In many comments we read criticism of the vagueness of the plans. The ambitions are great, but a lot is still unclear about the ‘how’. There are also many comments on the elaboration of the vision. I partly identify with that. In the 80 years that the Nutrition Center has been working on education about healthy, safe and sustainable food, we have seen many government plans. It is now clearly time for major actions, and we have ideas that the new government can work with.
Schools could also set a good example by offering a school lunch according to the Wheel of Five
A healthy generation in 2040, that is what the new cabinet is aiming for. The focus is on youth, and nutrition and exercise are central. A logical approach in my view, because from science we know that starting young offers the only real solution to problems such as health inequalities, obesity and diseases that can be prevented. If you learn to eat healthy from an early age, and help parents make it happen, it becomes normal. This way you ensure equal opportunities for health.
Not all children acquire knowledge about healthy eating from home. That is why I would like to see education about food in all schools in the Netherlands, based on the Wheel of Five. If food education is included in the regular curriculum, all children can acquire skills that they will take with them for the rest of their lives. And later pass it on to their own children.
Schools could also set a good example by offering a school lunch according to the Wheel of Five. Children see what healthy and sustainable food means, and at the same time get a good meal every day. This also reduces health inequalities and contributes to their well-being.
Tackling unhealthy eating environment
Most people would like to eat healthier, but our environment does not always make that easy. Temptations of unhealthy food and drink are everywhere, and they are hard to resist. This is also an important cause of obesity. This problem is not only an issue in the Netherlands, but worldwide. That’s why the World Health Organization says: the healthy choice should be the easy choice.
The task of the cabinet is to ensure that the price difference is so large that the healthy choice really wins
The new cabinet will work on that. With a broad approach, in which healthy choices are encouraged and unhealthy choices are discouraged. We know from research that this is effective. One of the means is to make healthy food cheaper and unhealthy food more expensive. The government does this by making you pay more for sugary drinks through a sugar tax. Meanwhile, the tax on fruit and vegetables is going down. I welcome that combination. The government’s task is to ensure that the price difference is so great that the healthy choice really wins.
In the meantime, the Nutrition Center remains committed to making as many eating environments as possible healthier and more sustainable. Think of the company restaurant, train station, gas station, stadium, festival site, hospital and the swimming pool. So that the healthy choice for people and the environment is the easy one everywhere.
Better food for a better climate
The climate receives a lot of attention in this coalition agreement. The Netherlands wants to become a frontrunner in Europe with regard to the climate goals. This is not possible without including food in the plans. Reducing food waste, for example, is an important factor. Now, as Dutch people, we throw away an average of 34 kilos of food per person per year at home. That is a real shame, because the production of food demands a lot from the planet.
Food is responsible for 20 to 35% of all greenhouse gas emissions. More than half of that comes from meat and dairy. That is why it is important that we eat more plant-based and less animal-based foods. If you eat according to the Wheel of Five, you are already taking that sustainable and healthy path, but we would like to see more concrete measures that make this easier.
Help with choosing
Do you go for healthy, animal-friendly or better for the environment in the supermarket? A good label with clear information can help with that choice. In addition, it is important that there is not a large amount of logos and quality marks on a product, that is only confusing. The government is now going to focus on origin by stating on the label where our food comes from.
At the same time, the government is looking at the Nutri-Score as a logo to make the healthier choice clear. The format, which was originally French, is not yet in line with our national dietary guidelines, the Wheel of Five. Scientists from different countries are investigating the Nutri-Score and will propose adjustments so that it is in synergy with the dietary guidelines in force in Europe.
All in all, it is clear that there is a lot of work to be done for the new government. My New Year’s wish to all ministers is that they can continue to take sufficient time for a healthy and sustainable meal on their own plate. To stay as fit as possible for the challenging task ahead.
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Rutte IV has a lot of work to do with healthy food – Director of the Nutrition Center: ‘it is time for healthy and sustainable food!’ – Food log