How to Eat Well with a Busy Family (and buy local)

canadas food guide

Is it possible to eat well with a busy family?

It can be so hard to eat well in our busy lives.  The kids have their activities, we have work, the pets need to be walked, and then the allure of the outdoors is drawing us constantly to a quick and easy hamburger on the barbeque.  And then before we know it, summer is over, all the fresh, local fruit and veggie stands are closed, and we are back to the dreaded school lunch dilemma!

Argh…what are we to do as busy parents?

In our August issue of PARENT GUIDE, we explore healthy school lunch options as well as a list of products that can make your life SUPER EASY!  Ya, I like the sound of that too!

But, as it is still summer, and we have an amazing opportunity to take advantage of local produce, let’s dive into how you can get the most out of this season!

Getting the most out of local produce when it is in season!

  1. Know what your family will eat – I love stopping at local produce stands right around lunch or snack time.  When the kids are hungry they are more apt to try something new.  A lot of produce stands will even wash the produce for you so you can eat it on the ride home.
  2. Stock up on freezer bags so you can freeze fruits and veggies for the cold winter months.  We just finished freezing strawberries for our smoothies this winter!  There is nothing better than the taste of fresh, local produce in the middle of winter!
  3. If you like to can/jar food, this is a great way to capture these fresh flavours.  Check out this site for canning ideas and recipes.
  4. Order ahead of time.  Know your local produce stands, get their phone number and reserve your produce ahead of time so you don’t miss out.

But, how do I get the kids to eat fresh, local produce?

  • Try it yourself.  Don’t be afraid to try something new yourself.  Our taste-buds are constantly changing and you never know what you will like now that you didn’t in the past.
  • Cut out the unhealthy options.  For everyone else with will-power, you may not have a problem with this, but I sure do!  Buy less junk and more in season produce, have it cut up and on the table when the kids want a snack, when they get home from their activities, and soon, when they get home from school!
  • Make it a road trip.  This is one of the best ways to capture fun family memories and get the kids to eat what they had fun buying!


Comment below with the name of your favourite local produce stand.  Let’s give some love to all those hard-working farmers that feed us!


Need help with knowing what and how much you should eat to stay healthy?  Here is Canada’s Food Guide.

Canada’s Food Guide

Recommended Number of Food Guide Servings per Day

Children Teens Adults
Age in Years 2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 years 19-50 years 51 + years
Sex Girls and Boys Females Males Females Males Females Males
Vegetables and Fruit 4 5 6 7 8 7-8 8-10 7 7
Grain Products 3 4 6 6 7 6-7 8 6 7
Milk and Alternatives 2 2 3-4 3-4 3-4 2 2 3 3
Meat and Alternatives 1 1 1-2 2 3 2 3 2 3

The chart above shows how many Food Guide Servings you need from each of the four food groups every day.

Having the amount and type of food recommended and following the tips in Canada’s Food Guide will help:

  • Meet your needs for vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
  • Reduce your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer and osteoporosis.
  • Contribute to your overall health and vitality.

What is one Food Guide Serving?

Look at the examples below.

Vegetables and Fruit

Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables
125 mL (½ cup)

Leafy vegetables
250 mL (1 cup)

Fresh, frozen or canned fruits
1 fruit or 125 mL (½ cup)

100% Juice
125 mL (½ cup)

Grain Products

1 slice (35 g)

½ bagel (45 g)

Flat breads
½ pita or ½ tortilla (35 g)

Cooked rice, bulgur or quinoa
125 mL (½ cup)

Cold: 30 g
Hot: 175 mL (¾ cup)

Cooked pasta or couscous 125 mL (½ cup)

Milk and Alternatives

Milk or powered milk (reconstituted)
250 mL (1 cup)

Canned milk (evaporated)
125 mL (½ cup)

Fortified soy beverage
250 mL (1 cup)

175 g (¾ cup)

50 g (1 ½ oz.)

Meat and Alternatives

Cooked fish, shellfish, poultry, lean meat
75 g (2 ½ oz.)/125 mL (½ cup)

Cooked legumes
175 mL (3/4 cup)

150 g or 175 mL (¾ cup)

2 eggs

Peanut or nut butters
30 mL (2 Tbsp)

Shelled nuts and seeds
60 mL (¼ cup)

Oils and Fats

  • Include a small amount – 30 to 45 mL (2 to 3 Tbsp) – of unsaturated fat each day. This includes oil used for cooking, salad dressings, margarine and mayonnaise.
  • Use vegetable oils such as canola, olive and soybean.
  • Choose soft margarines that are low in saturated and trans fats.
  • Limit butter, hard margarine, lard and shortening.

Make each Food Guide Serving count.

wherever you are – at home, at school, at work or when eating out!

Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day.

  • Go for dark green vegetables such as broccoli, romaine lettuce and spinach.
  • Go for orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash.

Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt.

  • Enjoy vegetables steamed, baked or stir-fried instead of deep-fried.

Have vegetables and fruit more often than juice.

Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.

