Resources for health professionals and policy makers

Canada’s Dietary Guidelines





the degree to which people can acquire nutritious foods, either through buying them, or by producing or harvesting the foods themselves.


the supply of nutritious foods to a community or region.



refers to the foods that are generally recognized as sweet treats. This includes candy (such as lollipops, candy canes, mints, candy floss, nut brittles, toffee, jellies, gummies, jujubes, licorice, fudge and caramels); candy bars; chocolate; chocolate-coated or chocolate-containing treats; chocolate compound confections; fruit snack products such as fruit leathers and fruit flavoured pieces; and frozen confections.

Convincing findings:

one of the descriptors used to compare grades of evidence from scientific reports on food and health that are included in Health Canada’s Evidence Review for Dietary Guidance.


Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan:

refers to a low sodium diet that includes foods high in nutrients such as potassium and calcium that have been shown to help lower blood pressure. It recommends the intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils; limiting foods that are high in saturated fat (such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils), and limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets. Footnote 1

Dental decay:

a disease that can damage tooth structure. Decay starts by damaging the protective coating, also known as enamel, causing a hole (cavity) to develop. If the cavity is left untreated, it can get bigger, cause pain, and lead to the breakage or loss of a tooth. A cavity is caused when the bacteria living in the plaque react with sugars from food or drink, resulting in an acid. This acid then attacks the surface of a tooth.

Determinants of health:

the key factors that influence health, including income and social status; social support networks; education and literacy; employment and working conditions; the social and physical environments; personal health practices and coping skills; healthy child development; biology and genetic endowment; health services; gender and culture.

Dietary risks:

a term used in the Global Burden of Disease report Footnote 2  that refers to diets that are low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fiber, milk, calcium, seafood omega-3 fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids; and diets that are high in sodium, red meat, processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and trans fatty acids.


Fad diets:

diets that are often commercially driven and promise a quick fix for weight loss or the management of a chronic disease.

Food additives:

substances that are added to food during manufacturing or processing for the purpose of achieving a particular technical effect, such as colouring, thickening, prolonging shelf-life or inhibiting the growth of pathogens. The food additives that are permitted for use in Canada are identified in the Lists of Permitted Food Additives. 

Food environment:

the aspects of the social and physical environment that affect the types of food available, the accessibility of food, and the nutrition information that people are exposed to, including food marketing. All these aspects of the food environment can influence food choices.

Food skills:

the complex, inter-related, and person-centered set of skills. They are needed to provide and prepare safe, nutritious, and culturally acceptable meals for all members of a household. Footnote 3

Free sugars:

defined by the World Health Organization Footnote 4  as all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. Free sugars do not include the naturally occurring sources found in intact fruits and vegetables, and those found in (unsweetened) milk.


Health equity:

the absence of unfair and avoidable differences in health within and between populations. Equity is not the same as equality. To be treated equally is to be treated the same. To be treated equitably, the treatment may differ, but the goal is to achieve outcomes that are more equal.

Highly processed products:

a term used in this report to describe processed or prepared foods and beverages that contribute to excess sodium, free sugars, or saturated fat.


Indigenous Peoples in Canada:

the diverse populations of Canada—First Nations, Inuit, and Métis—with distinct languages, cultural practices, histories, spiritual beliefs, and regions. Important differences are found both within and between First Nations, Inuit, and Métis.


Mediterranean-style diets:

eating patterns that reflect dietary intakes of people living in Mediterranean countries. These diets are described in different ways in the literature. Footnote 5 General features include high intakes of vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, cereals, and olive oil; low to moderate intakes of dairy products, fish and poultry; low consumption of red and processed meats; and, sometimes, moderate intake of alcohol. Footnote 5


Pattern of eating:

the combination of food and beverage choices that make up a person’s habitual dietary intake.

Population health approach:

an approach that aims to maintain and improve the health of the entire population and reduce health inequities among population sub-groups. To do this, the approach looks at, and acts upon the broad range of factors and conditions that have a strong influence on health.

Prepared foods and beverages:

products that are prepared by restaurants and other similar establishments, and those prepared at home. Prepared products can also contain processed ingredients.

Processed foods and beverages:

products that are canned, cooked, frozen, dried or otherwise processed to extend preservation, food safety, and quality in transportation, distribution and storage.

Processed meat:

defined by the World Health Organization Footnote 6 as meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermenting, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.

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.


Social determinants of First Nations health:

referred to by the Assembly of First Nations Footnote 7  as community readiness; economic development; employment; environmental stewardship; gender; historical conditions and colonialism; housing; lands and resources; language, heritage and strong cultural identity; legal and political equity; lifelong learning; on and off reserve; racism and discrimination; self-determination and non-dominance; social services and supports; urban and rural.

Social determinants of Inuit health:

referred to by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Footnote 8 as quality of early childhood development; culture and language; livelihoods; income distribution; housing; personal safety and security; education; food security; availability of health services; mental wellness; the environment.

Sugary drinks:

refers to beverages that can contribute to excess free sugars. These include soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks, 100% fruit juice, flavoured waters with added sugars, sport and energy drinks, and other sweetened hot or cold beverages, such as iced tea, cold coffee beverages, sweetened milks, and sweetened plant-based beverages.


Traditional food (also known as country food):

foods that are locally available from natural resources that have cultural significance for Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Traditional food is the preferred term for First Nations and Métis peoples, and country food is the preferred term for Inuit. The use of the term “traditional food” in this report is intended to be inclusive of all Indigenous cultures in Canada.



a category of foods in the NOVA food classification system Footnote 9  that refers to products as industrial ingredients, obtained from the extraction, refinement, and transformation of constituents of raw foods, with usually little or no whole food.


Whole grains:

refers to grains that contain all three parts of the kernel (the bran, the endosperm, and the germ). Products made with whole grains have the words “whole grain” followed by the name of the grain as one of the first ingredients. In Canada, 100% whole wheat flour is not considered a whole grain. This is because much of the germ is removed when wheat is milled. Though 100% whole wheat foods may not be considered whole grains, they are nutritious choices that provide dietary fibre. Footnote 5

Download the full report