat at least two servings of fish each week, and choose plant-based foods more often.
- Dairy products are a great source of protein. Choose lower fat, unflavoured options.
Top 5 tips from the experts
- Prepare most of your meals at home using whole or minimally processed foods. Choose from a variety of different proteins to keep things interesting. Using catchy names for each day can help you plan. Try “Meatless Monday” with this meatless recipe.
- Make an eating plan each week – this is the key to fast, easy meal preparation. Check out our shopping tips here.
- Choose recipes with plenty of vegetables and fruit. Your goal is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit at every meal. Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables each day, especially orange and dark green vegetables (click here for more information). Frozen or canned unsweetened fruits and vegetables are a perfect alternative to fresh produce. Try this recipe.
- Avoid sugary drinks and instead drink water. Lower-fat, unsweetened milk is also a good way to stay hydrated. Keep a reusable water bottle in your purse or car so you can fill up wherever you are going.
- Eat smaller meals more often. Eat at least three meals a day with snacks in between. When you wait too long to eat you are more likely to make unhealthy food choices. Keep easy-to-eat snacks (like this) in your purse or bag for emergencies.