Santé publique France has updated its recommendations on diet and healthy lifestyle. Aside from encouraging its people to move more, the French National Health and Nutrition Programme (PNNS), available here in French, provides recommendations regarding food choice, in three categories: ‘Increase’, ‘Go towards’ and ‘Reduce’.
“We wanted to give big orientations rather than quantified objectives,” explained Santé publique France’s head of food and physical activity, Anne-Juliette Serry in a statement.
“These formulations are perceived as less restrictive by the general public. They cause a gradual change, adapting to the pace of each [person].”
Increase, go towards, reduce
Increase: Fruits and vegetables (at least 5 servings per day); legumes and pulses, such as lentils, beans, chickpeas etc. (at least twice a week); nuts.
Go towards: Rapeseed and olive oil; organic food products; seasonal and locally-produced foods; a sufficient but modest consumption of dairy products; whole wheat or wholegrain bread, wholegrain pasta, brown rice, wholemeal flour.
Reduce: Products with Nutri-Score rankings ‘D’ and ‘E’; cured meats; sweet foods and sugar-added drinks; alcohol; products with high salt content, meat (pork, beef, veal, mutton, lamb, offal).
Spotlight on unsalted nuts and pulses
New to the 2019 dietary guidance is a focus on unsalted nuts, pulses, and wholegrain products.
According to a study conducted between 2014 and 2016 in France, 60% of adults did not incorporate wholegrain nor minimally processed foods into their diet. More than 85% weren't eating the recommended amount of lentils and pulses. In 2015, 80% of adults in France did not include any unsalted nuts in their daily eating regime.
This latest guidance, however, recommends adults consume a small handful of unsalted nuts every day.
The Almond Board of California has supported the move, which it says will help to increase the amount of protein, fibre, good fats and essential nutrients consumed in France.
“Almonds are bursting with natural goodness, vitamins and nutrients, and contain 160 calories per [28 g] handful,” according to the Board.
“In order to easily integrate them into your daily diet, and thus enjoy their benefits, there is nothing better than eating your recommended daily handful as a snack.”
For the first time, the guidance also draws attention to the Nutri-Score logo. The recommendations advise consumers take notice of the logo, which can help them make healthier decisions when buying processed food products.
The nutritional logo was developed in 2017 and is now recommended by public authorities in France, in Belgium and in Spain. The logo is based on a five-colour scale from dark green to dark orange, combined with letters from A to E – which aims to categorise the product’s nutritional quality in an easy-to-read way for the consumer.
According to Serge Hercberg, president of the PNNS, Nutri-Score is also helping to build healthy competition between brands.
“It will incite companies to better position their products on the colour scale compared to their competitors’ products,” he said in a statement last year.
“This will lead to improved nutritional quality of products with, for example, companies removing, whenever possible, sugar, salt or fat."
Almost half of France’s adult population is overweight or obese. This equates to approximately 7 million adults, of which one third is overweight, and 17% is obese.
Close to 18% of children in France aged between 6 and 17-years-old are overweight or obese. This situation has not changed in 10 years.
The 2019 guidance also encourages consumers to make food-related decisions with the environment in mind. The government has advised shoppers to select seasonal fruit and vegetables from local - and if possible - organic producers.
According to the PNNS, France recognises that other European countries including Germany and Sweden, incorporate environmental sustainability into their national food recommendations, and in 2019, is looking to do the same.
Environmental sustainability has been increasingly incorporated into dietary guidelines. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released recommendations for healthy eating based on sustainable food choices, and earlier this month, the EAT-Lancet Commission issued the world’s first scientific targets for a healthy diet that places food production within the Earth’s limits, covering climate change, biodiversity loss, and land and water use.