The COVID-19 pandemic, by promoting bad eating habits and lack of exercise, caused the average Israeli adult to add five kilos to his/her weight, according to the Health Ministry, which is trying to help the population to lose the extra bulk. Children and teens
It has now launched – for the benefit of children, teens and adults – improved national guidelines to the path of healthful eating. The diet was uniquely developed for Israel – whose natural foodstuffs constitute the Mediterranean Diet, but the guidelines are relevant and wise to people throughout the Western world.
Obesity resulting from changed diets during the pandemic raised the risk of coronary hospitalization in Israel by 113% and mortality by about 50%. At the same time, surveys conducted in Israel by the Myers-JDC- Brookdale Institute and the Central Bureau of Statistics showed trends of worsening eating habits during the pandemic. Half of the population surveyed reported overeating, and 50% said they ate more snacks and sweets. Surveys conducted on weight gain, presented findings of Significant increase in a short period, about 5 kg on average among adults and a 15-20% increase in the weight of children and adolescents and an increase in eating disorders.
Instead of the longstanding “Food Pyramid” adopted to show food types at the apex that should be consumed infrequently to those that should be eaten daily (the broad base), the ministry adopted the “Food Rainbow.” The advice in this graphic arc presents flexible, simple-to- understand- and-implement recommendations. The Food Rainbow was chosen after an in-depth process in which experts from the fields of nutrition, health promotion, communications, social marketing and design took part. .
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein commented: “Healthful eating is not just ‘New Age.’ Eating a proper diet is for all of us. The new Food Rainbow is the first thing necessary to eradicate the side effects of the pandemic. Naturally, during such a crisis, we all invest all in eradication of the virus, but obesity has been on the rise. Now is the time to focus on day-to-day health for us all.”
Ministry director-general Prof. Hezi Levy added: “I see improvement of Israeli nutrition as one of the ministry’s most-important tasks. In recent years, there has been an increase in diabetes and cardiac, neurological and vascular diseases. Proper nutrition from childhood is the right way to prevent these diseases and improve the quality of life and life expectancy,”
Instead of the pyramid that has been used until now, the food types arc visually depicted as a rainbow so that it will be easy to understand the components of a healthful, nutritious, sustainable and cost-effective menu for all.
The pandemic arrived in Israel when 60% of men and 55% of women were already overweight or obese; the rate of diabetes was about 10% and has not changed in recent years. At the same time, the proportion of seventh-grade children who were overweight and obese also remained stable. Almost a third of Israeli seventh graders are overweight or obese.
Surveys have shown that half of the daily calorie intake of adolescents, and 40% of those of adults come from ultra-processed products. Only a quarter of children consume fruit more than once a day, according to Prof. Ronit Endevelt, head of the ministry’s nutrition branch.
The green and yellow arcs in the Food Rainbow contain foods that are recommended to be eaten every day, while the orange rainbow represents those that are recommended to be eaten throughout the week.
The green arc contains a variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains –whole foods that contribute a variety of vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is important to eat vegetables and fruits that have come in different natural colors because they contain different nutrients.
The yellow arc contains three food groups: olive oil/tahini/nuts; legumes; and milk and its substitutes. Each of these groups, which provide an important contribution to health, are for eating at least once a day.
The orange rainbow contains non-vegetable foods that are recommended to be varied throughout the week but necessarily every day – and these should be purchased raw – and not processed in factories – and cooked at home.
The pink arc represents raw beef. Its consumption should be minimized – not more than 300 grams a week. The inverted red arc contains products that are not recommended for consumption – those with large amounts of saturated fat, salt and sugar and highly processed.
Highly processed, ready-to-eat foods are harmful, raising the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer, according to experts. Raw foods, or minimally processed food, constitute a healthful diet. Sugary drinks, snacks and sweets and ultra-processed meat and its substitutes are harmful to health and contribute to an increase in disease, stressed Endevelt.
The diet recommended in the Food Rainbow has relatively little negative impact on the environment, unlike a Western diet, which has a significant ecological footprint, she concluded.