Canada’s Food Guidelines

Most Canadians see the image below (Figure 1.3) when they first attempt to access Canada’s Food Guide 2019 (Health Canada, 2019b). This image is part of the “Food guide snapshot” that is often shared with clients and families as a starting point for discussion.

When scanning the plate in Figure 1.3, you will notice a colourful plate with a diverse mix of foods in which: half the plate is filled with vegetables and fruit; one quarter of the plate has proteins including tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds, yogurt, lean meat/fish and only a small amount of red meat; one quarter of the plate has whole grain foods (e.g., bread, pasta, rice); and, there is a glass of water beside the plate.


Canada's 2019 Food Guide Front Page, showing a plate of food that meets Food Guide recommendations
Figure 1.3: Canada’s Food Guide from Health Canada (2019b) “Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professional and Policy Makers”

The food guide snapshot is now available in 28 languages as illustrated in Figure 1.4.


Food guide snapshot with different language translations
Figure 1.4: Food guide snapshot available in 28 languages
A silhouette of a person built of healthy foods, including watermelon, bell peppers, pumpkin, etc.
Figure 1.5: Integrating nutritious foods into eating patterns

There are three specific guidelines that inform “Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professionals and Policy Makers” (Health Canada, 2019b).

As illustrated in Figure 1.5 and outlined in Table 1.1, the first guideline focuses on the integration of nutritious foods to form the foundation of a person’s eating patterns (Health Canada, 2019b). This reproduction (Table 1.1) is a copy in part of the version available at:

Guideline 1 Considerations

Nutritious foods are the foundation for healthy eating

  • Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein foods should be consumed regularly. Among protein foods, consume plant-based more often. Note: Protein foods include legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, fortified soy beverage, fish, shellfish, eggs, poultry, lean red meat including wild game, lower fat milk, lower fat yogurts, lower fat kefir, and cheeses lower in fat and sodium.
  • Foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat should replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat.
  • Water should be the beverage of choice.

Nutritious foods to encourage

  • Nutritious foods to consume regularly can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.

Cultural preferences and food traditions

  • Nutritious foods can reflect cultural preferences and food traditions.
  • Eating with others can bring enjoyment to healthy eating and can foster connections between generations and cultures.
  • Traditional food improves diet quality among Indigenous Peoples.

Energy balance

  • Energy needs are individual and depend on a number of factors, including levels of physical activity.
  • Some fad diets can be restrictive and pose nutritional risks.

Environmental impact

  • Food choices can have an impact on the environment.

Table 1.1: Canada’s Dietary Guidelines: Guideline 1


As illustrated in Figure 1.6 and outlined in Table 1.2, the second guideline focuses on the reduction of foods and beverages that are processed and pre-packaged (Health Canada, 2019b). This reproduction (Table 1.2) is a copy in part of the version available at:

Image showing 3 different processed foods: a condiment, a pre-packaged meal, and a soft drink.
Figure 1.6: Reducing processed foods
Guideline 2 Considerations
  • Processed or prepared foods and beverages that contribute to excess sodium, free sugars, or saturated fat undermine healthy eating and should not be consumed regularly.

Sugary drinks, confectioneries and sugar substitutes

  • Sugary drinks and confectioneries should not be consumed regularly.
  • Sugar substitutes do not need to be consumed to reduce the intake of free sugars.

Publicly funded institutions

  • Foods and beverages offered in publicly funded institutions should align with Canada’s Dietary Guidelines.


  • There are health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Table 1.2: Canada’s Dietary Guidelines: Guideline 2


As illustrated in Figure 1.7 and outlined in Table 1.3, the third guideline focuses on food skills and food literacy to promote healthy eating patterns (Health Canada, 2019b). This reproduction (Table 1.3) is a copy, in part, of the version available at:


Figure 4. Family Meal Preparation
Figure 1.7: Family meal preparation
Guideline 3 Considerations

Food skills are needed to navigate the complex food environment and support healthy eating

  • Cooking and food preparation using nutritious foods should be promoted as a practical way to support healthy eating.
  • Food labels should be promoted as a tool to help Canadians make informed food choices.

Food skills and food literacy

  • Food skills are important life skills.
  • Food literacy includes food skills and the broader environmental context.
  • Cultural food practices should be celebrated.
  • Food skills should be considered within the social, cultural, and historical context of Indigenous Peoples.

Food skills and opportunities to learn and share

  • Food skills can be taught, learned, and shared in a variety of settings.

Food skills and food waste

  • Food skills may help decrease household food waste.

Table 1.3: Canada’s Dietary Guidelines: Guideline 3


Points of Consideration

As per Health Canada (2019b), Canada’s Food Guide 2019 was developed for individuals who are two years of age and older. In addition, it is clearly noted that specialized guidance is required for those who are younger than two years of age and/or have specific dietary requirements such as protein, iron, and calcium intake among other nutrients. More information on infant feeding and healthy term infants up to 24 months can be located at: Infant feeding and healthy term infants.

Attribution Statements

Content related to the three guidelines, reflected in the three tables, was reproduced in part for non-commercial purposes, with editorial changes, from Health Canada (2019), “Canada’s Dietary Guidelines for Health Professional and Policy Makers.”


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Interpreting Canada’s 2019 Food Guide and Food Labelling for Health Professionals Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Lapum; Oona St. Amant; Wendy Garcia; Lisa Seto Nielsen; and Rezwana Rahman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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