Healthy eating and cancer in Canada

Healthy eating and cancer

Healthy diets can reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer.

In partnership with the National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools at McMaster University, the Partnership commissioned a rapid synthesis on nutrition, cancer prevention, and effective policies to increase healthy eating. This rapid synthesis informs the findings of this resource.

The Strategy

child and familyThis information supports Priority 1 of the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control which is to decrease the risk of people getting cancer.

Healthy eating policy actions

Learn about the latest research, cancer prevention efforts, and provincial, territorial, and municipal policies encouraging healthy eating for people in Canada. Aligned with the World Cancer Research Fund’s NOURISHING Framework, this resource explores the effectiveness of policy-focused initiatives including food prices, food provision, food retail, food promotion, food composition and food labelling.

An update to the Partnership’s 2018 healthy eating policy pack, this resource includes a renewed analysis of healthy eating policies across numerous Canadian jurisdictions which can contribute to cancer prevention.

Healthy eating policies at the federal level

While the federal government regulates food production, safety, and quality standards, there are few policies that directly relate to healthy eating and none identified that directly relate to cancer prevention. As an example, the Food and Drugs Act regulates food preservation, additives, and ingredients with a focus on food safety. The Act also mandates a nation-wide ban on partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of trans fats.

The federal government relies on the provinces and territories to develop and enact healthy eating policies and programs specific to their jurisdictions.

COVID-19 maskCOVID-19

People in Canada ate 27-35% more “junk food” during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic1 with adults living with a child(ren) at greater odds of consumption compared to those without children.2

There is urgent need for effective policy interventions to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for working age households, families with children, and those vulnerably employed.

light bulbOpportunities for action

Work closely with Health Canada’s Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion to further define, promote, and implement evidence-informed nutrition policy.

As Canada’s Food Guide underpins initiatives within Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, organizations can work with Health Canada on provincial and territorial-led nutrition policies.

Implementing policies similar to the National Framework for Diabetes Act could help promote healthy eating and cancer prevention, such as the Framework for Diabetes in Canada.

Scope: This resource focused on provincial, territorial, and municipal policies related to the Canadian healthy eating landscape. Conversations around Healthy Eating policy and priority alignment are in the planning stages with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners, but have not been included in this resource. The Partnership respects the sovereignty of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis and is committed to advancing self-determined priorities of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis partners.

Limitations: This resource was informed by a rapid literature review of syntheses. Few syntheses reported on differential impacts beyond a population health approach or take a health equity approach. Methods also did not include a review of community-based research or lived experiences which can better assist in achieving a health equity perspective. Further research is needed to understand how policy addresses the needs of different populations and ensure that appropriate population-level interventions consider a health equity lens to promote optimal health outcomes for all.

Webinar recording and slides

To learn more, view the webinar recording of the fourth part in the series “Policy actions to prevent cancer” or download a copy of the slides, “Healthy eating and cancer in Canada: Current research and policy actions.”

  1. Statistics Canada. (2020b). Proportion of Canadians who increased certain weekly habits because of the COVID-19 pandemic, by period of web panel survey.
  2. Andreacchi, A.T., Yoshida-Montezuma, Y., Colley, R.C., Smith, B.T., Vanderloo, L.M., & Anderson, L.N. (2022). Changes in chronic disease risk factors and current exercise habits among Canadian adults living with and without a child during the COVID-19 pandemic. Statistics Canada Health Reports, 33(4).