In 2013, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine published Methodological Recommendations on Healthy Eating, which outlines the main aspects of a healthy diet. It is written that the nutrition of any person should be based on 4 components: “adequacy of energy expenditures, balance in terms of the content of the most important foods and nutrients, food safety, and maximizing the pleasure of eating”.
It goes on to describe what exactly should make up a healthy diet for Ukrainians. However, without visualizations (pictures, diagrams), a motivating part, and taking into account that the document is addressed to doctors who work with patients, not the general public, most of our citizens probably did not read it.
That is why they are not implemented. Instead, we often use the so-called food pyramid and/or the Harvard plate to improve our diet. I propose to compare them and equate them to the peculiarities of the Ukrainian food culture and lifestyle.
The food pyramid, which was first officially approved in the United States in 1992, is essentially a consolidated list of foods that should make up a healthy diet.
At the bottom are the foods that are advised to be consumed all the time, and at the top are those that should be avoided.
We can see that the basis is made up of whole grains, cereals and cereal flakes, bread and pastries made from wholemeal flour. A variety of vegetables and fruits are often included in the diet. Less commonly, the diet should include dairy products, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish. Very little consumption of edible fats, sugar, salt, and sweets is recommended.
It should be noted that over the course of twenty-five years, the content of the pyramid has changed slightly. Added sugar and fat marks were introduced, and layers of physical activity and drinking regimen were added. Experts have developed separate pyramids for certain groups of people – kids, pregnant women, vegetarians. They added to the scheme the approximate amounts of food consumption of certain groups during the week.
In light of the rapid development of nutritional science, the accumulation of data on the quantities, nutritional value, and impact of certain food groups on the body, experts at the Harvard School of Public Health have proposed a new model of a healthy diet – the plate. It reflects not a list of healthy foods, but a healthy ratio of the main nutrients (proteins, fats, carbohydrates, dietary fiber) in the diet.
The fact that the healthy food plate does not indicate the number of calories or servings of each nutrient group makes it more individualized, as each person has their own energy needs and, accordingly, consumes a certain amount of calories to meet them.
Reconsidering your eating habits and switching to a healthy diet requires an understanding of the essence of a healthy lifestyle, willpower, awareness of the “how”, and an understanding of the “why” and “what”. At this stage, systematized, structured, and easily accessible information, such as a combination of the food pyramid and the food plate, is useful.
Is the healthy food model developed by the Americans suitable for us, Ukrainians? Living in an all-season climate, growing vegetables and grain, and gardening, we have a unique opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of fruits and vegetables virtually all year round. National traditions of pickling and fermenting complement our diet in winter or off-season. The recipes of Ukrainian cuisine, which include first courses, baking and stewing meat, poultry, and fish, provide us with useful ways to consume protein.
Of course, there are many foods and dishes on the national table that should be limited – smoked meats, fried pancakes, pancakes, lard – but compared to other countries, our cuisine is quite healthy.
Having a simple illustration based on the latest data on the impact of certain foods and food components on the health and functioning of certain body organs in front of your eyes every day makes it much easier to change your lifestyle. I believe that by ensuring that Ukrainian medicine changes as a matter of priority, the Ministry of Health will eventually revise the look and accessibility of our healthy eating recommendations.
Let’s not forget about active lifestyle and recreation and stay healthy!