Author Archives: Jodi Gillis

Part 2: Why you need a menu management system

Canada’s Food Guide

A regulation made under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007, requires that long-term-care homes provide a variety of foods each day from Health Canada released a new version of the Food Guide, 12 years after the last update. Unlike the previous Food Guide, the current Food Guide no longer classifies food into different groups or provides serving counts for recommended intake. Instead, it provides guidelines and advice intended to help Canadians make healthy food choices and adopt healthy eating habits. Another significant change is that Health Canada recommends that fruit and vegetables make up half of the plate, with whole grains and protein foods each making up the remaining quarters.  See below:

Guideline 1

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.
  • 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.

Guideline 2

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.

  • For example, sugary drinks and confectioneries should not be consumed regularly.

Guideline 3

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.

A regulation that was made under the Long-Term Care Homes Act in 2007, requires that long-term-care-home operators have to provide adequate nutrients, fibre and energy for residents based on the current Dietary Reference Intakes values established by a scientific body commissioned by both the Canadian and the US governments. These values specify the intake level required of healthy populations in specific sex and age groups. A standard from the Dietary Reference Intake is that people over the age of 70 years have a recommended dietary allowance of 1,200 mg of calcium per day as an example.

Health Canada recommends using these values for assessing and planning diets, and expects professionals such as registered dietitians in healthcare settings to tailor these values to accommodate health requirements of different individuals needs.

Part 1: Why you need a menu management system

The Office of Ontario’s Auditor General released an audit about food and nutrition in long term care homes.  There are more than 77,000 adults that live in Ontario’s 626 long-term-care homes. The Ministry of Long-Term Care funds the homes to provide residents with the 24-hour nursing care and help with daily living activities that they need in a protective, safe and supportive environment.

At the time of the audit, the average age of a resident in Ontario’s long-term-care homes was 83. Compared with a 2009 report, the current population of residents are more cognitively impaired and require more assistance with daily living than in the past. The percentage of residents with a form of dementia has increased from 56% in 2009 to 64% in 2019.

People with dementia require more help with the basic daily activities, including eating and drinking. It was stated that in 2016, there were 228,000 people living with dementia and this number is expected to grow to over 430,000 by 2038. Providing food and nutrition services to residents will be more challenging for long-term-care homes with the anticipated increase in the number of people with dementia.

A daily activity in long-term-care homes is eating, with the dining experience being one of the most social times of day.  Families of the residents count on long-term-care homes to care for their vulnerable loved ones.  On the other hand, the residents themselves depend on nutritious delicious food to maintain their well-being in a pleasurable environment. The audit showed that residents rarely had family or friends join them during mealtimes and relied on personal support workers (PSW’s) to help provide their appropriate food and nutrition choices.

The Ministry will go in to inspect long-term-care homes on different aspects related to food, such as dining room observation for pleasurable dining environments, menu planning, and evaluating nutritional and hydration risks to residents. Also, Ontario’s 35 public health units, which are co-funded by the Ministry of Health and municipalities, inspect the homes for food-safety concerns such as food temperature controls such as HACCP, kitchen sanitation, pest control and food-preparation practices.

The consequences of improper food and nutrition care are quite significant. Between January 2018 and May 2019, long-term-care homes had reported over 660 incidents involving food and nutrition issues. These included residents choking, missed meals, staff feeding residents food with the wrong texture, and gastroenteritis outbreaks. These outbreaks could be caused by contaminated food or drink, or spread through contact with the infected persons or contaminated items for reasons like poor handwashing practices as an example. This works out to about 1.3 incidents a day and includes 27 cases of unexpected deaths for reasons such as choking or aspiration and about 100 cases of abuse, neglect or improper treatment of a resident by home staff related to food that resulted in harm or risk of harm to the resident. Choking will occur when a foreign object becomes obstructed in a person’s airway and aspiration will occur when a person has accidentally inhaled an object or fluid into their windpipe or lungs.

