So many people these days claim they have found the miracle diet. The diet to solve everyone’s health woes. The diet that will put an end to obesity and diet related diseases. So many different theories, so many debates and constant bickering about who’s diet is best. The thing is we already know the basics of health eating so finding the ‘miracle’ diet isn’t the problem. The problem is getting people to follow it. We know that only 6.8% Australians eat the recommended serves of vegetables each day. We need to stop thinking about what diet and start thinking about how. How do we encourage Australians to eat healthy, how do we create an environment where the healthy choice is the easier and preferred choice? How do we make changes to policies, to our food system, our labelling and our advertising to support healthy choices? We know that education and knowledge doesn’t equal change. We know what to eat to be healthy we just need to figure out the how.
So the question remains… how do we do this? How do we, on a population level get people to eat healthy? Encouraging people to join a healthy eating facebook tribe won’t do the trick. We need to think bigger. Do we need restrictions on the marketing and promotion of high calorie, sugary foods or food policies to reduce the price of fresh produce? Do we need to introduce a traffic light system on food packaging, menu labelling at restaurants or limitations on product placement in supermarkets? Do we need to work with food industries to make healthier more affordable foods, mandatory nutrition education in schools, healthier foods to be available at school canteens, workplaces and sporting venues? Do we need to restrict unhealthy food advertising to children and stop fast food chains sponsoring sports? Do we need to make healthy food more accessible to the underprivileged and those in low SES communities?
Can we learn from countries like Japan, Switzerland and Norway where they have some of the lowest rates of obesity in the developed world? Or countries in the blue zone where they are renowned for their health and longevity? What systems do they have in place to encourage the population to be healthy?
Do we need to adopt policies like they have in Europe? Hungary has a tax of high sugar foods, Finland a tax on confectionary, France a tax on soft drinks and Denmark a tax on foods that contain more than 2.3% saturated fat. These taxes were introduced after the World Health Organization proposed that nations consider taxing foods high in fat, sugar and salt to encourage people to make healthier food choices.
For any positive change to occur the whole of society will need to get on board. Federal, state and local governments, non-government organisations, schools, communities, health and food industries, sporting clubs, media and advertising as well as individuals all have the potential to make some changes for the better, to promote a healthy lifestyle for the entire population.
I don’t know what the answers are but I do know that we need to shift our thinking from what to how.