Food is Part of the Recipe for a Healthy Canada #Recipe4Health



As Health Ministers from across the country prepare for their meeting in Vancouver on 20-21 January, alarm is increasing over the rising cost of fruits and vegetables in Canada. The Vancouver meeting is an extraordinary opportunity to tackle food as part of the recipe for a healthy Canada, and unhealthy diets need to be on the agenda. 

Food Secure Canada and Dr. Norman Campbell, HSF/CIHR Chair of Hypertension Prevention and Control have created a Food and Nutrition Fact Sheet and call for action on the leading risk Canadians’ health and well-being: unhealthy diets. 

We need government policies and programs that take a food systems approach as part of the #Recipe4Health

Canadian health promotion practices currently focus on individual nutrition education, which is important but ineffective on its own. And rising food prices, which in particular will impact the costs for fresh fruits and vegetables, will only exacerbate unhealthy eating trends and increase food insecurity. It’s time to connect the dots between health, agriculture, poverty reduction and environmental issues. 

Government needs to urgently invest in programs and policies for health promotion that take a food systems approach to addressing unhealthy diets including:

  • Restrict the commercial marketing of all foods and beverages to children and youth age 16 years or under.
  • Develop a National School Food program to ensure that all school children have healthy meals every day.
  • Regulate additions of sodium, free sugars, saturated fats and trans fatty acids in processed foods.
  • Develop healthy food and beverage procurement policies for healthcare, campus and schools to ensure the food they serve is fresh, sustainable, locally grown where possible and promotes healthy eating.

Healthy diets derive from socially and environmentally sustainable food systems that emphasize fresh and fresh-frozen foods. Educational interventions need to be supported by food environments and food systems that make healthy choices easy choices.​

Healthy eating and sustainability can both be achieved by shifting diets to foods that are locally and sustainably produced with an increased consumption of plant-based foods, and a reduced consumption of meat and processed foods.

Most Canadian diets are unhealthy because they contain too many processed and prepared foods.

Unhealthy diets are the leading risk to Canadians’ health and well-being. In 2013, unhealthy diet was the leading risk for death and disability in Canada, estimated to cause over 50,000 deaths, 890,000 years of disability and 710,000 years of life lost. Childhood and maternal malnutrition was estimated to cause an additional 420 deaths, 74,000 years of disability and 5,600 years of life lost.

While other high-income countries have been implementing best practices to address similar challenges, Canada has not. Now is the time for Canada to catch up.

Unhealthy diets cause heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, mental disorders and up to 40 per cent of cancers. 60 per cent of the calories Canadians consume come from ultra-processed food (i.e. packaged salty oily snacks, confectionary, soft drinks, frozen breakfast foods, packaged pizzas, and instant noodles).

Food insecurity takes a heavy toll on our health care system

Health care currently comprises more than 35 per cent of provincial budgets and its costs are rising. This trend threatens the sustainability of public health care in Canada. Health care costs are higher than average for the 4 million people living with food insecurity: 23% higher for marginally food insecure households, 49% higher for moderately food insecure households and 121% higher for severely food insecure households. 

Healthy local diets could boost the Canadian economy.

An Ontario research study shows that replacing 10% of the top 10 fruit and vegetable imports with Ontario-grown produce would result in a $250 million increase in provincial gross domestic product. 

Get involved! Help us to ensure that all Canadian have access to healthy and sustainable food:

An open letter to federal Health Minister Jane Philpott was sent on January 13, 2013 to introduce a Food and Nutrition Fact Sheet and to request a meeting with Minister Philpott and her counterparts in stakeholder ministries to discuss urgent action on the highest-priority items, including sodium/trans fat reduction and marketing to kids. 

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A big THANK YOU for all your support!


Press Release avaiable here