Science - November 25, 2004

Dutch diet needs to change

The Schijf van Vijf is the basis for recommendations for a healthy diet in the Netherlands. A new version was published recently, the big change being that cheese, a mainstay in this dairy producing country, has disappeared from the disc. Why? Surely cheese is healthy?

Professor Frans Kok, sub-department of Human Nutrition and member of the Health Council:

‘The recommendations for a healthy diet started with the Voedingswijzer, the Dutch equivalent of the American Food Guide Pyramid. Later this became the Schijf van Vijf (five-part disc, ed.) and this has now become embedded in the collective consciousness of the Dutch. The Schijf was revived with the latest update of dietary recommendations. The Netherlands Nutrition Centre based these recommendations on the report Guidelines for Good Nutrition published by the Health Council.
‘Cheese has been left out because it contains a relatively high amount of saturated fats and the Dutch eat more of these fats than is good for them. The top four sources of saturated fats in the Netherlands are sauces, margarines and oils, milk and milk products, and cheese. The Nutrition Centre decided to keep milk and milk products on the list, adding that low-fat products are to be preferred, such as skimmed milk. Milk has stayed on the list because it contains less saturated fat than cheese and is also a better source of vitamins and minerals than cheese.
‘The media reports that cheese should be banned are exaggerated. The Nutrition Centre says that the traditional Dutch lunch of a cheese roll does not have to disappear. Consumers are advised, however, that it is better to buy low fat cheese, with 20+ or 30+ on the label.
The big segments in the disc remain unchanged, with fruit and vegetables on one side, and the segment for potatoes, pasta and rice on the other. There is a small slice for fats in the form of margarine and vegetable oil. There is also a new category: liquid. The illustration shows a glass of water and a cup of tea. I think the Nutrition Centre has two messages it wants to convey. One group of the population drinks too little: the elderly. There is also a large group that drinks the wrong kind of liquid: young people who drink large amounts of soft drinks. Measurements indicate that an increasing proportion of the total intake of calories and refined sugar comes from soft drinks, which is also contributing to the widening girth of our youth.’

Willem Koert

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