Canada is a large, diverse country with a population of 37 million people, most of whom live in urban centers. As one of the most multicultural countries in the world, Canadians come from all across the globe, and bring along their unique habits and attitudes towards food. While some would say that traditional Canadian foods are things like maple syrup and poutine (french fries with cheese curds and gravy from Quebec), the food stories of Canadians are as wide and diverse as Canada’s geography.
In 2019, Canada released what some would describe as a revolutionary new food guide, which promotes greater consumption of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and plant-based proteins and a decrease in consumption of highly processed foods. The food guide also emphasizes a holistic approach to eating – enjoying eating, sharing meals with others, and cooking whenever possible. If Canadians were to adapt these recommendations, this would be a major shift in dietary habits: the vast majority of Canadians currently eat unhealthy diets, made up largely of ‘ultra-processed’ foods that have ill effects on both our health and the health of the planet.
These new dietary guidelines are a good reminder that our dietary choices have multiple impacts – not only on our health, but impacts related to sustainability and climate change, the environment, and our food culture and traditions. Canadians make hundreds of food decisions every day within environments where healthy, sustainable choices can be difficult. What are some of the ways we can nurture healthy food choices among Canadians that can support human and planetary health? Let’s see!
Brazil is a middle-income country from the Latin America region. In the year 2020, its population is around 211 million people.
Brazil is a huge country with five main regions (South, Southeast, Mid-West, North, and Northeast). In the Brazilian context, buying and cooking with fresh foods is still less expensive than buying/eating ultra-processed foods. For this reason, most of the Brazilian population in all regions still consume the traditional Brazilian diet, usually made up of rice and beans, roots and tubers, vegetables, meat, fresh fruits, and other unprocessed and minimally processed foods. However, the last few decades this has started to change. The prices of some fresh and minimally processed foods, like vegetables and meat, are increasing while the prices of ultra-processed foods, like sausages and confectioneries, are decreasing. In addition, Brazilians are eating away from home more often.
In 2014, Brazil released a new food guide with this golden rule: “always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed foods.” In other words, opt for water, milk, and fruits instead of soft drinks, dairy drinks, and biscuits; do not replace freshly prepared dishes with products that do not require culinary preparation; and stick to homemade desserts, avoiding industrialized ones. In 2019, the Brazilian Ministry of Health published their new Dietary Guidelines for children under 2 years, reinforcing the importance of valuing the Brazilian traditional diets and avoiding ultra-processed foods to protect and promote Brazilian children’s health.
Both the Brazilian guidelines are aligned about the necessity to promote and protect people and planet health. This can be achieved by promoting healthy and sustainable food systems and facilitating people’s better food choices.