Food Guide = Here’s the alphabet – now go read a book
A lot of food guides and nutrition labels are well intended, but they are sort of like showing a person the alphabet and then expecting them to read a book. They've forgotten the "how" portion of things. It's also like trying to learn to swim from reading a book – it leads to a lot of disasters. Or it's like saying "Win games and then you win championships." But how do you win the games?
Our efforts to date seem to be misdirected, as our blossoming over-weight and obesity numbers are, well, blossoming. (See my article on the latest data What ever happened to normal?.)
People know they should eat better, but most do not. Perhaps focusing on "how" rather than "what" is the answer.
So, let's assume you know what the food guide information actually means – what people really struggle with then is: "How do you apply this in life?" "How do I eat like I am supposed to?" "What's the eating strategy?"
Enter the answer – the Brazil food guide.
Brazil's food guide is receiving rave reviews because it talks about "how" far more than "what" to eat.
Unlike food guides in Canada and the United States, it does not;
- include arranging food groups in pie or pyramid shapes, adding up recommended servings listed in grams,
- require people to measure servings of pasta by the half-cup, or carve up steak into helpings the size of a deck of cards.
Instead, Brazil's proposed guide:
- emphasizes meals, not nutrients
- urges people to be critical of food-industry advertising, and
- introduces healthy eating as a lifestyle choice that involves learning how to cook from scratch and taking the time to sit down and eat with others.
The ten key points of the Brazil food guide are:
1. Prepare meals using fresh and staple foods.
2. Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation.
3. Limit consumption of ready-to-eat food and drink products.
4. Eat at regular mealtimes and pay attention to your food instead of multitasking. Find a comfortable place to eat. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets and noisy, stressful environments.
5. Eat with others whenever possible.
6. Buy food in shops and markets that offer a variety of fresh foods. Avoid those that sell mainly ready-to-eat products.
7. Develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking.
8. Decide as a family to share cooking responsibilities and dedicate enough time for healthy meals.
9. When you eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes. Avoid fast-food chains.
10. Be critical of food-industry advertising.
You can download the Brazilian food guide here.