  • Eat a variety of whole grains such as barley, brown rice, oats, quinoa and wild rice.
  • Enjoy whole grain breads, oatmeal or whole wheat pasta.

Choose grain products that are lower in fat, sugar or salt.

  • Compare the Nutrition Facts table on labels to make wise choices.
  • Enjoy the true taste of grain products. When adding sauces or spreads, use small amounts.

Drink skim, 1%, or 2% milk each day.

  • Have 500 mL (2 cups) of milk every day for adequate vitamin D.
  • Drink fortified soy beverages if you do not drink milk.

Select lower fat milk alternatives.

  • Compare the Nutrition Facts table on yogurts or cheeses to make wise choices.

Have meat alternatives such as beans, lentils and tofu often.

Eat at least two Food Guide Servings of fish each week. *

  • Choose fish such as char, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout.

Select lean meat and alternatives prepared with little or no added fat or salt.

  • Trim the visible fat from meats. Remove the skin on poultry.
  • Use cooking methods such as roasting, baking or poaching that require little or no added fat.
  • If you eat luncheon meats, sausages or packaged meats, choose those lower in salt (sodium) and fat.

* Health Canada provides advice for limiting exposure to mercury from certain types of fish. Refer to for the latest information.

Enjoy a variety of foods from the four food groups.

Satisfy your thirst with water!

Drink water regularly. It’s a calorie-free way to quench your thirst. Drink more water in hot weather or when you are very active.

Advice for different ages and stages


Following Canada’s Food Guide helps children grow and thrive.

Young children have small appetites and need calories for growth and development.

  • Serve small nutritious meals and snacks each day.
  • Do not restrict nutritious foods because of their fat content. Offer a variety of foods from the four food groups.
  • Most of all…be a good role model.

Women of childbearing age

All women who could become pregnant and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding need a multivitamin containing folic acid every day. Pregnant women need to ensure that their multivitamin also contains iron. A health care professional can help you find the multivitamin that’s right for you.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more calories. Include an extra 2 to 3 Food Guide Servings each day.

Here are two examples:

  • Have fruit and yogurt for a snack, or
  • Have an extra slice of toast at breakfast and an extra glass of milk at supper.

Men and women over 50

The need for vitamin D increases after the age of 50.

In addition to following Canada’s Food Guide, everyone over the age of 50 should take a daily vitamin D supplement of 10 µg (400 IU).

How do I count Food Guide Servings in a meal?

Here is an example:

Vegetable and beef stir-fry with rice, a glass of milk and an apple for dessert

250 mL (1 cup) mixed broccoli, carrot and sweet red pepper = 2 Vegetables and Fruit Food Guide Servings

75 g (2 ½ oz.) lean beef = 1 Meat and Alternatives Food Guide Serving

250 mL (1 cup) brown rice = 2 Grain Products Food Guide Servings

5 mL (1 tsp) canola oil = part of your Oils and Fats intake for the day

250 mL (1 cup) 1% milk = 1 Milk and Alternatives Food Guide Serving

1 apple = 1 Vegetables and Fruit Food Guide Serving

Eat well and be active today and every day!

The benefits of eating well and being active include:

  • Better overall health.
  • Lower risk of disease.
  • A healthy body weight.
  • Feeling and looking better.
  • More energy.
  • Stronger muscles and bones.

Be active

To be active every day is a step towards better health and a healthy body weight.

It is recommended that adults accumulate at least 2 ½ hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week and that children and youth accumulate at least 60 minutes per day. You don’t have to do it all at once. Choose a variety of activities spread throughout the week.

Start slowly and build up.

Eat well

Another important step towards better health and a healthy body weight is to follow Canada’s Food Guide by:

  • Eating the recommended amount and type of food each day.
  • Limiting foods and beverages high in calories, fat, sugar or salt (sodium) such as cakes and pastries, chocolate and candies, cookies and granola bars, doughnuts and muffins, ice cream and frozen desserts, french fries, potato chips, nachos and other salty snacks, alcohol, fruit flavoured drinks, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks, and sweetened hot or cold drinks.

Read the label

  • Compare the Nutrition Facts table on food labels to choose products that contain less fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.
  • Keep in mind that the calories and nutrients listed are for the amount of food found at the top of the Nutrition Facts table.

Limit trans fat

When a Nutrition Facts table is not available, ask for nutrition information to choose foods lower in trans and saturated fats.

Take a step today…

  • Have breakfast every day. It may help control your hunger later in the day.
  • Walk wherever you can – get off the bus early, use the stairs.
  • Benefit from eating vegetables and fruit at all meals and as snacks.
  • Spend less time being inactive such as watching TV or playing computer games.
  • Request nutrition information about menu items when eating out to help you make healthier choices.
  • Enjoy eating with family and friends!
  • Take time to eat and savour every bite!

For more information, interactive tools or additional copies visit Canada’s Food Guide on-line at:

No comments yet! You be the first to comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

COVID-19 response - CLICK HERE for a FREE 30-MIN ONLINE CONFIDENTIAL CALL with a Parent Coach