The audit found that some of the long-term-care homes were not consistently providing residents with sufficient high-quality food and nutrition care. Further, the Ministry could do more through its inspection program to help confirm that long-term care homes are providing a safe and comfortable eating environment and good quality food to help residents enjoy a more home-like pleasurable dining experience at the long-term-care homes. In some cases, residents were subject to unnecessary risks that made them ill, simply just by eating and drinking.

Some of the more significant audit findings included:

  • Mealtime service is affected when personal support workers tend to other responsibilities or do not report to work.
  • Residents in older long-term-care homes can be less likely to enjoy meals in a homelike environment.
  • Long-term-care staff do not consistently follow the residents’ plan of care, increasing the risk that residents may be eating the wrong food. A menu management system would minimize this.
  • Long-term-care homes’ registered dietitians do not spend sufficient time proactively monitoring residents.
  • Menus do not have recommended nutrients for residents compared to the recommendations in the Dietary Reference Intakes. A menu management system would minimize this.
  • Long-term-care homes are offering residents food and drinks high in sugar; high sugar intake can contribute to heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and poor dental health. A menu management system would minimize this by calculating nutritionals. 
  • In three of the five long-term-care homes where we conducted detailed work, some food used to make meals was past its best before date.
  • Only 19% of residents observed to have washed their hands to proactively prevent and control infections.
  • Group purchasing has not been fully explored to help long-term-care homes realize higher savings to allocate to potentially higher-quality food.
  • The Ministry does not require long-term care homes to report on performance indicators related to food and nutrition.

So, what did all conclude?  Well the audit concluded that the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the long-term-care homes do not have sufficient procedures in place to confirm that residents are receiving sufficient mealtime assistance and that they receive food and nutrition services in accordance with their individual plans of care.

Menus that long-term-care home registered dietitians approved did not always meet nutritional requirements in accordance with Canada’s Food Guide and the Dietary Reference Intakes.  A menu management system would minimize this by calculating nutritionals.

Some residents who require help to eat and drink are having to wait longer when personal support workers tend to other responsibilities. Staffing is not consistently allocated optimally to provide residents with the resident-centred care that meets their dietary and nutritional needs at meal time including feeding assistance requirements.

What was the response from the Ontario Long Term Care Association

“We agree with the Office of the Auditor General that more supports are needed to improve the food and nutrition care of those living in long term-care homes. The issues outlined in the report are a symptom of a systemic shortfall of funding and other supports that have contributed to a severe staffing shortage.  As the report recognizes, people who live in long-term care have increasingly complex needs. In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in acuity and the number of people who need support with daily activities such as eating and drinking. Yet funding and other supports have not kept pace. Improving the dining experience for residents is also dependent on a massive infrastructure program to rebuild and modernize Ontario’s long-term care homes.

Another important consideration for the findings in this report is resident choice. Long term-care homes are rapidly adopting the people-centred approach to care that honours personal preferences and habits, rather than an institutional model. Many people in long-term care prefer to eat a diet they find familiar, even if it is “less nutritious.” Many are also near the end of life when the desire to eat and drink naturally diminishes. The rights of seniors living in long-term-care homes, including those with dementia, to decide what they wish to eat or drink must be respected. The Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 and its dietary requirements are based on the old institutional model of care.

We recommend government work with the sector to move forward on the development of a health human resources strategy to address the staffing crisis and nutrition issues in long-term care homes”.

What was the response from the Ministry? 

“The fundamental principle of the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007(Act) is to provide a place for residents to live with dignity and in security, safety and comfort. Dietary services, nutritional care and hydration programs are central to maintaining the well-being of over 78,000 long term-care home residents in Ontario.

The government understands that nutritious food is critical to overall care and as such, the Ministry of Long-Term Care appreciates the comprehensive audit conducted by the Auditor General on Food and Nutrition in Long Term-Care Homes.

The Act and Ontario Regulation 79/10 require that every licensee of a long-term-care home ensures that there are organized programs of nutrition care and dietary services to meet the daily nutrition needs of the residents. Each day, there are over 234,000 meals served in long-term-care homes, which is over 85 million meals per year. Reported food related incidents represent less than 1% of these daily interactions.

