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9 big differences between Canadian and American diets

Article by Sam Gutierrez
(Photo by Michelle Hofstrand)

Canada and the United States are not as different as they may seem, at least in the food realm. We have most of the things they have and vice versa and the foods we eat are pretty similar. Even in terms of international cuisine, both countries boast a wide variety of food from all over thanks to robust immigrant populations.

But despite all our similarities, there are still some big differences between the way Americans and Canadians eat, here are the nine biggest ones.


1. Alcohol is not as readily available as it is in some places in the US, but you can drink earlier.

In Quebec, you can get beer and wine at the grocery store, but you can only purchase liquor at government-run stores.(Photo by Ryan Tir)

While our friends up north definitely enjoy a drink like anyone else, getting it is not as simple as going to a convenience store, or even a grocery store for that matter. Each Canadian province has different liquor laws and regulations stating what type of alcohol can be sold where. In some provinces alcohol is only sold in government-owned liquor stores while in others you can find it in grocery stores and privately owned liquor stores as well.

In Ontario for example, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, or LCBO, was the only place where liquor could be purchased within the province until it allowed beer to be sold in designated grocery stores in 2015. In Quebec, you can get beer and wine at grocery and corner stores but still have to get spirits at government-run stores.

The drinking age is also not all-encompassing and is decided by each province. In Alberta, Quebec, and Manitoba you can drink as soon as you turn 18. However, In the rest of the provinces you have to wait a whole extra year to be able to legally partake.

2. Milk is consumed from bags, not cartons.

In Canada, milk is sold in bags.(Photo by Andrea R.)

According to Food Network Canadians traded in milk cartons for bags in the 1970s. When Canadians buy milk, they get a package with three un-resealable bags of milk for a total of 4 liters.

To make it easier to pour, they place it in a milk pitcher, cut off the top, and voila! Our northern neighbors gave both glass bottles, cartons, and plastic jugs a chance but when DuPont, a Canadian packaging company, came out with the much cheaper bag option, many Canadians made the switch. Not only were the bags more effective (glass breaks, people) and cheaper to produce, they were also more easily-adjustable to fit with the metric system which the country had recently converted to from the imperial system.

3. British and French food is a lot more prevalent.

English foods such as fish and chips are common in Canada.(Photo by Nicole Abalde)

Here's a little history refresher, Canada was once colonized by both the British and the French. While Canada has been independent of either rule for quite some time now, the colonizers definitely had a lasting influence on the cuisine as well as the availability of European goods.

Many provinces in Canada have touches of French influence in their food but Quebec especially is a hot-spot for both French culture and food. Dishes like tourtiere (a meat pie), poutine (French fries with gravy and cheese curds), pea soup, and Buche de Noel (a rolled Christmas cake) are all French-Canadian delicacies hailing from the Quebec area.

Also prevalent in Canada are English foods and goods. While English pubs are a novelty in the States, they are commonplace throughout Canada making fish and chips and other British staples commonplace. Not only that, but as a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, Canada has a constant supply of British goods including things like House of Parliament Sauce (a more savory barbecue-like sauce), Maltesers, Smarties, and Cadbury products-galore.

4. Starbucks exists, but it's all about Tim Hortons.

Canadians love eating at Tim Hortons.(Flickr photo by Michael)

Starbucks is definitely a thing up north but Canadian's devotion to Starbucks doesn't even compare to their undying love of Tim Hortons. The chain is spread out all across Canada and is so popular that according to its website, every day approximately 15% of all Canadians visit a Tim's near them.

More Dunkin Donuts than Starbucks, Tim's main staples are coffee and doughnuts but they also sell a variety of coffee drinks, sandwiches, soups, and pastries. The thing to order however, is a double double, which is a coffee with two creams and two sugars. While the order is not unique to Tim Hortons, it's strongly associated with the brand and so popular that the phrase was added to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary in 2004.

5. Food portions in restaurants are typically smaller.

In Canada, portion sizes are smaller and junk food is more expensive.(Photo by Marco Verch)

While it is by no means a hard and fast rule that portion sizes are smaller in Canada, many travelers have found that portion sizes are generally not as large as they are below the border. Additionally, many people have pointed out that junk food in Canada is typically more expensive than it would be in the US.

6. The Canadian chip game is strong.

All-Dressed chips are popular in Canada. (Photo by Adam Dachis)

While every country has its own claims to fame in the chip aisle, Canadian chips are particularly famous and exclusive. Ketchup chips are especially revered both in Canada and around the globe for their tangy, vinegary, ketchupy-but-not-actually-like ketchup taste. They're made by a variety of companies including Lay's, but they've yet to make the pilgrimage down south.

Another Canadian snack-aisle staple is All-Dressed chips. Putting the exact flavor of All-Dressed into words is a little difficult but to help you imagine it just know that they're "dressed" in sour cream and onion, barbecue, ketchup, and salt and vinegar flavors — in other words they're all of your favorite chips combined. Ruffles brought the savory treats Stateside for a limited time but unless you were lucky enough to stock up on them then, the only way you can try them is by booking a ticket to Canada.

7. Maple syrup is seriously abundant.

Canada produces 71% of the world's maple syrup. (Photo by Marten Persson)

There's a reason why the Canadian flag features a maple leaf prominently in its center and why the Toronto hockey team is called the Toronto Maple Leafs — maple trees, and more importantly, maple syrup, are a big deal in the country. According to Maple from Canada, the country produces 71% of the world's maple syrup which means there's a lot of it within the country. Not only do Canadians use the syrup on its own or as a substitute for sugar, it also features prominently in other sweet treats such as maple taffy, cookies, and candy.

8. They eat beaver tails.

An apple cinnamon Beaver Tail. (Photo by Elsie Hui)

Ok, so they don't eat actual beaver tails, but rather a thick, elongated piece of fried dough covered in sweet toppings that is referred to as Beaver Tails. The pastry is reminiscent of something you would get at a state fair and is covered in a variety of toppings including cinnamon sugar, chocolate, apple cinnamon, and of course maple.

9. Their loaded fries are very different from ours.

Poutine is a popular Canadian dish consisting of fries topped with cheese curds and drenched in gravy. (Photo by Guillem Vellut)

When you think of loaded fries you probably think of some french fries topped with cheese, bacon, sour cream, and maybe a dash of spring onion. Canadians also have a loaded-fry equivalent but unlike ours they're made of only three key ingredients, fries, gravy, and cheese curds — the squeakier, the better. Poutine is yet another dish thatoriginated in francophone Quebec, but it is a staple all over Canada. In fact it's so popular, that you can get quality poutine at none other than McDonald's.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisInsider on Twitter.