Dietary guidance

Eating well

Healthy eating across the world is about consuming the right amount of food for your energy needs and the right balance of foods to make sure your body gets all the nutrients it needs.

In 2016, the Chinese Nutrition Society developed a set of dietary guidelines (2) which provide information to help people achieve a balanced diet including advice around oil, salt, sugar and alcohol in the diet. In particular, the guidelines set out six recommendations to achieve a balanced diet:

1. Eat a variety of foods; have a diet that is cereal-based

The recommended average daily intake includes at least 12 different types of food, and a weekly intake of at least 25 different foods. An important part of a daily balanced diet are cereals as well as vegetables, fruit, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, soybeans and nuts.

2. Be physically active to maintain a healthy body weight

Body weight is an important indicator of a person’s diet and lifestyle with the balance between energy intake and expenditure being key to maintaining a healthy body weight. People of all ages should exercise daily and cut down on sedentary time. Moderate-level physical activity, of about 6,000 steps per day, and at least 150 minutes over five days per week, is recommended.

3. Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables, and soy and dairy products

People should have a daily intake of 300-500 grams of vegetables, with dark vegetables accounting for half the portion; 200-350 grams of fresh fruit; soy derivatives equivalent to 25 grams of soybeans or more; and a variety of dairy products, equivalent to 300 grams of liquid milk.

4. Consume fish, poultry, eggs and lean meat in moderate amounts

These foods are good sources of nutrients including high-quality protein and vitamins A and B. It is recommended that each week people should include the following in their diets: 280-525 grams of fish, 280-525 grams of meat and poultry; and 280-350 grams of eggs. The total daily intake for fish, poultry, meat and eggs should be kept to 120-200 grams.

5. Limit intake of salt, oil, sugar and alcohol

People are advised to reduce intake of foods that are fried and high in salt. The daily intake of table salt, cooking oil and added sugars for an adult should be less than 6 grams, 25-30 grams and 50 grams, respectively. Adults should drink seven to eight cups of water daily, and avoid, or reduce consumption of, sugary drinks. Alcohol consumption should be limited to 25 grams for men and 15 grams for women each day.

6. Develop healthy eating habits and eliminate food waste

The guidelines encourage people to buy and prepare food according to needs, as well as split meals to avoid food waste. They also advise that fresh and clean ingredients are chosen. raw and cooked food are separated during preparation and cooked food are thoroughly reheated. Finally, people are also encouraged to learn to read food labels and spend more time having meals with family.


The Dietary Food Guide Pagoda

In China, there is the Food Guide Pagoda (2) which aims to provide dietary guidance to people. It includes five levels, representing the recommended proportion of the different food groups in the diet, together with a recommendation to drink plenty of water and to do physical activity.


The Chinese Dietary Guidelines Plate

To supplement the Pagoda, the Chinese Dietary Guidelines Plate illustrate the necessary portion of various food groups for an average adult in a single meal (2). It is based on the principles of a balanced diet without including cooking oil and salt.

The plate is divided into four parts with a glass of milk next to the plate – to underline the importance of this drink – and is suitable for children over the age of two, up to adults.


The Children’s Abacus

Finally, the Chinese Food Guide Abacus (2) is designed for children (aged 8-11 years) and shows the weight of various types of food based on the principle of a balanced diet.

The abacus, which is divided into six lines with the different food groups marked with coloured beads, aims to give children a general understanding of the different parts of a meal.


  • Your body doesn’t distinguish between sugars used in manufacturing or in the kitchen, and those sugars found naturally in fruits and vegetables. For example, sucrose in an apple is broken down in exactly the same way as the sucrose in your sugar bowl. However, the rate of which the sugar (sucrose) is absorbed can vary depending on if the source is a solid or liquid food, for example, in an apple or apple juice.
  • Sugar has four calories per gram compared to protein (four calories), fat (nine calories) and alcohol (seven calories).