Eating a healthy diet, which is a balanced diet, is one of the most effective ways to protect your health. In reality, up to 80% of heart disease and premature stroke can be prevented through lifestyle choices and habits like a healthy diet and a physically active lifestyle.
Your diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by:
improving your cholesterol level;
lowering your blood pressure;
helping you manage your weight;
controlling your blood sugar level.
What is a healthy and balanced diet?
Canada’s Food Guide recommends eating a variety of healthy foods every day, prioritizing plant-based foods, and limiting your intake of highly processed, or ultra-processed foods.
A healthy diet includes:
1. Lots of vegetables and fruits
It is one of the most famous eating habits. The vegetables and fruits contain many nutrients (antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre) and help you maintain a healthy weight by satisfying yourself longer.
Vegetables and fruit should make up half of all your meals and snacks.
2. Whole grains
The wholegrain foods include bread and crackers, brown and wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal and hulled barley. These foods are prepared with whole grains. They contain fibre, protein and B-complex vitamins to help you stay healthy and full for longer.
Choose wholegrain options instead of processed or refined grains like white pasta and bread.
Fill a quarter of your plate with wholegrain foods.
3. Protein foods
These include fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, lean red meats – such as game -, low-fat milk, yoghurt and kefir, as well as low-sodium cheese and in bold.
Proteins contribute to the formation and health of bones, muscles and skin.
Eat protein foods every day.
Try to eat at least two fish meals a week, cook vegetable foods.
The dairy products are a good source of protein. Choose options with less fat and not flavoured.
Protein foods should make up a quarter of your plate.
4. Little or no highly processed, or ultra-processed food
Foods that have undergone significant processing, also called ultra-processed foods, are foods that have been changed from their original food state and to which many ingredients have been added. During processing, essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and fibre, are often removed while salt and sugar are added. For example, processed foods include fast food products, hot dogs, potato chips, baked cookies, frozen pizzas, cold cuts, white rice and white bread. Learn more about ultra-processed foods.
Some foods that have undergone slight processing have good nutritional quality. These are foods that have been slightly modified in some way, but that contain few industrial additives. Minimally processed foods retain most of their essential nutrients. These foods include packaged salads, frozen vegetables and fruits, eggs, milk, cheese, flour, wholegrain rice, oil and dry spices. We do not refer to foods with minimal processing when we advise you not to consume processed foods.
A study subsidized by Coeur + AVC revealed that almost half of the daily calorie intake of the country’s population comes from ultra-processed foods. Learn more here.
5. Lots of water
Water promotes health and keeps you hydrated without caloric intake.
Sugary drinks, including energy drinks, fruit juices, 100% pure juices, soft drinks and flavoured coffees, contain a large amount of sugar and have little nutritional value. It is easy to drink empty calories without thinking about it, which can lead to weight gain.
Avoid consuming fruit juices, even if it is 100% juice. Although these have certain nutritional benefits from fruits (vitamins and minerals), they contain more sugar and less fibre than these. Everyone should eat fruit rather than drink the juice.
When fresh drinking water is not available, stay hydrated with coffee, tea, low-fat unsweetened milk, or boil water.
Top 5 Expert Advice
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 that will help you plan. Organize a vegetarian Friday with this meatless recipe.
Plan your meals every week – this is very important for quick and easy preparation of meals. Check out our tips for buying your groceries here.
Choose recipes that contain a lot of vegetables and fruits. You must fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruit with each meal. Choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables every day, including orange and dark green vegetables (click here for more information). Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables without sugar are a perfect substitute for fresh fruits and vegetables—try this recipe.
Avoid sugary drinks and drink water instead. Low-fat unsweetened milk is also an excellent way to stay hydrated. Keep a reusable water bottle in your bag or your car so you can fill 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 are more likely to make low-nutritional choices. Keep easy-to-eat snacks (such as this one) in your handbag or your bag in case of emergencies.
Do you eat well? Take this healthy eating quiz to find out.