Food has the Potential to Prevent Chronic Diseases: How to Build a Balanced Diet

Written by Hilary Rock BSc, Nutrition

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

We are so excited to be part of this year’s Dietitians of Canada Nutrition Month Campaign. We are celebrating Nutrition Month 2018 by helping Canadians unlock the potential of food to fuel, discover, prevent, heal and bring us together.


Along with other dietitians, we will help illustrate that food has the potential to:

  • Fuel: Stay energized by planning nutritious snacks into your day.
  • Discover:Foster healthy eating habits in children by teaching them to shop and cook.
  • Prevent:Understand how food can help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Heal: Learn how food can promote healing and how dietitians work in health care teams to make a difference.
  • Bring us together:Enjoy the benefits of bringing families and friends together with food.

To make Nutrition Month come alive, we’re going to be focusing on the potential for food to prevent.

Lifestyle factors, including what we eat, influences our health. A nutritious diet can help prevent illness and can lower the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.  A balanced diet can also contribute to a healthy body weight. The development of chronic disease happens over time and modifications in diet may play an essential role in managing the disease process. Dietitians can help you follow a healthy eating pattern that suits your individual needs and health goals. This Nutrition Month, dietitians want to remind you the power of food for disease prevention.

There are many diets/eating patterns, and some are healthier than others. The best eating pattern is one that you enjoy and can stick with long term. The eating patterns that have been the most researched for their health benefits include the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets. The foods that are recommended on these patterns can help prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and some types of cancer.

The eating patterns listed above may have different names but the foods are mostly the same. Here are some food groups that are common to all of them:

-Whole grains

-Legumes (beans, lentils)

-Vegetables

-Fruit

-Nuts and seeds

-Milk, cheese and yogurt

-Fish, seafood, and poultry

-Healthy oils like canola and olive oil

These nutritious food groups are the basic ingredients that form the diet for disease prevention.  You may notice that this list doesn’t contain highly processed foods like cake, chips, cookies and sugary drinks that are high in added salt, sugar and trans fats. When trying to change your eating habits, focus on adding more of the above food groups rather than trying to cut out all highly processed foods from your diet. This will allow for more success and an easier transition, for long term results.

Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it is about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and stabilizing your mood. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice you read and see, you’re not alone. While some extreme diets may suggest otherwise, we all need a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in our diets to sustain a healthy body. By focusing on balancing foods from all food groups, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create a tasty, varied and nutritious diet.

Almost 80% of premature stroke and heart disease can be prevented through healthy lifestyle behaviours. These include eating healthy, being active and living smoke-free. The path towards a healthier lifestyle begins with how we eat. Dietitians have the knowledge, compassion and flexibility to help you achieve your goals.

Consider working with a dietitian if you have health goals or concerns about your risk of chronic disease. A dietitian will work with you to embrace, understand and enjoy food while considering your overall objectives, needs and challenges. Dietitians look beyond fads and misleading information to deliver reliable, life-changing advice.

Adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at www.nutritionmonth2018.ca

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