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Food-based dietary guidelines - The Netherlands

Official name

Food-based dietary guidelines for the Netherlands (Dutch: Richtlijnen Schijf van Vijf).

Publication year

Dietary advices are given to the Dutch population since 1941. Food-based dietary guidelines were presented in the food guide (Wheel of Five) since 1953. It was revised and/or updated in the seventies, 1981, 1999 and 2004 and 2016.    

Stakeholder involvement

The NNC has the task from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to help consumers make healthy, sustainable and safe food choices, by among others translating the Dutch dietary guidelines into practical FBDG for consumers and health professionals. FBDG are used by the government in their food policy. 

Scientific expert groups with expertise in the field of nutrition, behaviour and sustainability were involved in the development of the FBDG. 

Health professionals were involved with respect to practical implications of the FBDG 

Consumers were involved with respect to the understandability of the FBDG 

Industry was not involved in the development of the FBDG. At the start issues with respect to the existing FBDG were collected. At the end of the development process industry was informed on the outcome.  

Products, resources and target audiences

Products 

Target audience 

Background document FBDG for the Netherlands and food guide 

Academic community, health professionals, policy makers, food developers. 

Website: Healthy eating with the Wheel of Five

General population, health professionals, educators, teachers, food professionals, policy makers. 

Various information materials 

General population, health professionals, educators, teachers, food professionals, policy makers. 

Tools and apps

General population, health professionals 

Development process

The dietary guidelines are a key component of a coherent food policy and are the basis for the development of policies intended to shift consumption patterns in healthier and more environmentally sustainable directions. 

An expert committee developed an advisory report which describes the current level of knowledge about the relationship between diet and chronic disease and makes associated recommendations about a healthy dietary pattern. The Health Council of the Netherlands’ Standing Committee on Public Health and Standing Committee on Health Care revised and endorsed the report. The expert committee received significant assistance from various sources, including the Netherlands Nutrition Centre, the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment and underwent a public consultation process.  

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre (NNC) translated advisory report into practical recommendations (FBDG) and tools for different target groups defined by age, gender, activity level and (cultural) preference. This was performed in collaboration with the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).  

The process of the development of FBDG for the Netherlands has been published. A dual approach was used combining calculations and expert judgement. With a mathematical approach optimised dietary patterns were calculated for several subgroups among the population, given a set of constraints and objective functions. Aims for optimisation were as follows: 

  • meeting the Dutch dietary guidelines 2015 
  • meeting the dietary reference values for nutrients and energy 
  • fitting in with the target groups’ customary dietary patterns
  • meeting additional constraints for food groups based on considerations with respect to environmental impact and feasibility 

Environmental impact was considered by setting maximum levels for foods from animal origin with high greenhouse gass emissions (GHGE). Constraints for feasibility were based on food consumption data. Minimum and maximum constraints for nutrients and energy were based on the dietary reference values and tolerable upper intake levels. The optimised dietary pattern was the pattern closest to the current diet (objective function).  Customary dietary patterns were based on Dutch National Food Consumption Surveys conducted by RIVM, or in case of the more non-Western food patterns based on a study about the diets of persons with an immigrant background living in Amsterdam.  Additionally, NNC developed criteria for foods to be included or excluded in the Wheel of Five, which is the visualisation of the FBDG for the Netherlands. Optimisation calculations were performed by RIVM. The results of the calculations were translated by NNC into uniform FBDG, and recommendations for daily amounts of various food groups per target group, based on expert judgement. External experts representing various disciplines in nutrition science were involved throughout the process. Additionally, dietitians and consumer groups were consulted for advice and testing concepts. 

Implementation

The Netherlands Nutrition Centre (NNC) is responsible for developing the relevant public information materials and the food guide. NNC disseminates the FBDG by means of targeted communication via website, social media, apps, tools, cookery books, brochures and campaigns, taking into account social and cultural aspects. 

There is no official implementation plan.

Evaluation 

Yearly, the NNC performs a consumer survey in which, among others, awareness and understanding of the food guide Wheel of Five is evaluated. 

Sustainability

The FBDG for the Netherlands, visualised in the Wheel of Five, combine the Dutch dietary guidelines 2015, the dietary reference values for nutrients, feasibility and the environmental impact, based on the foods that are customarily eaten in the Netherlands. Environmental impact was considered by setting maximum recommendations for foods from animal origin with high greenhouse gass emissions (GHGE).  Concrete advices are: reduce consumption of meat to a maximum of 500 grams per week, consume 2-3 portions of dairy products per day, more is not necessary and eat fish (only) once a week.  

The dietary guidelines stress the importance of limiting the consumption of animal-based foods, especially meat and eating more plant-based foods like nuts and legumes.  Additionally, practical recommendations are given to help consumers to make more sustainable choices: prevent food waste, eat only what you need, eat local fruits and vegetables of the season. Also information is provided on animal welfare and sustainability labels. 

Food guide

The food-based dietary guidelines are represented by a circle (Dutch: Schijf van Vijf). The circle is divided into four food groups and one beverage group. Fruits and vegetables and breads, cereals and potatoes cover more than half of the circle. Animal source foods, spreads and cooking fats comprise a much smaller part. Water and other beverages such as tea, and coffee complete the circle.

Recommendations

General recommendations are: 

  • Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
  • Consume mainly wholegrain products such as wholegrain bread, wholegrain pasta and brown rice
  • Eat less meat and more plant-based foods, and vary with fish, pulses, nuts, eggs and vegetarian products
  • Consume daily sufficient dairy products such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • Eat a handful of unsalted nuts daily
  • Consume soft and liquid spreadable fats and cooking fats
  • Drink sufficient amounts of tap water, tea and coffee 

Quantitative recommendations are given for each target group here

Additionally there are recommendations to limit or minimise consumption of certain products: 

  • Limit consumption of processed meat

  • Minimise consumption of sugar-containing beverages 
  • Don´t drink alcohol or no more than one glass daily 
  • Limit salt intake to 6 grams daily
  • Nutrient supplements are not needed, except for specific groups for which supplementation applies