Why we just love Brazil's dietary guidelines
Brazil's dietary guidelines are all about loving and valuing a great meal, and we can't get enough of it
Almost every country in the world has advice they give to their citizens on the best way to eat healthily and take care of their own wellbeing. This advice is designed to be both genuinely helpful and easy to understand - it's not about giving the perfect advice, but advice people will actually take, and that might make a difference.
In the UK the one we know best is the old Five-A-Day - eat five portions of fruit and vegetable a day to stay healthy. Unfortunately, despite this advice having been around for years, no one really follows it - not to mention that scientists say that five-a-day isn't enough anyway.
So what's the problem? Well, that brings us to Brazil. Last year they published guidelines different from anything that had come before, anywhere else in the world. That's because they didn't only focus on rules about what you should and shouldn't eat, but on the culture of eating itself.
Before I get on to what I mean by that, let's take a look at those guidelines:
- Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods
- Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation
- Limit consumption of ready-to-consume food and drink products
- Eat regular meals, paying attention, and in appropriate environments
- Eat in company whenever possible
- Buy food at places that offer varieties of fresh foods. Avoid those that mainly sell products ready for consumption.
- Develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking
- Plan your time to give meals and eating proper time and space
- When you eat out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes and meals. Avoid fast food chains.
- Be critical of the commercial advertisement of food products
You see what I mean? Instead of focussing on individual ingredients, they get right down to it - avoid ready meals and fast food. Eat meals cooked from scratch. Learn to savour your food and value a good diet.
What we love about these guidelines is that it's not about rules and numbers - it's about habits and a way of life. It's also about recognising that, to eat healthily, people need to feel a connection with their food.
Reseach bears this out, too. For example, people that eat in company are more likely to try new foods, eat more slowly, and eat more healthy ingredients. Not to mention that it's great for general wellbeing.
What this advice is really saying is that people should take more time over their food. But there's the pitfall - in a city like London, who has time to cook every meal from scratch? When time is tight, of course people will nip to the nearest supermarket for a processed sandwich and a bag of crisps.
This doesn't mean it's impossible, not even slightly - it just means people can't do it on their own.
That's why Brazil's dietary guidelines really reinforce to us why we exist in the first place. We often tell clients that our aim is to create a food culture within the office, rather than just to serve meals. We also know that no amount of calorie-counting will make a pre-packaged, processed lasagne healthier than one we make from fresh tomatoes, herbs and beef that all arrived at our kitchen within 24 hours of you eating them.
Would the state of British diets be better if we had official guidance like this? Who knows. But if you want to start applying it in your office - to get your staff fighting fit and raring to go, maybe you should get in touch.