Traditional Food for Aboriginal People

To reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, it is recommended that Aboriginal people make healthy choices that blend traditional food and nutritious market food from the community store.

What is traditional food?

While the traditional food eaten by First Nations, Métis or Inuit may vary, some common foods include:

Vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts

Blueberries Strawberries Blackberries
Raspberries Beans Corn
Squash Potatoes Hickory nuts


Barley Bannock Oatmeal Wild rice

Meat and Fish

Caribou Deer Moose
Goose Duck Ptarmigan
Quail Wild turkey Pheasant
Beaver Muskrat Black bear
Trout Salmon Pickerel
Perch Bass Smelt  

What are the health benefits of traditional food?

Good nutrition

Health benefit

Less calories and saturated fat

Improved weight control and heart health

Less sodium

Maintains healthy blood pressure

More iron

Prevents anemia

More fibre

Promotes heart health

More zinc

Helps wound healing

More vitamin A

Supports vision

More calcium

Helps build strong bones

Tips on healthy eating

Try more often:

  • Whole wheat flour, berries and raisins in bannock.
  • Whole wheat pastas and brown rice.
  • Oatmeal (“mush”) for breakfast.
  • Country meats - moose, deer, caribou.
  • Fish meals two or more times a week.
  • Barley in moose stew, caribou stew or fish head soup.
  • Fruit in season. Can and preserve fruit to use in the winter months or buy canned or plain frozen ones. Learn about canning here.
  • Beans, peas and lentils are inexpensive - add to salads and soups.
  • Whole fruit more often than 100% unsweetened fruit juice because the fruit has more fibre.
  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Herbal teas.

Eat less often and in small amounts:

  • White rice.
  • Fried, fatty food such as French fries, fried meats and fish.
  • Breads, cereals and crackers made with white flour.
  • Sweetened, high fat baked goods: donuts, cakes, pies, cupcakes, muffins and cookies.
  • Sugar: white and brown sugar, honey, jam, table syrup, corn syrup.
  • Processed meats: bologna, spam, hot dogs, and deli or luncheon meats, pizza, sauces and soups.
  • Added fats like: butter, lard, shortening, salad dressing. Use vegetable oil sparingly.
  • Sweetened drinks: fruit drinks, fruit punches, packaged drink mixes, fruit cocktails, sports drinks and pop.

Safety notes: Local fish and wild game

The Ministry of Natural Resources recommends that people do not eat the liver and kidney of game meat because of concern over high levels of the mineral, cadmium.

If you harvest an animal wearing an ear tag that contains the phone number, 1-866-514-2327, this animal was sedated in the past using veterinary drugs. Call that number to find out if it is safe to eat the meat.

Remember that there are guidelines for eating fish safely. You can find more about limiting mercury from fish at Health Canada and check out A Guide to Eating Ontario Sport Fish or call the Sport Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program with the Ministry of the Environment at 1-800-820-2716. 

Recipes to try:

Souper Lunch with Rice and Beans

Chicken and Corn Chowder

For more information:

Métis Cookbook and Guide to Healthy Living, National Aboriginal Health Organization

Eating Well with Canada's Food Guide: First Nations, Inuit and Métis, Health Canada

NWT –Food Guide, Northwest Territories Health and Social Services

Last Update – October 9, 2016

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.