Food and drink choices have a tremendous impact on diet. Eating healthy food helps maintain good health and reduces the risk of developing certain illnesses. A healthy diet includes a variety of foods, particularly foods with high nutritional value. Food nourishes the body and the mind. In addition to providing nutrients, eating provides us with an opportunity to share with family and friends. Hence, healthy eating is a source of daily pleasure.
Choosing your beverages
It is important to know the sugar and salt (sodium) content of the beverages you consume in order to choose wisely. This information can be obtained in different ways, including product labels.
The following tips will help you choose your beverages:
- Drink water regularly. Water is the best drink to quench thirst, and it contains no calories. Drink more water when it is hot or when you are physically active.
- Drink milk and milk alternatives, like enriched soy or almond milk, which are healthy choices.
- Limit your intake of fruit juices, even if they are 100 % pure. Although they have vitamins and minerals, they contain a lot of sugar and can quickly add a large amount of sugar to your diet. It’s better to eat fresh fruits.
- Avoid consuming sugary drinks, such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, iced tea, vitamin water, energy drinks or sports drinks, on a daily basis. Given that they have little or no nutritional value and the calories they contain are added to the ones already in your diet, these sugary drinks should only be consumed occasionally.
Warning about energy drinks
Avoid drinking energy drinks regularly. They contain a lot of sugar, and their high caffeine content may have undesirable side effects.
Furthermore, energy drinks are not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children and people who are sensitive to caffeine. Also, they should not be mixed with alcohol.
On top of the risk of developing a dependency on energy drinks; they can also cause:
- Disrupted sleep
Processed foods are a central part of today’s diet in Québec. Most foods are processed before being put on the market or consumed.
Certain food-processing methods are essential to the preservation of products and may even have a positive and beneficial impact on the nutritional quality of food. The addition of vitamin D to milk is one example.
However, other food-processing methods can have a negative impact on health. Indeed, they increase the amount of fat, sugar and salt in food and lower the nutritional value. As such, some processed foods are less beneficial to health, meaning:
- They are rich in energy, or calories.
- They are rich in added sugars, sodium and trans fats.
- They have lower nutritional value.
The amount of processed foods consumed in Québec has greatly increased over the past few years. The fast pace of life has resulted in people having less time to cook at home.
Frequent consumption of these products can contribute to a less-balanced diet and increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, some forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Lowering your consumption of salt, sugar and fat can reduce the harmful effects of these foods on your body and prevent the onset of these diseases.
Sodium is a mineral that is found in table salt and many other foods. The body needs sodium to function. However, consumption of too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease.
A certain amount of sodium is naturally present in food. However, sodium is often added to food for taste, preservation and to modify texture.
To reduce your intake of sodium, follow these tips:
- Reduce your consumption of prepared or ready-to-eat foods; 75 % of salt consumed comes from these foods. Examples include:
- Fast foods
- Ready-to-eat meals
- Processed meats, such as cold cuts
- Canned soups and bouillon cubes
- Tomato or vegetable juices
- Condiments, such as ketchup and marinades
- Salty snacks, such as chips
- Go for products with a salt content of less than 15 % daily value (DV) per serving. Read the nutrition facts’ label for the foods you eat. The DV tells you if a food has a little salt (less than 5 % DV) or is high in salt (more than 15 % DV).
- Reduce the amount of salt you add to your meals. For some dishes, a gradual reduction, varying between 5 % and 10 %, of the amount of salt will go unnoticed. So for 5 mL (1 tsp) of salt, you can remove 1 mL to 2 mL without affecting the taste of the dish.
- Add fresh herbs to your meals while reducing the amount of salt. The taste will be as pronounced but different.
- To season your food, add salt-free spices, lemon juice or garlic rather than salt. You’ll discover different flavours and gradually grow accustomed to the taste of less-salty food. Beware of sea salt, celery salt, garlic salt and onion salt, all of which contain sodium. Their consumption must be restricted in the same way as table salt.
Helpful websites about sodium
Sugar is found in many foods. It can be naturally occurring in nutritious foods such as milk, fruits and vegetables, as well as in fruit and vegetable juices. Sugar is also added to various foods to enhance flavour, improve colour and texture or preserve them longer.
Sugar comes in many forms:
- White sugar
- Brown sugar
- Maple syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
Sugar is also found in foods that have the following names in their list of ingredients: glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose or sucrose.
Sugar is mainly added to sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, chocolate, candy, some granola bars, some flavoured yoghurts and other processed products.
Added sugar provides calories and has no nutritional benefit. It is also associated with the onset of many health problems, like tooth decay and diabetes.
It is therefore recommended that you limit your daily intake of sugar. According to the World Health Organization, an average adult should consume no more than 12 tsp of sugar daily and, ideally, not exceed 6 tsp. For example, an adult who drinks one can of soft drink a day exceeds these recommendations. A 355 mL can of soft drink contains up to 10 tsp of added sugar.
To reduce your sugar intake, follow these tips:
- Avoid the daily consumption of sugary sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, iced tea, vitamin water, energy drinks or flavoured coffees.
- Limit how much fruit juice you drink because it often has a lot of sugar.
- Go for milk or enriched alternatives such as unsweetened soy or almond milk. Avoid flavoured milk, like chocolate or vanilla, because it contains sugar.
- Eat fresh fruits rather than canned fruits, which often has sugar in it. If you eat canned fruits, go for fruits packed in water rather than syrup.
- Eat unsweetened whole grain cereals and do not add sugar.
- Cook at home as often as possible; when baking muffins, cookies and other desserts, choose recipes that call for less sugar.
- Opt for plain yogurt and add your favourite fresh fruit, pureed fruit or canned fruit packed in water. You can also mix equal parts of plain yogurt and flavored yogurt.
- Limit your consumption of products whose primary ingredient is sugar or an equivalent such as glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose or sucrose.
Helpful websites about sugar
Fats are an important part of healthy eating. They provide essential fatty acids and energy and help the body absorb certain vitamins. The type of fat you eat is as important to your health as the amount you consume. Also, choosing the right types of fat reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
There are 4 major types of fatty acids:
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
Canada’s Food Guide recommends choosing foods with healthy types of fat: polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. To find out more, check out the Choosing foods with healthy fats page on the Canada’s Food Guide website.
Helpful websites about fat
Last update: April 15, 2019