The Auditor General made a recommendation to the Ministry in the 2015 audit of Long-Term-Care Home Quality Inspection Program to put the safety of residents first by focusing on high-risk areas. As a result, in fall of 2018, the Ministry shifted to a risk-based compliance program to prioritize inspections and resources for situations that put the residents at highest risk.

The Ministry has made a combination of investment and policy changes over the past few years to ensure that residents’ nutritional requirements are met. Since 2011/12, the Raw Food per diem has increased by more than 28%.

In 2019/20, the Ministry provided a global per diem increase of 1% to the Level of Care funding. We are investing $72 million more into long-term care this year. This is in addition to $1.75 billion invested to create 15,000 new long-term care beds and redevelop 15,000 older long-term care beds over five years.

We actively engage with partners to support innovation in the delivery of long-term-care services and infrastructure, including ensuring that proposed long-term-care home development and infrastructure projects serve the needs of their communities”.

The audit also observed that nutrition care and dietary services in long-term-care homes are among the key programs that enhance residents’ quality of life. Each day, homes provide residents with three meals, as well as two snacks and three drinks between meals.

Many residents consider dining times to be one of the most social times of the day.  A long-term-care-home resident can also use food and nutrition to restore health or prevent its deterioration. As an example, an increase in calcium and vitamin D intake can reduce serious risks of bone fractures from falls. For some residents, appropriate quantity and quality of food intake can help control diseases related to the heart, blood pressure, strokes, dementia and blood-sugar levels. In the opposite, inadequate or improper nutrition and dietary intake increases the risk of health consequences such as malnutrition, dehydration, delayed healing of wounds, and foodborne illnesses.


Access to all types of technology, control of it in all aspects, and the ability to create and shape it your own way, is a fundamental issue of women’s human rights. Global Fund for Women’s Technology Initiative aims to help end the gender technology gap that is conflicting our country to empower women and girls in creating innovative solutions to develop equality in their communities. As an example, with a cell phone, an expecting mother in a rural area can stay connected to her midwife. For some women and girls, Internet access and a cell phone can mean access to new experiences as a young adult, or a tool to help someone learn how to read and write.

Priority Issues

Worldwide, 200 million more men than women have access to the Internet, and 21% of woman are less likely to own a cell phone which can be a key resource in the global south where phones could provide access to safety, organizing networks, early severe weather warning systems, mobile health care and access to doctors, and banking activities. Global Fund for Women’s Technology Initiative is helping to close this gap and give women and girls the tools and access they want and need to these resources.

Global Fund for Women’s Technology Initiative is supporting efforts that is focusing on the production of new technologies or adapting technologies to adhere to women’s and girls’ contexts. They support women’s groups who use technology to address certain issues which can include violence against women, access to safe spaces, political movement, education, and health care. As an example, a current partner created a mapping tool to crowd-source reporting of sexual harassment in Egypt, and to use the same technologies to document and monitor it.

As part of this effort, Johnson & Johnson will help us support women-led organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia using technology to enhance health service delivery and outcomes.  Way to go Johnson & Johnson!

Girls’ STEM and IT Education and Digital Literacy

Part of closing the gender technology gap will mean helping girls access training and educational opportunities in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and IT (information technology). STEM programs have been introduced this year in elementary schools across Canada which allows technology to be accessible to all starting at a very young age!

A partner of Global Fund for Women the Feminist Approach to Technology in India is creating a pioneering movement of tech savvy young women and girls by training and empowering young women between the ages of 12-18. They offer confidence in skill-building courses along with computer classes and trainings. In Sub-Saharan Africa, “we have supported for Women Educationalists in Malawi and Mozambique to develop a science, math, and technology model that includes both in-school and extra-curricular activities to increase girls’ interest and participation in STEM”.

