Having a nutritious and balanced diet is part of adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Regardless of your age, it is one of the best ways to improve your health and protect yourself against many health problems.
All foods can fit into a balanced diet. How often and how much you consume varies with each type of food. A balanced diet means:
- Consuming a variety of quality foods from the 4 food groups
- Listening to the signals your body sends in order to meet its needs:
- Hunger signals tell you when to eat. An empty feeling in the stomach, a drop in energy and a rumbling belly are hunger signals
- Signals of fullness tell you when to stop eating. A full feeling in the stomach, feeling satisfied and a disinterest in food are signals of fullness
In addition to satisfying your body’s needs, eating is a source of pleasure. Sharing a good meal with family and friends and discovering new foods and flavours are ways of enjoying the pleasures of eating.
Canada's Food Guide
Canada’s Food Guide helps you make wise food choices. It also helps you meet your needs in vitamins, minerals and nutrients, which are necessary for achieving good health and well-being.
The guide features the following 4 food groups:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Milk and alternatives
- Meats and alternatives
For each food group, the guide suggests the amount and types of food to consume daily. These suggestions are given according to age and gender. They may also vary according to your height and weight, your level of physical activity, as well as where you are in life – if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, for example.
Canada’s Food Guide also recommends that you:
- Consume certain types of oil or other fats
- Limit the consumption of foods and beverages that are high in calories, fat, sugar or salt
- Drink water daily as it is the best way to quench thirst. Drink more water when it is hot or when you are physically active
- Read food labels. To understand how to read these labels, go to the Understanding Food Labels page
For more information on Canada’s Food Guide, go the Gouvernment of Canada website .
Healthy weight management
Excess of weight (overweight and obesity) is a major risk factors for many health problems, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and other types of cancers
- Osteoarthritis (a form of arthritis)
Along with being overweight, smoking and poor diet are lifestyle habits that are harmful to health.
There are no miracle recipes for losing weight and keeping it off in the following months. Also, multiple attempts to lose weight and the methods employed can be dangerous to health. The key is to have a physically active lifestyle and a healthy diet. It is better to prevent gaining weight rather than trying to lose it.
Body Mass Index
Definitions of being overweight and obesity are based on body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of someone’s weight in relation to height. BMI = weight (kg)/height (m)2. It is used to indicate the risks of developing health problems.
However, BMI is not a good indicator of body fat because it does not distinguish between a excess of fat and a excess of muscle. It is the body fat, especially around the stomach, that can have harmful effects on health and life expectancy.
Warning About Weight-Loss Diets
Weight-loss diet programs are generally very strict and often impossible to follow forever.
The body reacts to dieting the same way it does to starvation: it reduces energy expenditure at rest. When you start to eat again like before, or even more than previously due to a sense of deprivation, the body stores the calories it finally receives in the form of fat. Thus you regain the weight lost, and often more. The more you diet, the more the body tries to protect its reserves and the harder it is to lose weight.
Many weight-loss diet programs recommend weighing or measuring the amount of food consumed. However, everyone has specific energy and calorie needs. The servings suggested in these diet programs are therefore not suitable for everyone. The only way to make sure you are eating the amount of food that meets your body’s needs is by relying on the hunger and fullness signals it sends.
Many dieting programs come with a list of forbidden foods. However, it has been shown that depriving yourself of a food completely or exaggeratedly increases craving for it and leads to consumption of it in larger quantities.
You can get additional information on a healthy and balanced diet at the following websites:
- Food and Nutrition
Gouvernment of Canada
- Your Health
Dietitians of Canada
Centre de référence sur la nutrition de l’Université de Montréal (in French only)
- Organisme ÉquiLibre (website in French only)
Organisme ÉquiLibre (website in French only)
- Association pour la santé publique du Québec (website in French only)
- Ordre professionnels des diététistes du Québec (website in french only)
Last update: 29 November 2017, 15:58