Backgrounder Article from  Health Canada

Healthy Eating Strategy

It can be challenging for many Canadians to make healthy food choices. Foods and beverages that are high in calories, fat, sugars and sodium are widely available and advertised. Nutritious foods in isolated northern communities are expensive and often unavailable.

These unhealthy choices take their toll. Poor diet is the primary risk factor for obesity and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, which are common in Canada. This places a significant burden on our health care system and our economy.

In response, Health Canada will use every tool at its disposal--legislation, regulations, updated dietary guidance and education--to make it easier for Canadians to eat well. The department will continue to engage with stakeholders and experts to further refine the strategy as it moves forward. 

The Way Forward

  1. Revising Canada's Food Guide

    Health Canada is revising Canada's Food Guide and developing a variety of products to better meet the needs of Canadians, health professionals, and policy makers.  

    A report summarizing the results of Health Canada's evidence review for dietary guidance is available online. New guidance will reflect the latest scientific evidence on diet and health.

    More information is available in the backgrounder on the Revision of Canada's Food Guide.

    Health Canada is consulting with Canadians via online consultations in 2016, and the testing of a new policy and consumer tools in 2017-18. Input received will be used to develop the new dietary guidance.

  2. Strengthening nutrition and ingredient labelling, including sugars and food colours

    Health Canada is updating nutrition labels on prepackaged foods to help Canadians better understand and use this information to make healthier choices. These changes include regulating serving sizes to make it easier to compare similar products; providing more information on sugars in the Nutrition Facts table and the list of ingredients; requiring that all food colours be identified by their common name; making the list of ingredients and allergen information easier to read; and allowing a new health claim that associates a diet rich in fruits and vegetables with a lower risk of heart disease.

    Health Canada will finalize the proposed changes to the nutrition labelling regulations by the end of 2016.

    In addition, Health Canada will engage the public and stakeholders over the coming weeks to seek feedback on a proposed front-of-package labelling approach aimed at helping Canadians make healthier and more informed choices, particularly on sugars, sodium and saturated fat. Front-of-package labelling will provide simplified nutritional information about these three nutrients on the front of packaged foods. It will complement the Nutrition Facts table and give consumers a quick reference to help them make healthier and more informed choices.

  3. Reducing sodium in foods

    In 2012, Health Canada published sodium reduction targets for 94 food categories and asked industry to meet those targets by December 31, 2016.

    On October 12 and 13, 2016, Health Canada held a Symposium on the Reduction of Sodium in Canadian Foods with industry and other stakeholders to discuss progress on meeting the 2016 targets, and potential next steps.

    In 2017, Health Canada will publish a full evaluation of the food industry's voluntary efforts to meet the targets. In the meantime, Health Canada will prepare a report on the interim monitoring results and outcomes of the October Symposium to be published online by the end of this year.

    Health Canada will use this evaluation, as well as data from the 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey, to estimate how much sodium Canadians consume.   

    Starting in the spring of 2017, Health Canada will engage with stakeholders to establish new targets for sodium in processed and restaurant foods.

  4. Eliminating industrially produced trans fat  

    Significant progress has been made in reducing trans fat in the Canadian food supply through mandatory nutrition labelling and voluntary trans fat limits. However, some foods remain high in industrially produced trans fat, and some Canadians are still consuming more than the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

    In May 2016, Health Canada requested information from the food manufacturing, restaurant and food services sectors about the remaining uses of partially hydrogenated oils in Canada, the primary source of industrially produced trans fat. Based on the information received, Health Canada will engage the public and stakeholders over the coming weeks to seek feedback and input on a proposed approach to eliminating industrially produced trans fat in foods available in Canada.

  5. Restricting marketing to children

    Health Canada is committed to introducing new restrictions on the commercial marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children. To support this commitment, Health Canada will consult the public and stakeholders on the proposed approach before new restrictions are implemented.

    Health Canada is also reviewing the Private Member's Bill S-228, tabled by Senator Nancy Greene Raine in September, to determine how it lines up with the Government's approach to this issue.

    Health Canada is hosting expert round tables in the fall of 2016 about restricting marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children.

  6. Nutrition North Canada

    Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is a subsidy program to provide Northerners in isolated communities with improved access to nutritious perishable food. As part of NNC, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide funding to deliver culturally appropriate nutrition education initiatives to eligible communities. These nutrition education activities support increased knowledge of healthy eating, developing skills in selecting and preparing nutritious foods, and strengthening retail-community partnerships. The eligible communities decide which NNC nutrition education activities to undertake. Funded activities include promotion of healthy food knowledge and skills among children, youth and adults in schools and community settings; in-store taste tests and grocery store tours; traditional food harvesting and preparation; and partnerships and collaboration with other community programs.  

Openness and Transparency

Health Canada is committed to openness, transparency and evidence-based decision-making. As part of this commitment, Health Canada is making more information available to Canadians than ever before, and Canadians are being offered more opportunities to participate in discussions on Government policies and priorities. As part of this new policy, Health Canada will share with the public the date and subject of meetings that are requested by stakeholders outside of a formal consultation process. The same applies to stakeholder correspondence sent to Health Canada.

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Hon. Jane Philpott Health Canada Health and Safety

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