Dietary Guidelines

December 4, 2023 | 4 min read

The popular saying, “You are what you eat,” holds true, emphasizing the impact of our dietary choices on our overall health. Not only do the foods and beverages we consume fuel our bodies, but they also provide essential nutrients necessary for proper functioning. Long-term dietary and lifestyle habits can significantly influence our health and body weight, for example eating certain foods and not exercising increase your chances of developing heart disease.

It’s important to take steps to educate yourself to know what to eat and what to avoid.  Learning how to read food labels, managing portion sizes, consulting with a dietitian or nutritionist, and referring to government dietary guidelines, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Indians, can offer valuable insights into making healthier choices.

Key Recommendations:

  1. Adopt a Healthy Eating Pattern:
    1. Emphasize a mostly plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and optionally seafood, lean meats, poultry, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. All dietary components work together to promote health.
    2. Maintain a balanced intake of nutrient-rich foods, incorporating a mix of food groups for overall health.
    3. Examples of healthy eating patterns include the Mediterranean and vegetarian diets.

Key takeaway: Every food choice affects your health. Choose a healthy eating pattern within your calorie limit for weight management and overall well-being.

  1. Customize Healthy Eating to Personal Preferences:
    1. Adopt a healthy eating pattern to align with personal, cultural, and traditional preferences.
    2. Consider environmental factors, such as access to fresh food markets or limitations in school or work cafeteria offerings.

Key takeaway: When you talk with your health care professional or nutritionist about how to follow a healthier diet overall, make sure to share information about your preferences and access to healthy foods.

  1. Limit Saturated Fat Intake:
    1. Swap saturated fats for healthier alternatives like olive and vegetable-based oils instead of butter.
    2. Prepared foods, especially those with cheese are common sources of saturated fat.

Key takeaway: Saturated fats should make up no more than 10% of calories each day.

  1. Keep Sodium Intake Low:
    1. Too much sodium (mostly consumed as salt) has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke, fluid retention and other problems.
    2. Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day (less than a teaspoon of salt).
    3. If you are over 51, or have high blood pressure or other health problems, further reduce sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.
  1. Restrict Added Sugar Consumption:
    1. Try to limit sugary beverages. Water is the best way to go.
    2. Recognize sources of added sugars in processed foods, sweets, and beverages.

Key takeaway: Limit added sugars to fewer than 10% of daily calories. This means if your goal is to consume 2000 calories a day, less than 200 should be from sugars.

– 1 gram of sugar = 4 calories
– 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
– 1 soda/day = averages 40 grams of sugar = 10 teaspoons of sugar = 160 calories

What Constitutes a Healthy Eating Pattern?

The guidelines suggest following a healthy eating pattern over time to help support a healthy body weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease. But what does that mean exactly?

A healthy eating pattern should include:

  • A variety of vegetables of all colours, including dark green, red, and orange varieties, and legumes (beans and peas).
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits.
  • Grains, with at least half being whole grains.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • A variety of protein foods, such as seafood, lean meats, poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
  • Oils.

It should limit:

  • Saturated fats and trans fats.
  • Added sugars.
  • Sodium (salt).

Adopting a healthy eating pattern alongside regular physical activity is emphasized as a means to support good health, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases throughout all stages of life.