Making time for eating well

Two people reading from a restaurant menu

It can be hard to make time to eat well when life gets busy. Here are some tips to help you plan ahead and make healthy food choices at home and when eating out.

Two people reading from a restaurant menu

6 tips for making healthy choices when eating out

Think ahead
Check out restaurant menus online ahead of time so you can pre-plan your meal choices and avoid temptation. Many restaurants also post nutritional information on their website, which can help you make informed and healthy choices.
Read between the lines

Avoid menu items that are described as creamy, buttery, breaded, crispy, stuffed or smothered. These fancy words are often a hint that these meals are very high in calories. Look for broiled, grilled or baked items instead.

Watch your portions
Portion sizes at restaurants are often double or triple what you would normally eat. Ask for half portions or split a meal with a friend. Avoid super-sizing your meal, even if it seems like good value for your money.
Ask for sauces and dressings on the side

Sauces and dressings can add a surprising amount of fat, sugar and sodium to your meal. Ask for them on the side so you can control how much you use while still getting the flavour.

Look for veggies
Vegetables are a great source of fibre! Ask for extra veggie toppings on pizzas, subs and burgers, or order a side of cooked vegetables or a garden salad.
Skip the sugary drinks
Pop, juices and alcoholic beverages can add lots of sugar and calories to your meal. Try unsweetened iced tea or sparkling water with lemon or lime instead.

12 eating habits you can change right now

Whether you’re the kind of person who likes to overhaul their diet entirely or someone who likes to make small, gradual changes, these habits will help you eat well now and in the future.
Follow Canada’s Food Guide
Take a tour of Canada’s Food Guide, learn what and how you should eat each day and get ideas for healthy ways to tweak your diet.
Eat regular meals
Skipping a meal – especially breakfast – can lead to overeating throughout the day. It’s hard to make healthy choices when you’re starving!
Rethink your plate
Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with whole grain foods and a quarter with protein foods.
Cut back on portion size

If your portions are a reasonable size, it will be easier for you to eat what you want but still stay healthy.

Use smaller dishes
Believe it or not, using a smaller plate gives your brain the impression that you’re eating your “normal” amount of food.
Serve everything you eat in a dish – especially snacks

You are much more likely to overeat if you’re eating out of the box or bag.

Add 1 more veggie to every meal
Add a side salad at lunch or try vegetable sticks with a low-fat dip. At dinner, make sure at least half your plate is veggies.
Plan your meals for the whole week
You’ll save money on your grocery bill and have the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you’re eating for every meal and snack. No more mindless or desperate food choices!
Read the nutrition labels of packaged foods to help you decide what to put in your grocery cart
Watch out for salt, sugar and saturated or trans fat.
Don’t eat while watching TV or in front of the computer
 It’s easy to lose track of how much we’re eating when we munch mindlessly. If you really need a snack while you enjoy your favourite show, make it a plate of vegetables or fruit.
Make smart adjustments to your restaurant meals

Ideas include:

  • Ask for salad or steamed veggies instead of fries.
  • Have sparkling water instead of a sugary drink.
  • Choose a tomato-based pasta sauce over one that has cream.
  • Enjoy a garden salad instead of a Caesar salad.
  • Ask for dressing and condiments on the side.
Slow down and enjoy every bite
Fun fact: it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full. Think of how much food you could eat (or not) in that time!

6 ways to cook once and eat twice

A batch of chili

Make double batches

Dishes like pasta sauces, stews and casseroles can be frozen and pulled out for a quick meal on a hectic weeknight.

Vegetable and meat skewers cooking on the barbecue

When the barbecue is fired up, grill extra chicken breasts

You can cut them up into bite-sized chunks for wraps, tortillas, burritos or a salad.

Uncooked whole grain pasta

Make more dinner

Throw in an extra handful of pasta or rice at dinner and use it for the next day’s lunch.
Bell peppers being chopped for a salad

Keep cut vegetables and fruit in the fridge

Cut up fresh vegetables and toss them into a crisper bag. They’re great for snacking or adding to leftovers to make a quick meal. While you’ve got the cutting board out, slice fruit and fill a large bowl for the fridge. Splash on some lemon juice to keep it fresh. Dip into the bowl when having yogurt, cereal or other snacks.
A meal cooking in a crockpot

Use your crockpot

Cook a whole chicken with potatoes, celery, carrots and seasonings. You’ll have ready-to-use stock and vegetables to make into soup – just add some rice or pasta.
Group of people having a potluck outside

Cook big batches with others

Gather with friends to prepare – and share – a few freezer-friendly meals together.