Making the Internet Safe

The UN estimates that 95% of harassment, abusive language, and derogatory imagery in online spaces is aimed toward women. Global Fund for Women’s Technology Initiative is investing in projects and advocacy for safe online spaces for all, and in raising awareness hoping to end cyber bullying and online violence against women.

There is a project run by Si Jeunesse Savait that uses information technology to denounce the high rates of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Si Jeunesse Savait trains women’s groups and survivors of violence on online security, online advocacy, how to write blogs, and accessing online services.

Building Capacity and Driving Women’s Movements

Digital technology is an important tool for movement building, allowing organizations and networks to exchange information quickly, and to organize programs across geographical locations. It also creates a diverse group of voices to be heard and shared which is an important feature of strong social movements.

What the Technology Initiative Will Achieve

  • Improving access to and the control of technology for women and girls, especially in remote and areas
  • Creative technology-based solutions to gender issues like violence, health, and economic and political movement
  • Increased safe online spaces for women and girls, and women’s rights organizations
  • Encourage more women and girls into leadership roles in designing and shaping technology, especially in the advancement of women’s rights
  • Stronger, more inclusive national and global women’s movements, collaborating regularly to share resources and ideas, and develop common advocacy strategies

Canada’s New Food Guide – Whole Grains 25%

We all know that whole grains are good for us.  Well it is now part of the plate visual for the new Food Guide to include 25% of your plate to be whole grains. 

Whole grain foods have important nutrients such as:

  • fibre
  • vitamins
  • minerals

Whole grain foods are a healthier choice than refined grains because whole grain foods include all parts of the grain. Refined grains have some parts of the grain removed during processing that strips most of the nutrition away.

Whole grain foods have more fibre than refined grains.

Eating foods higher in fibre can help lower your risk of:

  • stroke
  • colon cancer
  • heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes

Choosing and preparing healthy whole grain foods

Enjoy a variety of whole grain foods such as:

  • quinoa
  • whole grain pasta
  • whole grain bread
  • whole oats or oatmeal
  • whole grain brown or wild rice

Some grain foods can have a lot of added sodium, sugars or saturated fat.

These include foods like:

  • breads
  • muffins
  • crackers
  • pasta dishes

Make sure your choices are actually whole grain

Whole wheat and multi-grain foods may not be whole grain. Some foods may look like they are whole grain because of their colour, but they may not be.

It is always important to read the ingredient list and choose foods that have the word “whole grain” followed by the name of the grain as one of the first ingredients like:

  • whole grain oats
  • whole grain wheat

Whole wheat foods are not whole grain, but can still be a healthy choice as they contain fibre. Read the fibre content on labels and chose higher fibre options. 

Use the nutrition facts table to compare the amount of fibre between products. Look at the % daily value to choose those with more fibre.

Preparing whole grain foods

Whole grain foods are tasty and nutritious without having to add highly processed sauces and spreads.

Try healthier ways to prepare your whole grain foods by:

  • leaving out or reducing the amount of salt added during preparation
  • limiting the amount of sauce or spreads you add
  • adding vegetables, vegetable oils, spices and herbs to enhance flavours

Snack ideas

Whole grain foods make quick and healthy snacks.

So many ways to enjoy them:

  • whole grain cereals
  • whole grain crackers
  • whole grain baked pita “chips”

How to include whole grain foods

There are some easy ways to get more whole grain foods on to your plate.

Try a new whole grain:

  • farro
  • freekah
  • amaranth
  • buckwheat

Some other ideas: 

  • Mix different whole grain cereals in your bowl and enjoy with lower fat white milk or unsweetened plant-based beverages.
  • Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal, whole grain cereal or whole grain toast.

Keep a variety of whole grain foods in your pantry.


  • oats
  • quinoa
  • brown rice
  • whole grain pasta
  • whole grain bread

You can also increase the amount of whole grain foods in your recipes by adding:

  • barley, bulgur and quinoa to soups, salads and stir-fries
  • brown or wild rice to white rice for more fibre and a nutty flavour

Whole grains are good for your digestive health and your heart.  It is easy to incorporate more whole grains into your diet.

