Eatin’ Like In Sweden

Today the nutrition community is all in a frenzy over the release of the highly anticipated (and overdue) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015. [I like that they tried to hide their tardiness by calling this 8th edition the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.” Maybe they were hoping to buy themselves another year or two?] While the nutrition community and pundits will debate the effectiveness or science base or applicability of the updated Guidelines, I’ve decided for the time being to defect to Sweden – dietarily, anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep respect for the Dietary Guidelines process and how it will be applied in nutrition policy. And I will pore over the 2015 revision in due time and make my own conclusions about those. But I can’t help but think that we could do a much better service to health professionals and the general public with simple guidelines. Like this one-minute summary of the Swedish Dietary Guidelines:

SwedishMyPlate
Key messages from the Swedish dietary guidelines

Here’s why I like it:

  • The messages are clear. Have more of this, less of that, and make better choices like these.
  • The messages are positive. There’s no language like “never” or “don’t” as in “don’t eat sweets.” Because let’s face it, we all like to treat ourselves every so often (just not too often).
  • The messages imply that all foods are in relation to one another…and that’s how we eat. We tend to get stuck on the notion of an “ideal” diet. But the fact is, we’re all human and we all have different ways we approach food – and likely different ways we metabolize food. The best approach I think is to consider individual food items in relation to one another.
  • This takes a mindful approach to food, which is key to healthy eating. Making food decisions, a person could take this tool and think to themselves: could I add more broccoli to this meal? Should I have a glass of wine with dinner tonight given I had two glasses last night? That’s being mindful and thoughtful about what you eat when you’re eating. Even the healthiest eater could likely stand to eat more vegetables and less salt. Show me someone – anyone – who is counting up all their sodium values from Nutrition Facts labels to ensure they’re staying within their 2,300 mg daily limit. Right…I thought so.

I applaud the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on its science-based review of the latest evidence and for compiling its tome of a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And I appreciate the time and effort taken by our government officials to take those recommendations into consideration as they set nutrition policy. But next time, can’t we just keep it simple, like the Swedes? Tack.

 

Photo credit, cover photo: by Carlos Porto. Published on 13 June 2010
Stock photo – Image ID: 10017690

Published by

Elana Natker, MS, RD

I'm a dietitian, communications professional, wife, mother - just your typical modern-day woman trying to juggle it all.

4 thoughts on “Eatin’ Like In Sweden

  1. Succinct, good advice, colorful, it’s perfect! The only thing I wonder about is dairy. There seems to be emerging evidence that full fat dairy products, or at least 2% is actually better than non-fat. What do you think?

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  2. Good question. I’ve been reading up a bit on the shift in thoughts on sat fat and am interested in where the science nets out. Seems to be in its infancy still. I have a hard time believing that higher-fat milk may be *better* than nonfat – could it be more that it’s a wash? I don’t know, but I’m reading into it. Thanks!

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  3. i agree with the Swedish version esp for public because the message is direct, clear, and very relatable. also, i feel like DGA has its own place and purpose for policy makers and federal programs but as a RD, we all should continue sending the same message of unprocessed, wholesome approach to food with moderation and take personalized approach. i have been reading so many different perspectives on this topic and very curious to see where it will take us next.

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