The Best Dietary Guidelines in the World

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Photo from: Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population

Reliable information is key in making good food choices in today's abundance of Internet articles related to nutrition. The Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population 2nd edition, released in 2014 were praised by many critics to be the best in the world. You can read and download the English version for free here.

The 152 pages of this document contain information not only about nutrition, but include also the social, cultural, environmental and economical aspects of our eating habits. It serves as a great guide for a healthy diet. It is based on the latest research results in the nutrition field, gives practical examples and is written in a very easy to read manner. The examples provided in the guidelines do have a specific Brazilian note, as they are actual meals consumed by one of the 30.000 Brazilians who took part in the Household Budget Survey of Brazil in 2008-2009. Nonetheless, they can be a good starting point in preparing your next delicious meal, no matter where you live! The most important thoughts are summarized at the end of the document in the Ten Steps to Healthy Diets

1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet 

Natural or minimally processed foods, in great variety, and mainly of plant origin, are the basis for diets that are nutritionally balanced, delicious, culturally appropriate, and supportive of socially and environmentally sustainable food systems. Variety means foods of all types — cereals, legumes, roots, tubers, vegetables, fruits, nuts, milk, eggs, meat — and diversity within each type — such as beans and lentils, rice and corn, potato and cassava, tomatoes and squash, orange and banana, chicken and fish.

2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations

As long as they are used in moderation in dishes and meals based on natural or minimally processed foods, oils, fats, salt, and sugar contribute to diverse and delicious diets without making them nutritionally unbalanced.

[I must comment here! There are certain oils and fats that are especially good for us. Omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, which have a strong anti-inflammatory affect on our body. You can find it in salmon, but in other fatty fish and some seeds like chia and linseed as well. Extravirgin olive oil, which contains a lot of polyphenols. These fats are good for us and should be consumed on a regular basis. The average greek eats 44 l of olive oil in a year. The mediterranian diet is known for its health benefits.

With salt I agree. I also use it only in moderation.

With sugar I am more drastic. We don't need it. It's that simple. It is an industry product that is a drug and it doesn't benefit our health in any way. So I recommend you to cut it out of your diet altogether.]

3. Limit consumption of processed foods

The ingredients and methods used in the manufacture of processed foods — such as vegetables in brine, fruits in syrup, cheeses and breads — unfavourably alter the nutritional composition of the foods from which they are derived. In small amounts, processed foods can be used as ingredients in dishes and meals based on natural or minimally processed foods.

4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed foods

Because of their ingredients, ultra-processed foods such as salty fatty packaged snacks, soft drinks, sweetened breakfast cereals, and instant noodles, are nutritionally unbalanced. As a result of their formulation and presentation, they tend to be consumed in excess, and displace natural or minimally processed foods. Their means of production, distribution, marketing, and consumption damage culture, social life, and the environment.

5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company

Make your daily meals at regular times. Avoid snacking between meals. Eat slowly and enjoy what you are eating, without engaging in another activity. Eat in clean, comfortable and quiet places, where there is no pressure to consume unlimited amounts of food. Whenever possible, eat in company, with family, friends, or colleagues: this increases the enjoyment of food and encourages eating regularly, attentively, and in appropriate environments. Share household activities that precede or succeed the consumption of meals.

6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods

Shop in supermarkets and municipal and farmers markets, or buy directly from producers or other places, that sell varieties of natural or minimally processed foods. Prefer vegetables and fruits that are locally grown in season. Whenever possible, buy organic and agroecological based foods, preferably directly from the producers.

7. Develop, exercise and share cooking skills

If you have cooking skills, develop them and share them, especially with boys and girls. If you do not have these skills — men as well as women —acquire them. Learn from and talk with people who know how to cook. Ask family, friends, and colleagues for recipes, read books, check the internet, and eventually take courses. Start cooking!

8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life

Plan the food shopping, organise your domestic stores, and decide on meals in advance. Share with family members the responsibility for all activities related to meals. Make the preparation and eating of meals privileged times of conviviality and pleasure. Assess how you live so as to give proper time for food and eating.

9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals

Eat in places that serve fresh meals at good prices. Self-service restaurants and canteens that serve food buffet-style charged by weight are good choices. Avoid fast food chains.

10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

The purpose of advertising is to increase product sales, and not to inform or educate people. Be critical and teach children to be critical of all forms of food advertising and marketing.