• Eating habits summed up in one grade.
• Eating score aims to make dietary advice more comprehensible.
Wageningen nutritionists have developed a quick questionnaire that gives one grade to indicate how healthy someone’s eating habits are.
To much saturated fats will cost you points on your eating score. Photo: Kisha Solomon
The advice supplied with the test aims at helping people eat more healthily and cut their chances of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. The so-called ‘eating score’ (Eetscore) was developed over recent years by Human Nutrition PhD candidate Linde van Lee, who defended her thesis on Tuesday 11 November. Van Lee came up with 25 questions about eating habits, for which the respondent can get a maximum of 80 points. This is at least 10 points for each of the eight rules in the ‘healthy diet guidelines’ which the Dutch are advised to stick to. The questions find out whether they eat too much fat or salt, for instance, and whether there are vegetables, fruit and fish on their plates.
The questionnaire is as simple and unintimidating as possible so as to make dietary advice accessible to more people. A report grade of this kind is not just useful in people’s daily lives; nutrition scientists can also make use of the evaluation in their research. They have known for a long time that what goes on our plates partly determines whether we get illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. However, research on this has generally focused on the level of individual products (milk) or nutrients (fat). ‘But people do not eat foods or take vitamins in isolation,’ says Van Lee. ‘It is more logical to look at nutritional patterns.’ The eating score is still work in progress, though. New nutritional guidelines will be coming out next year, and then the questionnaire will have to be adjusted. Something else that could do with some adjustment is the eating habits of the Dutch, which are not good. ‘Of all the thousands of people in my thesis,’ says van Lee, ‘perhaps one or two had a perfect score. There is plenty of room for improvement.