Nutrition around the world: Download our guide
Get your five-a-day. Eat less salt. Aim for lower sugar consumption. We’re encouraged to follow government guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet.
But, in fact, not all governments around the world agree on what healthy eating is. In some cases, the differences are startling.
We did some research then enlisted the help of George Hamlyn Williams, principal dietician at The Hospital Group, to analyse the official dietary guidelines of 15 countries all around the world. We’ve also looked at the national dish from each country to see how the ingredients stack up against the recommended diet and reveal what percentage of each population has a BMI (body mass index) over 30 and is therefore classed as obese.
From Canada to China and Norway to the US, we put some of the globe’s most diverse countries under the microscope when it comes to healthy eating and collated all the information into a handy portion size PDF guide.
The Sunday Roast: A healthy national dish?
Before we take a trip around the world, let’s take a closer look at the United Kingdom. The UK’s Eatwell Guide bases its recommendations around food groups in general, as opposed to specific food items and portion sizes.
The UK guidelines suggest we should eat five portions of fruit and veg per day, and two portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily. Brits are also encouraged to eat wholegrain or higher fibre versions of starchy items, such as potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta, which are healthier than white or refined starchy foods
And, it’s good news for anyone that enjoys the UK’s national dish of the classic Sunday Roast, as the dish is relatively healthy when certain items such as Yorkshire puddings and cauliflower cheese are voided.
Our dietician, George, commented: “The quintessentially British Sunday Roast can be the perfect example of a balanced meal. A plate of two or three slices roast chicken (skin removed), a variety of vegetables and some new potatoes or roast potatoes (cooked in a splash of olive oil) with the skins left on, with a small amount of gravy would be a great example.”
The weight of the world: BMI stats around the globe
Although it’s not always a perfect measure, body mass index (BMI) uses your height and weight to determine if your weight is heathy, and recommends that most adults should aim for a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 to be considered on the right track. Anyone with a BMI over 25 is considered overweight, while those with a BMI between 30 and 39.9 are considered obese.
The country with the lowest percentage of obese citizens is China, with just 2.9% of the population with a BMI over 30. It seems that its unique approach to food guidelines, which recommends eating at least 12 different types of food per day, may help to keep most its nationals trim.
Just behind is Japan, with just 3.1% of its population considered obese. Italy comes in at third place with 9.8% of its nation with a BMI over 30, suggesting that there’s a lot more to the Italian diet than the pizza and pasta the country is famous for.
At the other end of the scale, the US and United Arab Emirates (UAE) fared the worst when it comes to obesity levels with 33.9% of US and 33.7% of UAE citizens considered obese. That’s just over a third of their respective populations.
To explore the dietary guidelines of all 15 countries used in our study in more depth, download our PDF guide. Here, you’ll discover how portion sizes change from country to country and learn about some of the world’s weird but wonderful national dishes.