Food for Thought

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Enjoying food: Ground-breaking dietary guidelines from Brazil. 
“The guide is not just concerned with avoiding obesity and disease,” says Jean-Claude Moubarac. “It is also designed to encourage positive good health and well-being. All the advice has been summed up in three universal ‘golden rules’ that everybody in the world will benefit from following:

  • Make fresh and minimally processed foods the basis of your diet 
  • Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation when preparing dishes and meals 
  • Limit consumption of ready-to eat food and drink products.

The draft guidelines take a whole new look at food and nutrition. Developed with the support of the Centre for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition of the University of São Paulo and the Pan American Health Organization, its preparation has also been supported by workshops held in 2011 and 2013, involving researchers, other health professionals and educators, and civil organisations from all Brazilian regions. At this stage, the guide been approved by Brazil’s Minister of Health and is now out for public consultation.

Dr Jean-Claude Moubarac, who was involved in creating the ground-breaking guide, explains. “The guide takes a broad and comprehensive view of health, including the social, cultural, economic and environmental dimensions of food systems and supplies and so of dietary patterns. In particular it examines the central role of different types of processing on the quality of diets.” The ten main recommendations are:

  1. Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods. 
  2. Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation. 
  3. Limit consumption of ready-to-consume food and drink products 
  4. Eat regular meals, paying attention, and in appropriate environments. 
  5. Eat in company whenever possible. 
  6. Buy food at places that offer varieties of fresh foods. Avoid those that mainly sell products ready for consumption. 
  7. Develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking. 
  8. Plan your time to give meals and eating proper time and space. 
  9. When you eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes and meals. Avoid fast food chains. 
  10. Be critical of the commercial advertisement of food products. 

Cornucopia of foods

In a statement that resonates worldwide, Patricia Jaime, Ministry of Health coordinator of Food and Nutrition, the pivotal point of contact in Brazil for the guide, says: “We need to protect and preserve the Brazilian tradition of enjoyment of meals as a central part of family, social and workplace life. The planning of meals, exchange of recipes with friends, and involvement of the whole family in preparing food to enjoy together, are all part of a healthy life. Of course it is true that making meals at home takes time. But this is time we can share with our loved ones, including children. Freshly prepared meals are still cheaper than ready-to-consume snack and drink products. Also, protecting personal and family good health and well-being will save time and money spent on health care”

Dr Jean-Claude Moubarac

Jean-Claude Moubarac Dr Jean-Claude Moubarac has a background in anthropology and a PhD in public health. He undertook his post-doctoral studies in public health and nutrition at the School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He is committed to an integrated approach to nutrition and health which involves taking into account its social, cultural, economic, political and environmental dimensions.He coordinates an international research program studying the role of cooking and of food processing in shaping dietary practices, with implications for diet quality and obesity.

The complete guide in Portuguese is HERE.