- 31 Aug 2018 12:21 PM
While many countries are still dealing with undernutrition, more and more people around the world are eating energy-dense, high-fat, high-sugar and high-salt foods. Urbanization, more sedentary types of work and changing modes of transportation are decreasing people’s levels of physical activity, creating entire populations at risk of obesity, overweight and related diseases.
Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975 and with it the increase of health-related problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. This trend is not confined to high-income countries.
In fact, in low- and middle-income countries, the number of overweight and obese people is on the rise at an even faster rate. At the same time, in many cases, low- and middle-income countries also have to deal with high rates of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies.
At a time when obesity is on the rise, dietary guidelines are that much more important. Based on the latest available evidence, guidelines are a country’s recommendations to its population for eating better and being healthier.
FAO’s website contains the most comprehensive compilation of dietary guidelines worldwide. More than 100 countries have developed dietary guidelines that are adapted to local food situations and populations.
Although the guidelines and food guides may vary in terms of structure and format (from booklets to posters and videos, from the popular food pyramid and South Korea’s roly-poly to Fiji’s pineapple and Guyana’s stew pot), the content has a lot of common advice.
7 eating habits that we know are good for us:
1. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
Some countries are very specific about the number of servings of fruits and vegetables that we should consume daily, for example Greece says six, Costa Rica and Iceland say five.
Canada even specifies the colours of vegetables to consume (one dark green and one orange vegetable a day). Serving sizes can vary by country; however, all guidelines recommend eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.
2. Watch your intake of fats
Said in different ways, most guidelines make mention of reducing solid, saturated fats and give recommendations for replacing animal fats with vegetable oils.
In Greece, olive oil is recommended, in Viet Nam it is sesame or peanut oil: demonstrating the importance of availability and cultural preference in each country’s guidelines.
3. Cut back on foods and beverages high in sugar
It is generally agreed upon that processed sugar is harmful to our health. The guidelines in every country recommend to maintain a low-sugar diet and to choose fruits over processed sweets or sugary beverages to satisfy a sweet tooth.
4. Reduce sodium/salt
Nigeria mentions reducing the use of bouillon cubes; Malta specifies limiting ready-made food high in sodium. Colombia on the other hand suggests limiting processed meats, canned foods and packaged products that usually have high salt content. Across all countries, the general agreement is that diets with less salt are better for you.
5. Drink water regularly
Across the board, the guidelines recommend that water is the best thirst-quencher. Of course, we should always first make sure that the water is safe for drinking.
6. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation
If you do choose to drink alcohol, whether that is beer, wine or spirits, the general consensus is that it should be done in moderation.
7. Make physical activity part of your day, every day
For people who have more sedentary jobs or lifestyles, the broad recommendation is to get at least 30 minutes of daily exercise. However, Benin's guidelines point out that for people with jobs that require hard physical labour, additional exercise is not of top importance.