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Food-based dietary guidelines - Canada

Official name

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide.

Publication year

The first set of Canadian dietary guidelines was published in 1942 and they have been regularly updated since then. The current version was published in 2007.

Process and stakeholders

The Federal Ministry of Health (Health Canada) is responsible for developing national dietary guidelines in consultation with Canadians from coast to coast, including non-governmental organizations, academics, health professionals, government, industry and consumers.

To develop the 2007 version of the guidelines Health Canada worked closely with three advisory groups: an external Food Guide Advisory Committee, an Interdepartmental Working Group and the Expert Advisory Committee on Dietary Reference Intakes.

Intended audience

The messages of the guidelines are aimed at the general population 2 years of age and older.

Food guide

Canada’s Food Guide is illustrated using an image of a rainbow. The rainbow graphic displays the four food groups with examples of nutritious foods in each of the groups. It includes recommendations for the quantity of food to eat for different age and sex groups and directional statements for each food group to guide the quality of food choices. Other messaging addresses advice for specific life stages, added fats and oils, foods and beverages to limit, water, the importance of variety, physical activity and nutrition labelling.


  • Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.
    • Go for dark green vegetables such as broccoli, romaine lettuce and spinach.
    • Go for orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
  • Enjoy vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.
    • Have vegetables steamed, baked or stir fried instead of deep fried.
    • Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.
  • Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.
    • Eat a variety of whole grains such as barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa and wild rice.
    • Enjoy wholegrain breads, oatmeal or whole-wheat pasta.
  • Choose grain products that are low in fat, sugar or salt.
    • Compare the Nutrition Facts table on labels to make wise choices.
    • Enjoy the true taste of grain products. When adding sauces or spreads, use small amounts.
  • Drink skim, 1% or 2% milk each day.
    • Have 500 ml (2 cups) of milk every day for adequate vitamin D.
    • Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk.
  • Select lower fat milk alternatives.
    • Compare the Nutrition Facts table on yogurts or cheeses to make wise choices.
    • Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often.
  • Eat at least two food guide servings of fish each week. * Health Canada provides advice for limiting exposure to mercury from certain types of fish
    • Choose fish such as char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout.
  • Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.
    • Trim the visible fat from meats. Remove the skin from poultry.
    • Use cooking methods such as roasting, baking or poaching that require little or no added fat.
    • If you eat luncheon meats, sausages or pre-packaged meats, choose those lower in salt (sodium) and fat.
  • Enjoy a variety of foods from the four food groups.
  • Satisfy thirst with water!
  • Drink water regularly. It’s a calorie-free way to quench your thirst. Drink more water in hot weather or when you are very active.
  • Include a small amount (30–45 ml, 2–3 tbsp) of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise.
    • Use vegetable oils such as canola, olive and soybean.
    • Choose soft margarines that are low in saturated and trans fats.
    • Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.