Canada’s New Food Guide – Vegetables and Fruits 50%

We all remember our mothers saying eat your vegetables.  Well now Health Canada is telling us to make 50% of our plate fruits and vegetables. 

Vegetables and fruits are an important part of healthy eating. Enjoying a variety of vegetables and fruits may lower your risk of heart disease.

Vegetables and fruits have important nutrients such as:

  • fibre
  • vitamins
  • minerals

Choose different textures, colours and shapes to fit what you like. From A to Z, choose plenty of vegetables and fruits.

Such as: 

  • pears
  • apples
  • berries
  • broccoli
  • peaches
  • cabbage
  • leafy greens

Fruit juice and fruit juice concentrates are high in sugars. Replace juice with water. Choose whole or cut vegetables and fruits instead of juice.

Choosing and preparing healthy vegetables and fruits

Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruits can all be healthy options.

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits:

  • take little time to prepare
  • are a healthy and convenient option
  • are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables and fruits

Frozen vegetables and fruits

Choose frozen vegetables and fruits without:

  • added sugars
  • added seasonings
  • breading or rich sauces

You can add frozen vegetables and fruits to soups, chilis, stir frys or smoothies.

Canned vegetables and fruits

  • Choose canned vegetables with little to no added sodium.
  • Drain and rinse canned vegetables to lower the sodium content.
  • Choose canned fruit with little to no added sugars.
  • Use the food labels to help you compare canned vegetables and fruits.
  • The % daily value helps you see if a food has a little or a lot of a nutrient.


Dried fruit

Dried fruit can be a part of healthy eating but they also contain concentrated fruit sugars so read your labels carefully. 

Preparing vegetables

Try healthier cooking methods like:

  • baking
  • roasting
  • steaming
  • stir-frying

Enhance the flavour by adding:

  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • flavoured vinegar
  • fresh or dried herbs or spices

Snack ideas

Vegetables and fruits make quick and healthy snacks. There are lots to choose from and many healthy ways to prepare them.

Vegetable snacking tips

Keeping cut up vegetables in the fridge is a quick way to have a healthy snack on hand.


  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • carrot sticks
  • celery sticks
  • cucumber slices

Fruit snacking tips

Keep a bowl of fresh fruit out to grab as an easy snack.

Add fruit to whole grain cereals and lower fat yogurst.


  • bananas
  • mangoes
  • frozen berries
  • canned peaches packed in water

Freeze seedless grapes on a tray and enjoy them as a snack.  Perfect on a hot summer day or to throw into your water. 

How to eat more vegetables

There are some really easy ways to eat more vegetables:

  • Add canned pumpkin or squash purée to any soup to make it extra rich and creamy.
  • Wash, chop and refrigerate or freeze extra vegetables when preparing meals so you have extra for meals the next day.

Keeping pre-bagged vegetables on hand can be quickly tossed in a salad, stir-fry, casserole or roasted in the oven.


  • baby carrots
  • green beans
  • leafy greens

Serve raw vegetables with your meals.


  • cucumber
  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • red, yellow or green peppers

Try new recipes that call for different types of leafy greens

Such as:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • bok choy
  • Swiss chard
  • mixed salad greens

How to eat more fruits

Fruits are a delicious and healthy addition to your day.

For dessert, choose:

  • oranges
  • fruit salad, with little to no added sugars

Add fresh fruits to salads.

Try adding sliced:

  • pears
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • grapes

Add frozen fruits to baking.

Prepare by washing and cutting extra fruit so you can have some on hand in the fridge for meals and snacks.

Canada’s New Food Guide Tips – Meal Planning

Health Canada has also come out with some tips on how the make the new Food Guide a bit easier to implement into your life. 

Making healthy meals is easier than you think. It’s all about being prepared.

