Abstract Inuit in Nunavut (NU) and Inuvialuit in the Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada, were traditionally nomadic peoples whose culture and lifestyle were founded on hunting and gathering foods from the local environment, primarily land and marine mammals. Lifestyle changes within the last century have brought about a rapid nutrition transition, characterised by decreasing consumption of traditional foods and an associated increase in the consumption of processed, shop-bought foods. This transition may be attributed to a multitude of factors, such as acculturation, overall food access and availability, food insecurity and climate change. Obesity and risk for chronic disease are higher in the Canadian Arctic population compared with the Canadian national average. This present review describes the study population and methodologies used to collect data in order to study the nutrition transition amongst Aboriginal Arctic populations and develop Healthy Foods North (HFN), a novel, multi-institutional and culturally appropriate programme that aims to improve dietary adequacy and reduce risk of chronic disease. Included in this special issue of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics are papers describing dietary intake patterns, physical activity levels, dietary behaviours, chronic disease prevalence and psychosocial factors that potentially mediate behaviour. A further paper describes how these data were utilised to inform and develop Healthy Foods North.