Less meat and more vegetables, legumes and whole grains. This is how it sounds in Denmark's new official Dietary Guideline. Seven simple recommendations for breakfast, snack, packed lunch and dinner table should make Danes healthier and at the same time give the climate a helping hand.
Every country has a set of food-based dietary guideline that changes throughout a time. Denmark published its first set of dietary guidelines in the 1970s. They were revised in 1995, 2005, 2008 and 2013.
In the new official dietary guidelines, which the Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries presented on 7th of January 2021, the climate has been considered for the first time.
The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is behind the official Dietary Guideline. They have been developed on the basis of research and advice from the DTU Food Institute and in dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders.
The guidelines are directed at the healthy population over 3 years of age.
The main changes are:
- Decrease a weekly intake of meat. Instead of eating 500 grams of meat a week, stick to 350 gr.
- Decrease consumption of dairy products.
- Increase consumption of vegetables and legumes.
Food and Climate Footprint
What we eat and drink has an impact on both our health and the climate. This is because food production leads to greenhouse gas emissions. This is called the climate footprint of food.
Scientists tell us that meat - and especially beef and lamb - has a high climate footprint. It is neither good for health, nor the climate that we continue with our current diets. The new dietary guidelines are trying to shake up the Danish food culture so that it becomes healthier and more climate-friendly.
On average, Danes emit just over eight kilos of CO2 a day via drinks and food. In total, it is about three tons a year. According to DTU, this can be reduced by up to 35 percent by cutting down on meat and choosing climate-friendly foods.
The potential for adjusting eating habits is therefore great. Changing our eating habits even a little bit, can make a big change on our personal health, as well as the environment we live in. A little can be a lot.
7 Dietary Recommendations
Denmark's new Official Dietary Guideline consists of seven dietary recommendations, as well as a few supplementary tips.
Eat plant-rich, varied and not too much. Plant-rich and varied food is food with many vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains and potatoes. Plant-rich and varied food that follows the official Dietary Guidelines also contains fish, eggs, dairy products and vegetable oils as well as a small amount of meat. When you eat plant-rich and varied, legumes, nuts, seeds and grain products are important sources of protein.
Eating varied also means that you eat different vegetables and fruits, different cereals, different kinds of fish, etc. Variety is important to get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs. Most of our foods also contain small amounts of unwanted substances, such as various chemical compounds or heavy metals. By varying between different foods, you avoid a high intake of a single type of unwanted substances. This is important for your health.
Eat more vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits contain many vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. This is especially true of the coarse vegetables, such as peas, carrots and cauliflower. Vegetables in different colors contain different vitamins and minerals. The red and orange vegetables contain i.a. beta-carotene (vitamin A), while the dark green vegetables i.a. contains calcium, folate and iron. It is therefore important that you eat different kinds of vegetables.
Vegetables and fruits are among the foods that have the lowest climate footprint. However, fruits, berries and vegetables transported to Denmark by plane put a lot of strain on the climate. Other modes of transport, eg by ship or truck, have far less significance for the impact on the climate.
- Eat 600 g of vegetables and fruits a day, i.e. '6 a day'. At least half must be vegetables. 100 g of vegetables or fruit is equivalent to a large carrot or an apple, for example. Children between 4 and 10 years should eat between 300-500 g of vegetables and fruits a day.
- A small glass of juice (100 ml) can count as 1 of the '6 a day', but only as 1 - even if you drink several glasses. Remember that juice contains as many calories as, for example, soda.
- Potatoes, mushrooms and dried fruit, such as raisins, do not count in the 600 g per day.
- Let potatoes be part of your meals several times a week. Approx. 100 g of potatoes a day is convenient when you eat plant-rich and varied food.
- Vegetables on frost and preserves, such as frozen peas or peeled tomatoes, count in the 600 g per day.
Eat less meat - choose legumes and fish. When you eat plant-rich and varied, legumes, nuts and seeds are good sources of protein and other nutrients. At the same time, legumes are among the foods that have the lowest climate footprint.
- Cut down on the meat. Approx. 350 g of meat per week is convenient when you eat plant-rich and varied. In particular, limit beef and lamb.
- Limit processed meat as much as possible, ie. meat that has been smoked and salted, for example.
- Turn up the legumes such as brown, white and black beans, kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas. Approx. 100 g per day (cooked amount) is adequate (in addition to the 600 g of vegetables and fruits) when eating plant-rich and varied. You can get legumes in many varieties. They can be bought ready to eat, eg as canned, dried and frozen. It is important that you cook legumes properly. This is because legumes can contain naturally occurring lectins that can cause disease if ingested. The lectins are inactivated when cooked correctly. Therefore, follow the instructions on the product. Green beans are not considered legumes, but can, like legumes, contain lectins. Therefore, you should not eat green beans raw.