There are 4 easy steps to meal planning

  1. Decide what to eat

Write down your meal and snack ideas

Get recipe ideas from:

  • web sites i.e. Pinterest
  • cookbooks
  • magazines
  • friends and family – there are some great family recipes out there. Have a recipe swap party
  • Scan grocery flyers for healthy foods on sale
  • Check your fridge, freezer and cupboards for foods you have
  • Look to see what foods need to be used up before they go to waste – your freezer is your best friend


  1. Make your grocery list

Write down the foods you need for your meal plan:

  • Keep a grocery list handy and write down items as you run out of them – magnet notepads stuck to your fridge
  • Organize your grocery list by headings that match the sections of the store


  1. Go Shopping
  • Buy the foods only on your grocery list to
    • reduce food waste
    • save money and time
    • cut down on impulse buys
  • Use your list to navigate the aisles


  1. Start Cooking

Stick to your plan:

  • Post your meal plan where everyone can see it – no more what’s for dinner questions
  • Give everyone a job to help with the meal plan


Canada’s New Food Guide Tips – Healthy Snacking

What do you grab as a snack?  Probably something quick and less healthy than it should be.  Here are some tips to snack better. 

Why healthy snacks are good for you

You can enjoy snacks as part of your day if you make it a healthy choice. 

Snacks can:

  • keep you energized
  • help support good health
  • provide important nutrients
  • be an important part of daily eating habits
  • help satisfy your hunger between mealtimes

Young children can benefit from snacks as they:

  • have small stomachs
  • may have trouble eating all of the foods they need at meal time

3 ways to practice healthy snacking

Keep these in mind to practice healthy snacking.

  • Choose healthy snack foods
  • Follow the healthy eating recommendation to make it a habit to choose a variety of healthy foods for your snacks.
  • Follow the healthy eating recommendation to limit highly processed snacks.
  • Eat your snacks mindfully
  • Eat your snacks slowly and without distractions, such as watching TV.
  • Choose small portions. Serve a small amount for your snack and try not to eat directly from large containers.

Eat snacks when you feel hungry, and not just out of routine or when you feel:

  • tired
  • bored
  • emotional

Too much snacking can lead you to eat more than you need.

Plan your snacks ahead of time.

Think about healthy snacks when planning your meals and when you need them the most in the day.  Is this a change you can make?  Add them to your grocery list. Follow the healthy eating recommendation to help make it easier to plan ahead.

Ideas for healthy snacks

Here are some easy ways to eat healthy snacks when you are at:

  • work
  • home
  • school
  • on-the-go

Prepared in advance

Try preparing snacks in advance to save you time:

  • Chop extra vegetables when cooking so you’ll have some for snacks.
  • Make muffins or homemade granola bars and store them the freezer.
  • Hard-cook eggs on the weekend. They will keep for one week in the fridge with the shell on.
  • Make your own trail mix. Take whole grain cereal and nuts and seeds and toss them together.
  • Buy portioned containers to place all your snacks in.

Grab and go

Here are some travel friendly options you can bring anywhere:

  • oranges, bananas, and plums are examples of fruit that come in their own natural packaging that makes them easy to transport
  • keep cut up vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, celery and peppers in the fridge and bring along in a reusable container or a snack size baggie
  • roasted chickpeas or nuts such as almonds, cashews, soy nuts or peanuts can be kept in your bag for when you feel hungry. Portion control is key. 

For work and school

Keep healthy options with you at work.


  • apples
  • oatmeal
  • nut butter
  • canned fruit
  • canned tuna
  • plain popcorn
  • whole grain crackers with low fat cheese
  • nuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Make sure to keep snacks like lower fat yogurt or lower fat cheese in the fridge or in a cooler bag with an ice pack.

At home

Try some of these snack ideas at home:

  • whole grain toast with nut butter and banana
  • lower fat cheese and whole grain crackers with cherry tomatoes
  • lower fat yogurt topped with frozen berries and walnuts
  • green leafy salad with orange sections and almonds
  • Whole grain English muffin topped with apple slices and melted lower fat cheese
  • sliced cucumber and red pepper with hummus or lower fat yogurt dip
  • whole grain crackers topped with lower fat cottage cheese and peach slices
  • whole grain cereal with fruit slices and milk or unsweetened fortified plant-based beverage

So many great snacking ideas.  These should inspire you to grab something healthier for when you are on the go or just feeling a bit hungry between meals.

