A (food) guided trip around the world
By: Curtis D’Hollander
In the Spring 2019 issue of NutriNews, a wonderful article was written about the new Canada’s Food Guide. It demonstrates how this new guide, released in January of 2019, encapsulates a holistic approach, answering not just ‘what’ to eat but also ‘how’ to eat. The food guide highlights topics such as being mindful of your eating habits, cooking more often, eating meals with others, and enjoying your food. It abolished the rainbow visual so many Canadians were accustomed to, for a plate model demonstrating healthy proportions. To read more about Canada’s food guide visit the Spring 2019 NutriNews article or visit the Canada Food Guide Website.
Canada has received some positive feedback for the new and improved food guide, but how does this compare to food guides around the world? This article sets out to answer just that! This will be a journey around the world with a stop in each continent.
Our first stop is Europe, with Sweden’s food guide.
Overview: This is one of the most well-known food guides in the world! It is officially called “Find your way to eat greener, not too much and to be active!” This edition was last revised in 2015 and is meant for all Swedes over the age of two (except pregnant women and vegetarians).
Key Messages: It uses a stop light visual and clear, simple graph. The message is to:
- have more fruits and vegetables and seafood, and to exercise
- switch to whole grains, healthier fat, and low fat dairy products
- have less red and processed meat, salt, sugar, and maintain a balance.
Ultimately, the goal is decrease cardiovascular disease (CVD), overweight, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Noteworthy Items: It is the simplicity of this design which stands out, think Ikea! The simplicity of it is almost, refreshing. All of the recommendations are understandable, sensible, and doable. Certainly a simple message, but nonetheless, an effective one.
Next we travel to the land down under, Australia!
Overview: The Australian dietary guidelines were last updated in 2013. These guidelines are intended for Australians over 2 years, including populations with unique nutrition requirements such as pregnant women, or older adults.
Key Messages: Australia uses a plate visual with the proportions representative of how much of each of the 5 food groups Aussie’s should eat. The food groups are: grain cereal foods; vegetables and legumes/beans; fruits; lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds; and reduced fat dairy products and/or alternatives. Outside of the plate contains advice to drink water, use small amounts of oils, and to limit alcohol and processed foods.
Noteworthy Items: The Australian food guide is very user friendly in that it visually shows many examples of the types of food in each food group. It is easy to follow, and visually appeasing.
Now we head to Asia, and the country of Japan.
Overview: Japan’s dietary guidelines were last revised in 2010 at the same time the dietary reference intakes for Japanese were revised. The ‘Japanese food guide spinning top’ is designed to represent the well-known traditional Japanese toy. The guidelines are for all healthy Japanese individuals.
Key Messages: Each layer of the top represents a food group, in order of the daily recommended servings. At the top is grain dishes, followed by vegetables dishes, fish and meat dishes, milk, and fruits, with examples of each. A person running on the top encourages physical activity, and water/tea is recommended as the beverage of choice.
Noteworthy Items: Japan was able to seamlessly integrate the spinning top into their food guide making it very unique. It uses great visuals to demonstrate what foods and dishes equate to a serving.
Heading to Africa, we visit the country of Benin.
Overview: Benin’s dietary guidelines were last updated in 2015. The Benin guidelines are aimed at the healthy population 2 years and older, although, there are also serving size recommendations by age and gender, as well as for pregnant women. The design is that of a round traditional house with a thatch roof.
Key Messages: Five food groups are displayed within the round house. At the bottom is cereals/tubers, followed by plant/animal protein foods, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products. Although, the recommended serving size does not decrease following this pattern exactly. A supplementary table is needed to know the number of required servings. At the entrance is a bottle of water to serve as a reminder to drink plenty of water.
Noteworthy Items: The use of the round house makes Benin’s food guide very unique. Interestingly, the bottle of water at the entrance also serves as a symbol of the Beninese hospitality.
Lastly, but certainly not least, we visit Brazil in South America.
Overview: Brazil’s guidelines have also received high praise. It uniquely emphasizes the importance of making socially and environmentally sustainable choices, and unlike other countries, it does not include a colourful picture. The guidelines were last revised in 2014 and targets Brazilians 2 years and older.
Key Messages: The Brazilian guidelines includes ten steps to healthy diets. A couple of noteworthy steps include:
- limit consumption of processed foods
- eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments, and, whenever possible, in company
- develop, exercise, and share cooking skills.
Noteworthy Items: Brazil’s food guide is very unique in that it does not include a visual, and was the first food guide to incorporate social and environmental sustainability in such depth
As we land back in Canada, I hope you have enjoyed our trip around the world! In summary, all cultures enjoy a wide variety of different foods, have different food availability, and unique dietary patterns which makes a universal food guide impossible. Nonetheless, most use some visual representation to demonstrate proportions, have food groups, and have a quantitative recommendation. Perhaps, instead of focusing on the differences among the food guides, finding the commonalities is where the root of a good diet lies. Pulling and learning from other nations healthy food guides, may only improve our own diet.
To learn more about the history of Canada’s food guide, visit here for an article written in the Spring 2018 edition of NutriNews.
Curtis D’Hollander is a 1st year MSc student in the lab of Dr. Jonathon Maguire at the Department of Nutritional Sciences
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