Eating well

Eating well begins with eating a variety of foods each day to get the nutrients you need for good health. It’s all about balance, moderation and variety. Eating well isn’t about counting calories, but it’s still important to make sure that you’re not eating more than your body needs.


Healthy eating and cancer

Eating a healthy diet – lots of vegetables and fruit, lots of fibre and little fat and sugar – will help you keep a healthy body weight. Research shows that maintaining a healthy body weight reduces your risk of developing cancer.


Tips to get started

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. It’s a habit you get used to, and every day it gets easier. The important thing is to get started now.

  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide on healthy eating.
  • Eat regular meals. Skipping a meal – especially breakfast – can lead to overeating throughout the day. And when you’re very hungry, it’s hard to make healthy choices.
  • Re-think your plate. Fill half your plate with vegetables, more than a quarter with grain products and less than a quarter with meat or alternatives.
  • Cut back on portion size. (Portions in North America have grown steadily bigger over the last few decades.) If your portions are a reasonable size, it will be easier for you to eat what you want but still stay healthy.
  • Use smaller dishes. Believe it or not, using a smaller plate gives your brain the impression that you’re eating your “normal” amount of food.
  • Serve everything you eat in a dish – especially snacks. You’ll be much less likely to overeat if you’re not eating out of the box or bag.
  • Make changes gradually. For example, if you try to switch from homogenized milk to skim, you may give up because you don’t like the taste. Try switching first to 2%, then 1%, then skim, and you may be more successful.
  • Try to plan your meals for the whole week. Last-minute choices are often unhealthy ones.
  • Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You’ll make better choices if you’re not hungry.
  • Read nutrition labels. Low-fat and fat-free doesn’t always mean low in calories.
  • Don’t eat while watching TV.
  • Choose wisely when you eat in restaurants – skip the fries and sugary drinks, and ask for dressings on the side.
  • Slow down and enjoy every bite. It actually takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full.

Processed foods

When you’re rushed, you can end up choosing processed foods to put into the microwave or eat on the run. Try to limit how often you eat them – they often contain hidden fat, calories, sugar and salt.


If ready-to-eat meals, frozen foods or pre-packaged foods are the only option, check the nutrition label. Choose items that are low in saturated fats, salt and sugar. Try to avoid any product with ingredients you don’t recognize. These foods often contain fillers and other things that have no nutritional value.


When you’re rushed for time

  • Buy pre-cut vegetables to add to your plate rather than forgetting them altogether. They make stir-fries and curries easier to put together too.
  • Pick up a BBQ chicken and bagged salad at your local grocery store. Add a whole-grain roll or multi-grain tortilla with salsa on the side.
  • Keep a couple of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. Add one to pre-mixed salad for a quick lunch.
  • Pre-cut meats (such as chicken already cut into strips for stir-frying) can speed up putting meals together.
  • Try breakfast for dinner. Buy pre-cut fruit and add to a whole-grain cereal with 1% milk for a quick pick-me-up until the next morning.

When you’ve got the time

  • Make double batches of recipes to easily reheat.
  • Cook a roast and add vegetables to leftover meat for a stir-fry the next day.
  • Grill a couple of extra chicken breasts and cut up into bite-sized chunks for wraps, tortillas, burritos or a salad.
  • Throw in an extra handful of pasta or rice at dinner and use it for the next day’s lunch.
  • Cut up a large bowl of fresh fruit. Add some lemon juice to keep it fresh. Add to yogurt or cereal, and you’ve got breakfast for the whole week.
  • Cut up fresh vegetables and toss them into a crisper bag. They’re great for snacking on any time or adding to leftovers to make a quick meal.
  • Cook a whole chicken with potatoes, celery, carrots and seasonings in a crockpot. You’ll have ready-to-use stock and vegetables to make into soup – just add some rice or pasta.
  • Get friends to gather in a community kitchen to prepare a few meals together. 

Eating well at meetings

Everyone can eat well at meetings with a little pre-meeting planning. Meals that are high in calories and fat can make people sluggish and sleepy. If you’re planning a meeting, help keep it focused by ordering foods that are tasty but lower in calories, not too filling and low in sugar. And plan to have plenty of water for people to drink throughout the day.


