Here's what food guides around the world look like

Canada's Food Guide has been given its first major overhaul since 2007. The update had been in the works for years, and was released this morning. Here's a look at how some of the other nearly 100 countries with food guides tackle the subject.

Canada's Food Guide has been given its first major overhaul in more than a decade. The update had been in the works for years, and released today in Montreal. 

Up until today, this is what Canada's Food Guide had looked like since 2007: 

Canada's Food Guide provides information on what to consume at different ages and stages of life. (Health Canada/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

While waiting for the release of Canada's new guide, we checked out the nearly 100 around the world from a list compiled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

There is a lot of detailed information in them. Most carry the same main messages:

  • Eat a variety of foods.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get enough exercise.

And most tend to agree that eating more vegetables and whole grains is best, while consuming sugar and too much fat — especially processed fats — is to be avoided. 

But countries can get pretty creative when it comes to getting that information across. 

Some food guides are shaped like buildings 

Cambodia's guide is in the shape of an Angkor Wat — a temple complex that's one of the largest religious monuments in the world. The guide was developed with the help of schoolchildren surveyed by the Ministry of Health about the foods they most commonly eat.

(Cambodia Ministry of Health/UN Food and Agriculture Organization )

Benin's guide is a round traditional house with a thatch roof. The water in the entrance is there for two reasons: as a symbol of Beninese hospitality and a reminder that plenty of water should be consumed throughout the day.

(Benin Regional Health Institute/UN Food and Agriculture Organization )

China's pagoda uses the traditional five levels to indicate how much of each food group should be eaten.

(Chinese Nutrition Society/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

Others are shaped like foods native to the country 

Antigua and Barbuda uses a pineapple, while Qatar's guide comes in the form of a seafood shell.

(Government of Antigua and Barbuda/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)
(Qatar Supreme Council of Health/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

Most guides make daily exercise a main component

In fact, only 12 make no mention of physical activity. Korea's is pretty obvious. 

(Health Industry Development Institute/Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)

France has designed its guide as a staircase to hit home the message.

(France Ministry of Health/Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)

Japan's guide is in the shape of a spinning top — a traditional toy in the country. It features a person running around a glass of water or tea, to represent the need for adequate physical activity.

Full Government of Japan credit: Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Food Safety and Consumer Affairs Bureau (Government of Japan/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

There are countries with more than 1 guide 

And Canada is one of them. First published in 1942, Canada's current guide is available in English and French, as well as 10 other languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Punjabi. There is also a version designed specifically for Inuit, First Nations and Métis.

(Health Canada)

Venezuela also has two food guides: one for the general population and one for the country's Indigenous population. The main difference lies in the recommended protein sources, with a range of wild animals shown in the Indigenous one, and cuts of meat in the other.

(Bengoa Foundation for Food and Nutrition/UN Food and Agriculture Organization )

Belgium also has two guides, one for its French-speaking population and one for the Flemish. The Flemish food triangle focuses on foods that should be eaten often to occasionally. But what stands out is the red circle of foods beside it — foods it advises to eat as rarely as possible. It doesn't just feature the usual junk-food suspects, such as sugary candy, fried foods and alcohol. It also includes what many people would consider good protein sources: processed meats, such as cold cuts and bacon. 

(Flemish Institute for Healthy Living)

In famous form, 1 gets straight to the point

Sweden's guide follows that esthetic made so famous by Swedes (think Ikea). 

(National Food Agency/UN Food and Agriculture Organization )

These 2 focus on how often to eat, rather than on how much to eat

Spain and Greece divide their pyramids into daily, weekly and occasional consumption groups.

(Spanish Agency for Consumer Affairs, Food Safety and Nutrition, Hellenic Ministry of Health/UNFOA )

And 1 has attracted widespread praise  

Brazil has been singled out by nutritionists and food scientists for its innovative approach. Instead of publishing a colourful picture of what you should eat more or less of, it has published guidelines on eating processed versus non-processed foods, and focuses on making choices based on social and environmental sustainability.

(Brazil/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

And because the guide is long (152 pages) and not likely to be read by most Brazilians, the government has also helpfully narrowed it down into a short, 10-step plan.