The Chinese Nutrition Society has identified three main problems in Chinese nutrition. As part of its whole-of-society approach to resolve this, the society has launched the 2016 edition of Chinese Dietary Guidelines to effect a culture change.
China must take a whole-of-society approach to tackle its three key nutritional problems, according to Professor Yuexin Yang, president of the Chinese Nutrition Society.
Speaking at the launch of the new edition of the society’s Chinese Dietary Guidelines, Professor Yang said the main problems in Chinese nutrition today are: Unhealthy portion sizes; Unhealthy dietary behaviour; and A dietary culture that can adversely influence the next generation’s.
In the case of unhealthy food portion sizes, Professor Yang noted in particular the increase in intake of sweet beverages and meat.
“Although there has been a decrease in salt intake, the consumption level remains above the recommended amount,” she added.
Consumers also have an unhealthy dietary behaviour — consuming more fast-food and alcohol. The current dietary culture too is a cause for concern as the taste preferences of the older generation — biased towards salty, preserved foods — may filter down to the next generation as well.
“As such, dietary behaviour is largely tied to education within the family; a whole-of-society approach is needed to affect this culture,” she said.
The new dietary guidelines — providing a major revision to the previous guide published in 2007 — is part of this new approach, aiming to establish a new balanced diet model and resolve current public nutrition issues.
Drafted by the Chinese Nutrition Society and released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China, the new guidelines provide guidance for the Chinese population on appropriate food choices, which ultimately play a role in the prevention of diseases.
The primary goal of the six recommendations in the guidelines is to establish a balanced diet model and to resolve public nutrition issues.
Diet goes pro cereal
A balanced diet, the guidelines state, is the major contributor in meeting one’s nutritional needs and maintaining good health. The recommended average daily intake consists of at least 12 different types of food, and a weekly intake of at least 25. A diet based on cereals is an important characteristic of a balanced diet; a daily diet should include cereals, vegetables, fruit, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, soybeans and nuts, among others.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Body weight is an important indicator of one’s nutrition and health status. The balance between energy intake and expenditure is key to maintaining a healthy body weight. People of all ages should exercise daily and cut down on sedentary time. Moderate-level physical activity, of about 6,000 steps per day, and at least 150 minutes over five days per week, is recommended.
Ensure a daily intake of 300g-500g of vegetables, with dark vegetables accounting for half the portion; 200g-350g of fresh fruit; soy derivatives equivalent to 25g of soybeans or more; and a variety of dairy products, equivalent to 300g of liquid milk.
Consume fish, poultry, eggs and lean meat in moderate amounts
These are good sources of nutrients, including high-quality protein and vitamins A and B. The guidelines recommend these specific amounts for weekly intake: 280g-525g of fish, 280g-525g of meat and poultry; and 280g-350g of eggs. The total daily intake for fish, poultry, meat and eggs should be kept to 120g-200g.
Limit intake of salt, oil, sugar and alcohol
Consumers are advised to develop a “light diet” and reduce intake of foods that are fried and high in salt. The daily intake of table salt, cooking oil and added sugars for an adult should be less than 6g, 25g-30g and 50g, respectively. Adults should drink seven to eight cups of water daily and avoid, or reduce consumption of, sugary drinks. Alcohol consumption should be limited to 25g for men and 15g for women each day.
Eliminate food waste
Frugality is a virtue in Chinese culture, the guidelines state. Buying and preparing food according to one’s needs, as well as splitting meals to avoid wasting food, is encouraged. This recommendation includes appreciation of food and practising adequate food preparation. Choose fresh and clean ingredients; separate raw and cooked food during preparation; reheat cooked food thoroughly; learn to read food labels and spend more time having meals with family.
Professor Yang said: “It is my hope that there will be a whole-of-society approach towards reducing oil, salt and sugar content in foods, and towards promotion of a balanced diet and development of a nutrition-oriented manufacturing sector.”
Indeed, the 2016 guidelines aim not only to advise consumers on the appropriate diet but also to encourage food manufacturing and food supply sectors to be oriented towards boosting health and nutrition among consumers.
A balanced diet is the major contributor in meeting one’s nutritional needs and maintaining good health. The recommended average daily intake consists of at least 12 different types of food, and a weekly intake of at least 25.
Professor Yuexin Yang, in addition to her role as president of the Chinese Nutrition Society, is professor of nutrition and director of the Department of Food and Nutrition Assessment at the National Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety, China CDC. She is also a member of the Asian Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN), a regional, multi-stakeholder partnership that seeks to address the challenges of malnutrition and chronic disease in the Asia region.