New Chinese Dietary Guidelines A Reference for Industry

Source: Chinese Nutrition Society

Industry has a role in creating a conducive environment to support a healthy, balanced diet, says Professor Yuexin Yang, president of the Chinese Nutrition Society, in reference to the new Chinese Dietary Guidelines (2016).

The new guidelines were released on 13 May, just prior to China’s second annual National Nutrition Week, a series of programmes and activities aimed at promoting awareness of proper health and nutrition among members of the public.

Drafted by the Chinese Nutrition Society and released by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People's Republic of China, the 2016 guidelines are a major revision to the previous guide published in 2007. Professor Yang said, “Apart from guiding consumers toward adopting a balanced diet, the Chinese Dietary Guidelines also serve as a reference point for the food industry.”

“As mentioned in the National Program for Food and Nutrition (2014-2020), food manufacturing and food supply sectors should be oriented toward boosting health and nutrition. A balanced diet is not just about a single individual, but requires the efforts of the whole society. The new dietary guidelines mention the control of oil, salt, sugar and alcohol intake.”

According to Professor Yang, there are three main nutrition problems in China today. She said the first problem is that of unhealthy portion sizes: Among consumers, there has been an 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. Secondly, unhealthy dietary behaviour is prevalent – people are consuming more fast food and alcohol. Lastly, dietary culture poses a problem as well. Many older people prefer to eat salty, preserved food, and this tends to affect the tastes of family members in the next generation.

“As such, dietary behaviour is largely tied to education within the family; a whole-of-society approach is needed to affect this culture”, said Professor Yang.

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 guidelines is to establish a balanced diet model and to resolve public nutrition issues; as such, they provide six recommendations:

1. Eat a variety of foods; have a diet that is cereal-based

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.

2. Be physically active to 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.

3. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, and soy and dairy products

Ensure a daily intake of 300-500 grams of vegetables, with dark vegetables accounting for half the portion; 200-350 grams of fresh fruit; soy derivatives equivalent to 25 grams of soybeans or more; and a variety of dairy products, equivalent to 300 grams of liquid milk.

4. 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: 280-525 grams of fish, 280-525 grams of meat and poultry; and 280-350 grams of eggs. The total daily intake for fish, poultry, meat and eggs should be kept to 120-200 grams.

5. 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 6 grams, 25-30 grams and 50 grams, 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 25 grams for men and 15 grams for women each day.

6. Develop healthy eating habits and 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 toward reducing oil, salt and sugar content in foods, and toward promotion of a balanced diet and development of a nutrition-oriented manufacturing sector.”

In addition to her role as president of the Chinese Nutrition Society, Professor Yuexin Yang is professor of nutrition and the 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.

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