Nutrition recommendations for all

Nutrition is an important part of health

Nutrition and exercise are among the most important cornerstones of our health. A healthy diet and an adequate daily exercise regime promote health and reduce the risk of many non-contagious diseases, such as cardiac and pulmonary diseases, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain cancer types. Correct dietary choices also promote dental health.

Dietary habits have changed for better

The dietary habits of Finnish people have in the recent decades changed in a positive direction. The consumption of vegetables, fruit, berries and rye bread has increased. Low-fat and fat-free dairy products, vegetable oils and vegetable fat spreads are already part of the diet for the majority of Finns. Salt is used in smaller quantities.

Less desirable changes include an increase in the consumption of meat and sweets. Larger consumption amounts of various sweet and acid beverages and particularly alcohol are not in line with health objectives, either.

The changes in dietary habits are reflected in the intake of nutrients with the relative shares of energy nutrients already approaching the recommended values. The quality of fat and the intake of salt, however, still leave a lot to be desired. With the exception of vitamin D, the intake of vitamins and minerals can actually be considered abundant.

Health risks reduced but replaced by new challenges

The health of the population has shown favourable changes, partly due to improved nutrition: annual cardiovascular mortality has decreased by about 80% since the 1970s and the prevalence of many cancerous diseases has decreased or the diseases have transferred to older age groups. New challenges include population weight increase and the health problems associated with it, such as type 2 diabetes. Inadequate exercise plays an important role in weight gain, but dietary changes also contribute to it. This is particularly true with younger people and with sugar-containing products and fast food. Dental caries is also on the increase again among young people.

These new challenges call for correct guiding action from the government and cooperation between many different parties to support the people in making choices that promote their health in terms of both food and exercise.

This site provides information about nutrition recommendations issued in Finland and other countries, tips for food choices that are consistent with recommendations as well as important documentation related to nutrition and health policy.

Finnish Nutrition Recommendations 2014

The new nutrition recommendations by the National Nutrition Council are published in 2014. The recommendations target all Finns, and as a rule they follow the Nordic recommendations published in autumn 2013 (NNR2012). The focus is on a comprehensive idea of a health-promoting diet, composed of the quality, quantity and role as source of nutrients of various kinds of foods and their link to human health.

The recommendations are intended to steer the actions of healthcare, catering and food industry professionals, various authorities and public health organisations in promoting public health. The recommendations also give advice on how to select food items, designed to fit the Finnish eating habits and food culture. The new food triangle and food plate model support the choices.

Less salt than in the Nordic recommendations 

In terms of nutrients the new Finnish recommendations do not bring much new compared to the Nordic recommendations. The recommended intake level for salt is 5 g/day, while in the Nordic recommendations this is a little higher, 6 g/day. The new intake level is in line with the long-term target already included in the previous recommendations, as well as follows the WHO and other international recommendations. The recommended intake level of vitamin D has been slightly raised for over 2-year-olds, adults and the elderly. The recommended daily intake of selenium is also a little higher than before. The upper limit for the range of the share of fat in the daily energy intake has been raised, while the lower limit for the range of the recommended daily intake of carbon hydrates has been slightly lowered. The quality of fats and carbohydrates is considered more important than before. Attention continues to be drawn to the sufficient share of unsaturated fats. Most of the carbohydrates should come from fiber rich foods.

The grounds for the recommendations are presented very briefly as a more thorough account of these is given in the Nordic recommendations (www.norden.org/nnr).

Food triangle and food plate model

The recommendations highlight the components of a health-promoting diet: vegetables, berries, fruits, leguminous plants and wholegrain cereals as well as fish, vegetable oils and vegetable oil based spreads, nuts, seeds and fat-free and low-fat milk products. Vegetables, berries and fruit should be consumed half a kilo a day instead of the 400 grams recommended earlier (and still in NNR2012). The consumption of red meats (beef, pigmeat and sheep meat) and especially that of processed meats and food containing a lot of saturated fats, added sugar and salt and little fibre should be reduced. In the new food triangle the components of a good diet are presented according to their relative weight in the whole diet. The food plate model tells the same thing for a single meal. Posters have been published of the food triangle and food plate model.

Vegetarian and food service perspectives included

The new topics briefly addressed in the recommendations include vegetarian diet, package labelling and application of the recommendations in food and catering services. In addition, food choices are dealt with from the perspective of sustainable development.

- Among the greatest challenges in putting the recommendations into practice is improving the quality of fats – especially substituting vegetable oils for hard, saturated fats – increasing the intake of fibre and cutting down the use of salt, as well as balancing energy intake and consumption, says the chair of the National Nutrition Council Jaana Husu-Kallio.

She is convinced that, even if the targets are very ambitious, they can be reached through long-term collaborative efforts between various actors.

The new recommendations are available (in Finnish) here.

National nutrition council

  • The National Nutrition Council is an expert body under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
  • The members of the Council serve three-year terms.
  • The members are nutrition experts, scientists and representatives of authorities handling nutrition, food safety and risk assessment, consumer research, nutrition education, clinical nutrition, health promotion, catering and sustainability.
  • Read more about Finnish National Nutrition Council

 

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