Canada’s New Food Guide Tips – Healthy Eating on a Budget

We have all heard that’s it too expansive to eat healthy.  Well if you are feeding more people than yourself you will know this is true when a head of cauliflower can run you $6.99 some days.  Well Health Canada as posted some great tips on how to eat the new Food Guide on a budget. 

Stick to your list

Buying only what is on your grocery list will help you cut down on impulse buys.

Shop for sales

Check out flyers, coupons, mobile apps and websites for deals on foods that are on your list.  Most stores have apps now for their weekly flyer deals. 

Look for reduced prices and store brand items.

Products getting close to their best before dates and oddly shaped or slightly bruised produce may be offered at a lower price. These products will be just as healthy as their “perfect” varieties.

Compare prices

Compare the unit prices on the labels to know which product is less expensive overall.

Shop in grocery stores where price-matching is offered.  Use the stores flyers to price match products on sale.

Scan different shelves. Companies pay more to place their products at eye level. You may find other versions of the same foods on higher or lower shelves.  This is where you will find store brands that are way cheaper but just as good. 

Foods sold in single-serve packaging can cost more. Buy the full size or family size version and divide it up yourself.  Go to bulk purchase stores but know your prices. 

Stock up

Stock up on canned goods and staples when they are on sale.

Extend the shelf life of sale products


  • fish
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • whole grain bread
  • lean meats or poultry

Buying foods in bulk can help you save money. Be careful not to buy more than you need, because this can lead to waste.  Your freezer is your best friend. 

Consider the season

Fresh vegetables and fruit are usually less expensive when they are in season.  Shop markets. 

Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits are also healthy options. They can be less expensive than fresh produce when it is out of season.  Watch for sodium content. 

Choose plant-based protein foods more often.  They are cheaper compared to the meat alternative. 

Beans, lentils and other legumes are inexpensive protein foods. Use them in your meals several times a week.

Limit highly processed foods

Limit highly processed foods. These are usually low in vitamins and minerals and can cost more.  Fast foods are not the way to go. 

Prepare foods at home. Although they can save time, prepackaged foods such as grated cheese and pre-seasoned meat cost more.  Buy cheese and meats on sale and freeze. 

Set a budget

Decide how much you will spend on groceries each week or month and stick to it. 

Explore grocery stores

Shop at discount grocery stores, which offer lower prices.

Avoid grocery shopping at convenience stores, which are more expensive and not healthy at all.

Canada’s New Food Guide – Protein 25%

Protein foods are to be 25% of the total new plate visual for healthy eating. This can include plant-based protein foods which are an important part of healthy eating. Include foods such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, lower fat milk and lower fat dairy products.

Protein foods are good for you.

Protein foods have important nutrients such as:

  • protein
  • vitamins
  • minerals

The new Food Guide recommends Choosing protein foods that come from plants more often. Plant-based protein foods can provide more fibre and less saturated fat than other types of protein foods. This can be beneficial for your heart health.

You don’t need to eat large amounts of protein foods to meet your nutritional needs. Try to eat protein foods such as:

  • eggs
  • lean meats and poultry
  • lean cuts of beef, pork and wild game
  • turkey
  • chicken
  • nuts and seeds
  • peanuts
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • nut butters
  • sunflower seeds
  • fish and shellfish
  • trout
  • shrimp
  • salmon
  • scallops
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • lower fat dairy products
  • milk
  • yogurt
  • lower sodium cheeses
  • beans, peas and lentils
  • brown, green or red or other lentils
  • peas such as chickpeas and split peas
  • dried beans such as black beans and kidney beans
  • fortified soy beverages, tofu, soybeans and other soy products


Choosing and preparing healthy protein foods.