Start the day with a healthy breakfast

Before the day begins, offer choices for a healthy breakfast. This will give people energy for the day and help them stay alert throughout the morning. Choose:

  • low-fat yogurts
  • fresh fruit
  • whole grain cereals with skim or 1% milk
  • whole grain toast or mini bagels with a variety of fruit spreads
  • milk instead of cream for coffee

At lunch and dinner

Keep lunches lower in fat. You don’t want people falling asleep during presentations in the afternoon. Offer a variety of foods such as:

  • vegetable-based soups or broths instead of cream-based soups
  • salads with vinaigrette dressing on the side
  • whole grain breads and rolls
  • open-faced sandwiches or wraps
  • lean meats and vegetables in sandwiches
  • grilled vegetables
  • rice bowl with vegetables and lean meat
  • meat or chicken that is grilled, baked or poached
  • whole wheat couscous with vegetables
  • whole grain pasta with choice of sauce
  • sorbet with fresh fruit

Boost energy levels with healthy snacks

Boost energy levels at break times throughout the day. Get participants up on their feet and moving to keep energy levels high. For snack breaks, offer:

  • vegetable sticks and whole wheat pita with hummus, tzatziki, black bean dip
  • fresh fruit and low-fat granola
  • individual bags of plain popcorn
  • unsalted trail mix
  • low-fat oatmeal raisin cookies
  • whole grain snack bars

If you’re attending a conference

  • Avoid doughnuts, monster muffins and large cookies. Choose fresh fruit or a lower-fat yogurt instead.
  • Pass on ready-made salads with lots of dressing or regular mayonnaise. Choose leafy greens with a lower-fat dressing or vinaigrette on the side.
  • Stay away from soft drinks. Choose water, low-fat milk or 100% fruit juice instead.
  • Use low-fat milk in your tea or coffee instead of cream.
  • Don’t eat just for the sake of eating or to fill the time at breaks. If you’re not hungry, get active rather than having a snack.

Suggested links

Health Canada

Canada’s Food Guide

Provides food guidelines for healthy eating for children, teens, men and women. It recommends how much food you need every day and what foods are best for you, and it explains the benefits of eating well.


Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide - First Nations, Inuit and Métis

Offers a new tailored food guide adapted to reflect traditions and food choices of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.


Government of the Northwest Territories – Health and Social Services

Publications – NWT Food Guide

Download the guide in PDF format.


Dietitians of Canada

Provides facts on healthy eating, tips on meal planning and new recipes to try. Also includes tools that will help you track your eating habits and a link for finding a dietitian.


Half Your Plate

Empowers Canadians of all ages to improve their health by eating more veggies and fruit. It provides simple and practical ways to add them to every meal and snack.


Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education

Fight Bac!

Focuses on handling food safely at home. Includes 4 steps to fight foodborne disease (diseases that are carried or transmitted to humans by food containing harmful substances) and bacteria.


American Institute for Cancer Research

Provides information on the link between diet and cancer. Highlights include a recipe corner, nutrition guidelines for cancer survivors and a nutrition hotline.


National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Promotion

Nutrition and Physical Activity

Highlights the importance of nutrition and physical activity to maintain good health.

Our partners in promoting healthy eating

The Canadian Cancer Society works with several other organizations in promoting the benefits of healthy eating. Our partners and their websites – which offer information about healthy eating – are listed below.


Eat Smart!
Eat Smart! is an Award program that recognizes top Ontario schools, workplaces and recreation centres that meet exceptional standards in nutrition, safe food handling, and a smoke-free environment. The program is a partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division), the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario, and the Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion. Eat Smart! is offered across Ontario through local public health units.


Nutrition Resource Centre
The Nutrition Resource Centre is part of the Health Promotion System funded by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care that strengthens the capacity of health promotion professionals and community partners involved in healthy eating and nutrition promotion across the health continuum. Through networking and collaboration, the NRC is building a centre of excellence in evidence-based, healthy eating and nutrition resources, foster knowledge exchange and translation, and provide program and policy development support.