We compare Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan and the USA to see which country has the healthiest approach to well balanced, nutrient dense meal planning.
A food guide is a visual representation of dietary guidelines, designed to help people make good food choices. Some guides include recommendations for lifestyle and exercise habits in addition to distinct food groups and nutrition guidance. While the general purpose of making suggestions for a healthy diet is standard, the guides themselves vary by country, with interesting differences in shape and design.
The Canadian government launched a brand new food guide last month. With its straightforward imagery of a dinner plate full of food groups in recommended proportions, it’s a simple picture of healthy eating.
The new food guide is noticeably devoid of dairy products, instead featuring fruits and vegetables as the superstars-- taking up 50% of the plate. Protein, whole grains, and water round out the plate, along with a sage reminder to incorporate a variety of different foods. This new approach to dietary health is all about eating colourful, heart-healthy foods and staying hydrated. For this reason, we look at Canada as having the most progressive, heart-healthy national food guide.
2. United States
Although the US food guide has taken on many forms over the years, its most recent instalment echoes the Canadian food guide by displaying food group recommendations via a simple place setting called “My Plate.” Fruits and vegetables take center stage in My Plate, with vegetables narrowly edging out fruit as the lead food group. Unlike the Canadian food guide, the US promotes dairy as its fifth food group, along with whole grains and protein.
Although water doesn’t make an appearance in the My Plate guide, the accompanying Dietary Guidelines for Americans reference makes age and weight-based recommendations for a balanced, healthy lifestyle, including proper hydration and exercise.
3. United Kingdom
The UK takes a slightly different approach to their food guide. The UK guide (christened the “Eatwell Guide”) is a colourful pie chart, that features pictures and suggestions for each food group. Along with dietary recommendations, the Eatwell guide offers guidance for average caloric requirements for men and women and reminders to hydrate and check food labels.
Much like My Plate in the US, the UK includes dairy as its own food group, along with whole grains, protein, and limited consumption of unsaturated fats and oils. The majority of the guide is devoted to heart-healthy food like fruits, vegetables, and sustainably-sourced fish and low-fat meats.
One of the most interesting food guide designs belongs to Japan and their “spinning top.” Built like an upside-down pyramid, it features a prominent reminder to get plenty of physical activity, represented by a figure running around the surface of the top.
Since rice is a staple in traditional Japanese diets, it’s no surprise that grains and rice sit at the top of the guide. Vegetables are a close second, with suggested examples including renowned anti-ageing powerhouses like carrots and leafy greens. Fruits, often included with vegetables in other food guides, fall at the very bottom of the spinning top, earning a recommendation of only two servings per day.
The visual representation of a top isn’t by accident. The Japanese food guide is all about balance and moderation, factoring in proper hydration, exercise, and even the occasional treat.
So how do these four countries stack up? We think the guides from Canada and Japan promote progressive, heart-healthy and balanced guides and that's why they are our picks for the top two. We're basing our choice on their commitment to omega-3 rich proteins, whole and ancient grains and a sizeable daily portion of fruits and veggies high in antioxidants. The choice to suggest limits on sugar and salt, and on recommending water instead of milk or fruit juices with a meal also helped rank these two countries higher.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on which national food guide you think packs the healthiest punch, or of any other countries who are leading the way in heart-healthy meal planning. Share you comments on our facebook page.
Track Your Diet, Lower Your Internal Age
No matter the shape or style, every country has one goal in mind for their food guide: to help citizens make the right food choices, increase their heart health, and enjoy a balanced, nutritious diet.
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