A day in the life of eating well: at work edition

It can be tricky to eat well when you’ve got a busy day at work. The key is to plan ahead by packing a healthy lunch and snacks to keep you going all day long. If you’re eating out, make healthy choices that will elevate your workday, not bring it to a sleepy halt. And drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • yogurt with a piece of fruit or topped with nuts and seeds
  • oatmeal and fresh fruit
  • whole grain cereals with milk
  • whole grain toast or mini-bagels with a nut butter or fruit spread

Meals that are high in calories and fat can make you feel sluggish. To avoid an afternoon slump, choose satisfying lunches that energize you instead of dragging you down.

  • lean meat or vegetarian sandwich and vegetable-based soups or broths
  • salads with a protein like tuna, hard-boiled egg or grilled meat with vinaigrette dressing on the side
  • open-faced sandwiches or wraps using whole grain bread
  • rice bowl with vegetables and lean meat
  • leftover pasta, stew, curry, stir-fry or other meal from the night before

Boost your energy level with regular fuel throughout the day.

  • vegetable sticks and whole wheat pita with hummus, tzatziki or black bean dip
  • fresh fruit and granola
  • plain popcorn
  • unsalted trail mix
  • whole grain snack bars
If you're attending a conference or catered meeting
  • Avoid doughnuts, monster muffins and large cookies. Choose fresh fruit or a lower-fat yogurt instead.
  • Avoid ready-made salads with lots of dressing or mayonnaise. Choose leafy greens with a lower-fat dressing or vinaigrette on the side.
  • Choose water instead of pop and sugary drinks. Drinking water is important for your body to work properly.
  • Use milk in your tea or coffee instead of cream.
  • Don’t eat just for the sake of eating or to fill the time at breaks. If you’re not hungry, get active rather than having a snack.

Eating well on a budget

 Eating well is important for your health, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot. You can find ways to eat healthy without spending too much.
Shopping and cooking
  • Plan healthy meals and snacks for a week, then make a shopping list and stick to it.
  • Eat fewer processed, packaged foods. They’re often more expensive and less nutritious than fresh foods.
  • When you see foods on sale that will last a long time, buy extra. Dried or frozen foods will keep for a long time.
  • Fill a spritzer bottle with oil and use it for cooking. This uses less oil.
  • Cook food in batches and freeze – you’ll save time as well as money. You can use leftovers to make soups and casseroles to eat over the next day or so.
Vegetables and fruit
  • Buy fresh vegetables and fruit when they’re in season or on sale, then cut them up and store them in the freezer.
  • Frozen, dried and canned produce is just as good as fresh. Look for canned vegetables that are low in sodium and fruit packed in juice, not syrup.
  • Consider growing some of your own ingredients. If you don’t have a garden, you can plant some easy-to-grow herbs or tomatoes in a window box.
Whole grain foods
  • Buy whole grain breads, pita or tortillas on sale and store them in the freezer.
  • Stock up on grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats or whole wheat pasta in large amounts.
Protein foods
  • Try meatless meals twice a week. Soy, beans, lentils and other legumes are good sources of protein.
  • Buy chicken with skin on and bone in. You can remove these yourself at home.
  • Choose frozen fish, shrimp and other seafood instead of fresh. Canned tuna or salmon is another affordable option.
Dairy products
  • Buy blocks of cheese and shred or slice them at home.
A clock hanging in a kitchen

Help! I don’t have a lot of time, how can I eat well?

It’s tricky to eat well when you’re pressed for time – but it’s not impossible. Here are some tips to help you make smart choices even when you’re short on time.

A clock hanging in a kitchen

Limit processed foods

Ready-to-eat meals, frozen foods or pre-packaged foods often contain an alarming amount of fat, calories, sugar and salt. They may also contain fillers and other things that have no nutritional value.

Buy pre-cut vegetables

It’s much faster to make a stir-fry, side dish, curry or stew when you get to skip the chopping part!

Pick up a barbecued chicken and bagged salad at the grocery store

Add a whole grain roll or multigrain tortilla with salsa on the side and you’ve got a complete meal – no cooking required.

Keep a couple of hard-boiled eggs in the fridge

They offer a quick hit of protein for salads or sandwiches and on their own.

Buy pre-cut meats

Most grocery stores have meat departments that offer chicken or beef already cut into strips for quick stir-fries.

Try breakfast for dinner

Scrambled eggs, toast and fruit is a wholesome and quick weeknight meal. You can also buy pre-cut fruit and add it to a whole-grain cereal with milk for a quick pick-me-up until the next morning.

Carry healthy snacks with you

It’s easier to resist sugary or fatty snacks if you have on-the-go foods like dried fruit mixed with a few nuts, apples, bananas or pears and small containers of raw veggies with you.