As Jamie heads to Brazil this week, his nutrition team take a look at the country’s much-hailed new dietary guidelines and what they can teach us.

Dietary guidelines in the UK and many other countries emphasise which foods we should eat and which we should avoid. But Brazil takes a different approach, recognising that how we eat, as well as what we eat, is of importance.

Bad food habits, such as eating in front of the TV, wolfing down food at our desks and grabbing quick snacks to eat on the go, are easy to fall into. While some might consider these habits to be time-saving, they actually stop us from paying proper attention to what we’re eating and can even result in overeating.FW_Brazil_Circle-Flag

What’s different about the Brazilian guidelines?

Brazil’s dietary guidelines take an all-round approach to food. Launched in 2014, they are based around foods that Brazilians of all social classes eat every day, and factor in the social, cultural, economic and environmental implications of people’s food choices.

Why were they introduced?

Brazilian health officials designed the guidelines to help protect against undernutrition, which is already sharply declining in the country (thanks to government programmes and economic development, the World Food Programme estimates that the number of people who are undernourished has fallen from 19.9% between 2000-2002 to less than 5% today), but also to prevent the potential health consequences of overweight and obesity, which are on the rise.

In Brazil, more than half of all adults are overweight. As the obesity and overweight numbers are increasing, so are other non-communicable diseases, such as type-2 diabetes. So helping Brazilians have a greater control of what they’re eating, and limiting the amount of processed and sugary foods consumed, has become of the utmost importance.

10 key points from the Brazilian dietary guidelines

There are 10 key points that we can pull out of the guidelines that can help us all to live healthier, balanced lives, no matter where in the world we live. These are:

1. Prepare meals using fresh and staple foods

2. Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation

3. Limit consumption of ready-to-eat food and drink products

4. Eat at regular mealtimes and pay attention to our food instead of multitasking. Find a comfortable place to eat. Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets and noisy, stressful environments.

5. Eat with others whenever possible

6. Buy food in shops and markets that offer a variety of fresh foods. Avoid those that sell mainly ready-to-eat products

7. Develop, practise, share and enjoy our cooking skills

8. Decide as families to share cooking responsibilities and dedicate enough time for healthy meals

9. When eating out, choose restaurants that serve freshly made dishes. Avoid fast-food chains

10. Be critical of food-industry advertising

Many countries’ dietary guidelines are based around the concept of plates or pyramids that divide food up into different groups (such as carbohydrates, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables, and fats and oils). We should all try to follow them as they are easy to use and not very complicated – while learning all we can from these Brazilian guidelines, too.

Ultimately, all this guidance is about encouraging us all to eat more fresh and unprocessed foods, and to embrace cooking from scratch whenever possible – an ethos that Jamie is passionate about spreading.

Read more about Jamie’s obesity strategy and watch Jamie’s Food Revolution message to Brazil – and the world – to find out more about how you can get involved in the revolution to help people live healthier, happier lives. #FoodRevolution

About Eretia O’Kennedy

Eretia is head of nutrition at Jamie Oliver, while Laura Matthews is away on maternity leave. She is passionate about educating people about food and showing them that eating healthily is easy. She was very sporty in school and her interest in nutrition arose when she realised that what we eat has an important role to play in physical performance. Her motto in life is "we are what we eat".