There are many protein options to chose from.  Here are some healthy choices: 

Beans, peas and lentils


  • dried beans, peas and lentils to soak and cook at home
  • low sodium canned beans, peas and lentils, or rinse and drain them to reduce the amount of sodium

Nuts and seeds


dry roasted nuts and seeds without added:

  • sugars
  • fat (oils)
  • sodium (salt)

peanut butter or other nut butters that list peanuts or nuts as the only ingredient.

Choose ones with little to no added:

  • sodium
  • sugars
  • saturated fat

Fish and shellfish


  • canned fish with little to no added sodium

fresh or frozen fish and shellfish that has not been:

  • breaded
  • battered
  • deep-fried

Lean meats


  • skinless poultry
  • lean cuts of meat such as round and loin
  • fresh or frozen meat, and poultry without rich sauces
  • meat prepared with little or no added sodium or saturated fat

Milk and dairy products


  • lower fat cheeses
  • unsweetened lower fat yogurt
  • unsweetened lower fat milk

Fortified soy beverages and products


  • low sodium soy products
  • unsweetened fortified soy beverages


Preparing protein foods

Some tips for healthier ways to prepare your food by:

  • draining off extra fat after cooking
  • trimming the visible fat from meats
  • removing skin from poultry before cooking
  • limiting the amount of sauces, butter or gravy

Try cooking methods that use little or no added saturated fat.

These include methods such as:

  • baking
  • grilling
  • roasting
  • poaching

Enhance the flavour by:

  • seasoning with herbs, lemon or salsas
  • using small amounts of oils with healthy fats such as olive and canola

Snack ideas

Protein foods make healthy and delicious snacks.

Try some of these options:

  • nuts and seeds
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • oven roasted chickpeas
  • hummus with fresh veggies
  • peanut butter on celery sticks
  • lower fat yogurt with fresh fruit

How to eat more protein foods that are plant based. 

Here are some easy ways to eat more protein foods that come from plants:

  • Add soft tofu to a blended soup to make it thicker and creamier.
  • Try a bean salad, lentil and rice pilaf or a bowl of vegetarian chili for lunch.
  • Make your own trail mix by combining your favourite whole grain cereal with a handful of nuts and seeds.
  • Spread hummus on the inside of a whole grain pita and fill with vegetables such as romaine lettuce and shredded carrots.

Each week, plan a couple of meatless meals.

As your main course, try using:

  • beans in a burrito
  • tofu in a vegetable stir-fry
  • chickpeas and beans in tacos
  • lentils in a soup, stew or casserole

Adding a variety of protein sources to 25% of your plate and choosing more plant-based proteins are a great way to curb your hunger and maintain optimal health.


Canada’s New Food Guide – Enjoy Your Food

A big part of eating healthy is actually enjoying your food. 

The benefits of enjoying your food include:

  • tasting the flavours
  • being open to trying new foods
  • developing a healthy attitude about food

Making healthy food choices can increase your enjoyment of the food you eat.

Enjoying your food includes:

  • socializing at mealtime
  • enjoying shopping for food
  • preparing and cooking food
  • growing or harvesting your own food
  • getting to know the people that grow or produce your food
  • involving others in meal planning, preparation and clean up

How to enjoy your food

There are many ways to enjoy your food and make healthy choices.

Enjoy your food by making choices that compliment:

  • taste
  • enjoying your food should be about choosing a variety of healthy foods and flavours that you like
  • culture
  • culture and food traditions can be a great way to add to the enjoyment of your food
  • budget
  • there are many ways to enjoy your food while eating on a budget
  • lifestyle

There is no one right way to enjoy your food. You can enjoy your food no matter what your lifestyle.  Just chose healthier options. 

Try new foods

Try a variety of healthier foods to help you find new flavours to enjoy.

Create a positive eating environment

Part of enjoying your food can include enjoying the atmosphere around it. The setting around you can contribute to making meal times more substantial.

Creating a positive eating environment can include:

  • eating with others
  • making your eating area attractive
  • turning on some of your favorite music in the background