Food retail: Local, provincial and territorial regulation of healthy and unhealthy food in restaurants

Learn how local, provincial and territorial governments can increase healthy eating by regulating the availability of healthy and unhealthy foods in restaurants

Inside this healthy eating policy pack

Healthy and unhealthy food availability in restaurants


Food retail


Healthy and unhealthy food availability in restaurants 1,2,3,4

  • Ensure that healthy meals, snacks, foods, and drinks are competitively priced compared to other products 3
  • Initiatives to increase the availability of healthier food in food service outlets 2
  • Priority given to the display of healthy foods and drinks in catering outlets 3
  • Incentives and rules to reduce “less healthy” food and ingredients in food service outlets 2
  • Engage caterers to improve availability, affordability and acceptability of healthier food products 4

Degree of policy adoption*

Provinces and territories: LOW
31 Canadian municipalities:** LOW

Current action(s) in Canada

Provinces and territories

No provincial or territorial policies addressing healthy and unhealthy food in restaurants were found.

31 Canadian municipalities**

Toronto’s Healthier Street Food Bylaw requires street food retailers to improve availability of healthier food products, including offering items low in trans fats and other unhealthy ingredients. Under the Toronto a La Cart initiative, certain mobile cart locations are reserved.

Opportunities for action

Evidence exists in support of restaurant-level interventions to increase availability and labelling of healthier choices at point-of-purchase.5

Provincial, territorial and municipal action to promote the promotion and availability of healthy food in restaurants, including restaurants within publicly-owned institutions remain opportunities for improvement in Canada.6 British Columbia’s Healthy Food and Beverage Sales (HFBS) Initiative, although provincial in scope, was implemented through municipalities and led to policy implementation in many of the municipalities involved.7

Municipalities can also adopt or amend bylaws to promote the availability and display of healthier food and beverage options in local food service and retail environments via business licensing bylaws requiring that certain foods are served or not served (e.g. healthy corner stores).1,6,8

In addition, licenses or rules for mobile or street food vendors could be introduced, strengthened or expanded to include requirements for healthier ingredients/foods, or for access to produce carts.9

* Levels of adoption:  LOW = very few jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; MEDIUM = some, but not all jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action; HIGH = most jurisdictions have adopted evidence-informed policy action.

** Prevention Policies Directory captures information for 31 Canadian municipalities (18 largest municipalities in Canada, and at least 1-2 largest municipalities in all other provinces/territories).


1 Vanderlee L, Goorang S, Karbasy K, Schermel A, L’Abbe M. Creating healthier food environments in Canada: Current policies and priority actions – Summary report. Toronto; University of Toronto, 2017.

2 World Cancer Research Fund International. NOURISHING policy framework. Retrieved from:

3 World Cancer Research Fund International. (2009). Policy recommendations. Retrieved from:

4 World Health Organization (2013). Global action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases:

5 Valdivia Espino J, Guerrero N, Rhoads N, Simon NJ, Escaron A,  Meinen A, et al. (2015). Community-based restaurant interventions to promote healthy eating: A systematic review.  Preventing Chronic Disease, 12:140455.

6 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2018). Alberta’s Nutrition Report Card on Healthy Food Environments for Children and Youth. Retrieved from:

7 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). (2016). Building capacity of healthier food environments in British Columbia recreational facilities: POWER Up! Policy stories. Retrieved from:

8 Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention (APCCP). Food Action in Recreation Environments (FARE): research summaries. Retrieved from:

9 ChangeLab Solutions. (2013). Model produce cart ordinance. Retrieved from: