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Food and nutrition

After immigrating to Canada, immigrants often adjust the way they cook and eat. They may not have access to all the same ingredients they had in their country of origin, they may try new types of foods they’ve never tried before, or they may start choosing more convenience foods (e.g., microwavable frozen dinners) and fast food from chain restaurants because it’s cheap, tasty and fast!

But it’s important not to let nutrition concerns go by the wayside in exchange for convenience. Most pre-packaged or fast food is largely high in fat, sodium and sugar. Adding too many of these choices to your diet will affect your health. It is advisable to focus on home cooking so that you know exactly what kind of ingredients go into your meal. If this is not an option for the sake of time, there is a wealth of small cafés or restaurants that prepare healthy food, many of them run by immigrants. Avoid large chain fast-food restaurants like KFC or McDonald’s and focus on healthier options like the numerous sushi places. Pick up your local newspaper or ask around in your community for cheap healthy options and diners.

The Canadian government has a document called the Canada Food Guide (see that recommends nutritional guidelines (it’s available in 10 languages). It emphasizes the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean dairy and protein.

Shopping for groceries

Most Canadians buy the majority of their groceries in large supermarkets like Superstore or Costco where things are sold in bulk or family-sized packages.

Small, family-owned local shops or farmers markets may offer a variety of ethnic foods or organic/locally grown foods. Those places tend to be more expensive.

Generally, in every neighbourhood, there is what is known as a convenience or a corner store. They are typically open 24 hours a day, so they can be used for “emergency shopping” for bread, milk, band-aids, etc. However, they do not have much variety and certainly are much more expensive.

Alcohol and cigarettes

Compared to other countries, alcohol in Canada is fairly expensive (as are cigarettes) because they are taxed as products harmful to your health.  When purchasing either one of those products (including in restaurants) you may be asked for your identification, which you are obligated to produce even if you are over the legal drinking age. Legal drinking age varies by province with it being 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and 19 elsewhere. Smoking is also discouraged in Canada. You are prohibited from smoking inside or within 30 metres of buildings and air intakes.