Brazil’s latest dietary guidelines aim to tackle both under and over nutrition and warn of dangers of ultra processed foods and advertising

“The main diseases that currently affect the Brazilians are no longer acute but chronic”, according to the Ministry of Health’s introduction to the recently published 2nd edition of the ‘Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population”.

“Despite the impressive decrease in malnutrition in children, micronutrient deficiencies and chronic malnutrition are still prevalent in vulnerable population groups, such as Indians, Maroons, and children and women living in vulnerable areas. At the same time, Brazil is experiencing a significant increase of overweight and obesity in all age groups and chronic diseases are the leading cause of death among adults. Now, one in two adults and one in three Brazilian children are overweight,” says the Ministry.

The guidelines, which were developed after extensive public consultation, are built around five key principles:

  1. Diet is more than intake of nutrients
  2. Dietary recommendations need to be tuned to their times
  3. Healthy diets derive from socially and environmentally sustainable food systems
  4. Different sources of knowledge inform sound dietary advice
  5. Dietary guidelines broaden autonomy in food choices

Some of the key messages in the guidelines are:

  • Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet.
  • Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts for seasoning and cooking foods and to create culinary preparations
  • Limit the use of processed foods, consuming them in small amounts as ingredients in culinary preparations or as part of meals based on natural or minimally processed foods.
  • Avoid ultra-processed foods—such as packaged snacks, soft drinks, and instant noodles.

They propose a golden rule: “Always prefer natural or minimally processed foods and freshly made dishes and meals to ultra-processed foods”

As well as talking about how foods come together into meals the guidelines also talk about the best ways make the most of food:

“Eating regularly and carefully – Always when possible, eat daily meals at similar times. Avoid ‘snacking’ between meals. Eat slowly, with full attention, and enjoy eating without engaging in another activity.

Eating in appropriate environments – Always prefer to eat in clean, comfortable, and quiet places, and where there is no stimulus to consume unlimited amounts of food.

Eating in company – Prefer eating with family, friends, or colleagues. At home, share in acquisition, preparation, cooking, and arrangements before and after eating.”

The recommendations are “based on the actual diets of a substantial proportion of Brazilian families, whose diets are based on natural or minimally processed foods and dishes and meals made with these foods”.

Even so, the last of the five chapters recognizes following the recommendations may not be easy and identifies six general obstacles to doing so:

  1. scarcity of reliable information,
  2. problems of supply of healthy foods,
  3. the relatively high cost of some perishable foods,
  4. the loss of culinary skills,
  5. lack of time, and
  6. incessant advertising and promotion of ultra processed foods, especially to children and young people.

The last of the 10 tips they close on links to that final point:


The purpose of advertising is to increase product sales, and not to inform or educate people. Be critical and teach children to be critical of all forms of food advertising and marketing.”

About geofftansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I am also a member of the Food Ethics Council and chaired the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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