- Eat 350 g of fish a week, of which 200 g of fatty fish. Fatty fish are, for example, herring, mackerel, salmon and trout. It is important that you vary between different fish. 350 g of fish per week is equivalent to, for example, eating fish twice a week as a main course and several times a week as a cold cuts. All kinds of seafood count in the 350 g per week. This applies to both farmed fish and fish caught wild.
- Eat 30g of nuts a day. That equates to about a handful. Vary between different kinds, eg walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds. Look for unsalted or salted nuts with a maximum of 0.8 g of salt per. 100 g. It is important to vary between different types of nuts. Stop eating too many Brazil nuts and pistachios as these nuts may contain toxins from molds.
- Supplement your meals with seeds. Approx. 1-2 tbsp. seeds a day are convenient when you eat plant-rich and varied. Choose, for example, sesame seeds, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. Bread can be a good source of seeds. Remember to vary between different seeds. This is because different seeds often contain different unwanted substances. By varying between different seeds, you therefore avoid a high intake of a single type of unwanted substances.
Eat whole grains. Whole grains are good for your health. Eating whole grains helps reduce the risk of several different lifestyle diseases. You can find whole grains in food made from grain products, where the whole grain is included. Therefore, you get more vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
- Eat 75 g whole grains a day and preferably more. 75 g wholemeal corresponds, for example, to 2 dl oatmeal and 1 slice of wholemeal rye bread. It is important that you vary between different whole grain products.
- Choose whole grain varieties when you eat bread, pasta, rice, crispbread, breakfast products and porridge, but also when you buy sandwiches or take-away, for example. Rice can contain arsenic and it is therefore important to vary between different whole grain products.
- Read more about arsenic in rice on the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration's website.
Choose vegetable oils and low-fat dairy products. Vegetable oils, such as rapeseed and olive oil, are good sources of fat when you want to eat healthy and climate-friendly. When you choose vegetable oils instead of hard fats, such as butter and coconut oil, it is good for your health as you reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. You also get more of the fats that your body needs.
Vegetable oils have a lower climate footprint than, for example, butter and blended products.
- Limit the use of butter on bread and sandwiches. Instead, choose hummus or a little pesto.
- Choose primarily skimmed, mini or buttermilk. The low-fat products contain as much calcium as the fatty products.
- Choose primarily fermented milk products, eg natural yoghurt, with a maximum of 1.5% fat and cheeses with a maximum of 17% fat (30+). Limit high-fat dairy products, such as cream.
Eat less of the sweet, salty and fatty. To eat healthy, it is necessary to limit how much candy, cake, chocolate, ice cream, biscuits and chips you eat. This also applies to certain types of fast food, such as pizza, french fries and burgers. You can eat some of the sweet, salty and fatty, but hold back as a high intake can contribute too many calories and lead to obesity. At the same time, these products take up space for healthy food. This makes it difficult to get the vitamins and minerals you need.
The sweet, salty and fatty also strain the climate. Therefore, limit your intake - it is good for both your health and the climate.
- Cut down on how often you eat sweets, cake, chocolate, ice cream, biscuits and chips.
- Choose nuts or fruit when you need a snack. Go for nuts with no more than 0.8 g of salt per. 100 g.
- When you buy fast food or take-away, choose products or meals with eg vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fish.
- Keep in mind that even if you are physically active, you still only have room for a little of the sweet, salty and fatty.
- Eat smaller portions.
- Don't stock on sweet, salty and fatty - you will not be tempted to eat too much.
Quench your thirst in water. Your body needs water to function optimally. Water covers your fluid needs, without contributing calories.
For the sake of your health, it is important that you limit the amount of alcohol and sweet drinks you drink, such as sodas, juices, sports and energy drinks. Do not drink alcohol for your health. Both sugary drinks and alcohol can, with a high intake, contribute many calories.
Sweet and especially the acidic drinks also increase the risk of getting cavities in the teeth. Sugar-free beverages can cause acid damage to the teeth just like sugary drinks.
Different types of beverages have different climate footprints. As we Denmark drink a lot of alcohol, coffee, tea and sweet drinks, these drinks together form a significant part of the climate footprint that comes from our food and drink. Tap water is the most climate-friendly choice.
- It is usually sufficient to drink 1-1 ½ liters of fluid a day. Both water, coffee and tea as well as milk, juice and other beverages count in your fluid intake. When you are physically active, or when you sweat a lot, you need to drink more fluids than usual.
- Turn down sweet drinks, such as sodas, juices and sports and energy drinks. You should drink at most:
- Children 4-6 years: Maximum ¼ liters per week.
- Children aged 7-9: Maximum 1/3 liter per week.
- Older children and adults: Maximum ½ liters per week.
- Do not keep a stock of sweet drinks - you will not be tempted to drink too much of them.
For more information, go to the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries website.