Every March is Nutrition Month in Canada. Why is this important? Healthy food habits and good nutrition help us take care of ourselves and our families. They help us live healthier, longer lives.
Nutrition also plays an important role in the work we do at Second Harvest. In fact, the majority of food we rescue and redistribute is perishable, healthy food from important and nutrient-dense categories like protein, produce and dairy. In 2022, 86% of the food we rescued and redistributed was perishable and 64% was classified as nutrient-dense. For people facing food insecurity, accessing nutritious food can be a major challenge, which is why we focus on these categories.
Not everyone knows how to eat well or has the tools, resources, or access to nutritious food in Canada. This is a challenge considering that good nutrition is linked to improved physical and mental health, greater happiness, better digestion, and higher energy levels. They help us manage our weight and prevent chronic diseases too. Healthy food and well-balanced diets fuel healthy bodies and minds.
That’s why Dietitians of Canada launched Nutrition Month in 1986 and has spotlighted the essential role of dietitians—and teaching good nutrition—ever since. Dietitians are trained healthcare providers and provide the most credible information available about food and nutrition health. As of July 1, 2023, the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP) in Canada will reimburse up to $300/per calendar year for a consultation with a dietitian.
Here is a collection of free resources and helpful tips for healthy eating in your household to celebrate nutrition month in Canada every day.
Free Nutritional Resources to Eat Healthy at Home Every Day
1. Follow Canada’s Food Guide and Healthy Eating Strategy
Canada’s most recent Food Guide recommends that we eat a wide variety of healthy foods every day. A nutritious meal should be ½ vegetables and fruit, ¼ proteins, and ¼ whole grains, with a glass of water for a drink. The Government of Canada also came up with a Healthy Eating Strategy to help make healthy food choices the easiest choice for all.
2. Find a dietitian in your community to learn about nutrition
Dietitians are highly trained healthcare workers who provide advice specific to your needs. They work in and with local communities, recognizing different cultures, traditions, personal preferences, health and dietary needs or restrictions, budgets, and challenges such as food access. If this sounds like something that could be helpful to get you and your family on track with healthier eating at home, find a dietitian in your community.
3. Get inspired to cook at home with these nutritious recipes
Cooking at home is a great way to learn about food and make healthy meal choices. Plus, depending on the recipe you choose, cooking at home can be fun, quick, affordable, and easy. Get the whole family involved! Teaching your kids how to cook and make healthy meal choices is an essential life skill that will stay with them forever.
Keep Canada’s Food Guide in mind and look for meals that are mostly plant-based (vegetables and/or fruits) with a side of protein and grains. Here are some great (free) recipe resources to get you inspired in your kitchen:
Have some canned beans and kale that need to be eaten? You’ll find online a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for recipes—like this healthy and hearty kale and white bean soup.
4. Follow this sample meal plan for a healthy week at home
Cookspiration (linked above and associated with Canada’s Nutrition Month) has a useful and easy-to-use meal planner. All you have to do is select your meal plan goals, like “budget-friendly” and “kid-approved.” Then they’ll suggest a few breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu ideas that match what you’re looking for and you choose the rest to fill up the week. They’ll put together a shopping list based on the recipes you chose for the week.
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Remember, when making a meal plan, rotate through a wide variety of recipes and ingredients. This way, you and your family will get a well-balanced diet full of all of the vitamins, minerals, dairy, good fats and carbohydrates, and proteins you need to thrive.
If you’re on a budget, you can always eat deliciously homemade leftovers for lunch. Saving and beefing up your leftovers is also a great way to avoid unnecessary food waste!
5. Make healthy food choices on a budget
Eating healthy and cooking at home can be done on a budget. Here are some helpful tips:
- Always do a pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory before you shop
- Make a meal plan for the week that uses what you already have, includes leftovers for some meals, and shares ingredients over a few meals
- Write down your grocery list of what’s missing
- Eat before you shop
- Research grocery deals, shop sales, and collect coupons
- Stock up on sale items and add them to your next weekly meal plan
- Store foods properly to prolong shelf-life
- Store leftovers in glass containers so you don’t forget about them—or freeze them if you know you can’t eat them in a few days
|More tips and reading for eating well on a budget: |
– Everything you need to know about best-before dates
– 10 Clever household tips to avoid food waste in your kitchen
Rescuing good healthy food for Canada’s food charities
In Canada, 6.7 million people rely on food charities for food. These charities need access to good, healthy, nutritious food—to help feed Canadians in need. Second Harvest helps by rescuing surplus food and redistributing it to non-profit organizations that feed community members.