Food-based dietary guidelines

Food-based dietary guidelines - Zambia

Publication year:

The Government of Zambia published its first version of food-based dietary guidelines in November 2021.

Stakeholder involvement

The Zambian FBDGs were developed through a broad consultative process led by the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) and with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and a multi-sector Technical Working Group with members from 21 institutions. The FBDGs were endorsed by the Ministry of Agriculture in November, 2021.

Products, Resources and Target audiences

The Zambian FBDGs were developed for the healthy general public between the ages of 0 and 65 years, who do not have significant medical conditions that may warrant specific diet modifications.


Target audience

Zambia Food-based Dietary Guidelines (Technical Recommendations)

Technical experts who promote healthy food consumption and healthy diets

Development process

The guidelines aim at promoting healthy dietary patterns to contribute towards addressing the high levels of undernutrition and the emerging problem of overweight and diet-related NCDs.

A technical working group (TWG) was convened by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2018 to support the development of the Zambia FBDGs. A scientific evidence review and situation analysis (report validated in November 2018) led to the drafting and review of the technical recommendations. The FBDGs writing team drafted the FBDG Technical Recommendations and the FBDGs Eat Well Guide in 2019. Diet modelling was used to determine the breakdown of the contribution of each of the six food groups to total energy and nutrient, which was the basis for the food group graphic (Zambia Food Group Guide). The Zambian FBDGs, including the key messages and food group guide, were extensively pretested in three languages (English, Nyanja and Bemba), before final validation by the TWG over a two-day workshop in August 2021.


There is no official implementation plan for the guidelines in Zambia. An implementation strategy, supported by a multi-sectoral action plan on capacity development, communication and promotion activities, is being developed.


There is no official monitoring and evaluation plan for the guidelines in Zambia.

Food guide

The food guide for Zambia is visually represented by a circle, which is divided into six food groups and their proper proportions to be consumed: cereals, starchy roots and tubers; vegetables; fruits; fish, insects and animal-source foods; dairy; legumes, pulses and nuts. The food guide features locally available foods, making it flexible and adaptable to every local community in the country. 


The Food-Based Dietary Guidelines for the general population in Zambia

  • Recommendation 1: Eat different types of food from each of the six food groups every day to stay strong and healthy.
  • Recommendation 2: Eat whole or milled whole grains (cereals), starchy roots and tubers as part of meals every day for a healthy heart and weight.
  • Recommendation 3: Eat plenty of different coloured vegetables every day to provide vitamins, minerals and fibre to prevent diseases.
  • Recommendation 4: Eat two different coloured fruits every day to provide vitamins and minerals to prevent diseases.
  • Recommendation 5: Eat pulses, beans, cowpeas, ground nuts or other nuts daily to maintain good health. All these foods are rich sources of protein and a good substitute for meat.
  • Recommendation 6: Eat fish, insects or animal source foods daily.
  • Recommendation 7: Take milk and dairy products for strong bones and teeth.
  • Recommendation 8: Limit eating ultra-processed foods and foods high in salt, sugar, and fats and oils to prevent non-communicable diseases.
  • Recommendation 9: Handle, prepare and store food safely.
  • Recommendation 10: Engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes every day.

Special dietary requirements for under-five children, adolescent girls, and pregnant and lactating women

  • Recommendation A: Begin breastfeeding your baby within one hour of birth.
  • Recommendation B: Feed your baby breastmilk only for the first six months of life and no water, herbs or porridge because mother’s milk contains all the food and water your baby needs.
  • Recommendation C: From six months, introduce a variety of foods from the six food groups and continue to breastfeed up to two years and beyond.
  • Recommendation D: Give a variety of foods from the six food groups to children 2 to 5 years to help them grow to their full potential.
  • Recommendation E: Adolescents, especially girls, should eat a variety of foods from the six food groups for healthy weight and growth.
  • Recommendation F: When pregnant or breastfeeding, enjoy a variety of food including animal source foods, pulses, fruits and vegetables with your meals for your and your baby’s health.


The Zambian FBDGs are grounded on the sustainable food systems approach, driven by the understanding that adoption of the guidelines is, to a larger extent, dependent on a sustainable food system. Further, the FBDGs also encourage the consumption of fresh, unprocessed or minimally processed foods as a critical part of sustainable healthy diets.

For the Zambian FBDGs, sustainability was defined according to FAO/WHO (2019): Healthy diets from sustainable food systems are dietary patterns that promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing; have low environmental pressure and impact; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable (FAO and WHO, 2019).