Top 20 Countries with the Healthiest Diets

Top 20 Countries with the Healthiest Diets

In this article, we shall discuss the healthiest food in the world and the top 20 countries with the healthiest diets. To skip our detailed analysis of the global food industry in 2023 and the global shift to conscious eating, go directly and see Top 5 Countries with the Healthiest Diets.

The global food industry is a subset of the larger agribusiness sector and includes a variety of different foods which can largely be categorized into organic food, packaged food, processed food, luxury food, and food policy. According to Forbes, global food production is projected to reach valuations of $4.4 trillion by 2026, a 1.1% average annual growth rate since 1998. China has led global food production in 2023, contributing more than $1.2 trillion, closely followed by India, the United States, and Brazil. Additionally, in the wake of significant supply chain disruptions, food inflation, and substantial shifts in consumer purchasing patters, both in-store and online, retailers are struggling to cater of increasing demand and adapt their businesses accordingly. These brands and retailers insufficiently adapted and evolved with changing market conditions and with increased consumer demand for some of the the healthiest food in the world, are struggling to navigate resultant pressures and headwinds.

However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has reached its lowest point in two years as of October 2023 and although food prices remain largely undeterred from previous months, food at home fell by 0.4% thereby marking the first depreciation in the index since September 2020, to an unadjusted 12 month 8.4%. In this vein, Forbes highlights that within the next decade, leaders within the food industry like Nestle S.A. (OTC:NSRGY), General Mills Inc. (NYSE:GIS), and The Simply Good Foods Company (NASDAQ:SMPL) need to adapt to the massive shifts in consumer culture, labor issues, sustainability imperatives, changing FDA policies favoring some of the the healthiest food in the world, innovations in technology and the very superstructure upon which the retail market stands. To read more on some of the trends and challenges facing the food industry in the next decade, check out our coverage of 30 Countries with the Best Street Food in the World.

Incentivizing Resilience to Challenges: An Analysis

An article by McKinsey makes the assertion that food systems globally are barely fit for purpose and fail to satisfy the food and nutrition security needs of a rapidly burgeoning global population, thereby creating significant pressure on health costs and the environment. In such a precarious situation, the article makes the argument that a comprehensive shift is needed in the food production mechanisms which currently dominate the industry, requiring the total revamp of the practices of more than 500 million smallholder farmers and the consumption patterns of more than eight billion people to produce the healthiest food in the world. Hence, there is a need to completely transform current food systems by reimagining incentive structures as many of the mechanisms in place today were devised and installed more than twenty years ago when development imperatives like food security and self-sufficiency were of primary concern. However, as the world journeys towards a relatively more holistic, dynamic and integrated comprehension of food systems, existing incentives need to be restructured, repurposed and even replaced, when required. These incentives should be able to potentially overcome any and all hinderances preventing stakeholders from making necessary adjustments, address the costs of behavioral changes, mitigate and curtail transitory costs, and prospectively fund ongoing economic expenditure. Furthermore, these incentives must be able to effectively fill glaring gaps in knowledge and awareness.

A report by the World Economic Forum highlighted four primary pathways which can be undertaken to create a formidable incentive structure which can transform current food systems effectively, the first of them being the conscious repurposing of public investment and policies. According to the report, policies and regulator frameworks need to be overhauled to create positive incentives for companies like Nestle S.A. (OTC:NSRGY), General Mills Inc. (NYSE:GIS), and The Simply Good Foods Company (NASDAQ:SMPL) to produce and market food products which adequately meet the health and nutrition requirements of the average consumer. Secondly, companies must also innovate when it comes to their very business model in order to increase focus on environmental, social and financial outcomes. Furthermore, investors have an enormous role to play in that they can create higher standards with respect to how organizations prioritize sustainability and social outcomes in addition to economic returns. Lastly, consumers must also catalyze a proactive shift in their demand to environmentally responsible and nutritious products and push for the healthiest food in the world. These pathways shed light upon an extremely lucrative opportunity to drive sustainable change. By revamping and recreating incentives within the regulatory environment and by making use of public-sector investments, governments around the world can alter economic thought which in turn, influences food companies, investors and small farmers. To know more on how food companies are adapting to the increasing demand for healthier alternatives, check out our article on the 10 Biggest Healthy Food Brands in the World.

The Road to Conscious Eating: An Overview

Although conscious eating to achieve certain specific health and sustainability objectives was on the rise before the pandemic, the trend has only accelerated in popularity since, spurring consumers to increasingly opt for fresher, healthier diets. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, the consumers’ newfound inclination towards healthier diets far outstrips their interest in sustainability and as a consequence, conscious eating is much likely to persist in the near future. According to the survey, more than seventy percent of respondents showed a significant interest in transforming their current lifestyle to a more healthier one, and more than fifty percent maintained that consuming healthy food remains a top priority for them. For the latter, healthy eating largely points to a marked reduction in the consumption of processed foods, sugar, fat, salt and even red meat for residents of countries with the healthiest diets. 

The survey also sheds light upon the fact that younger consumers are increasingly likely to avoid more unhealthy foods and markedly reduce consumption of red meat, dairy and gluten. Part of the reason for this demographical shift is that younger consumers often report higher levels of food allergies and intolerances and so the glaring requirement to manage these conditions may be a significant factor to consider. Food companies like Nestle S.A. (OTC:NSRGY), General Mills Inc. (NYSE:GIS), and The Simply Good Foods Company (NASDAQ:SMPL) are constantly increasing investments in the production and development of healthy food in an effort to make their product portfolio more appealing to the younger demographic and build up company resilience with respect to the changing tide. Furthermore, the survey also sheds light upon the fact that consumers are increasingly opting for plant-based alternatives as a form of conscious-eating. More than 35 percent of survey respondents claimed that they exclusively consumed plant-based products, especially plant-based milk and meat. About 15 percent have expressed an inclination to start consuming plant-based products by 2024. However, a majority of consumers have expressed that they would be unlikely to abandon conventional dietary habits wholesale. You can read more on the increasing interest in plant-based diets in our coverage of the 11 Best Vegan Stocks to Buy Now. 

Additionally, it has been known fact that consumers are incredibly price-sensitive when it comes to their monthly grocery wallet even in countries with the healthiest diets, and for the average consumer, value of money is incredibly important. With inflation up more than 3.2% in November 2023 compared to November 2022, increases in cost are fast outpacing consumer wage growth. Many customers are faced with difficult choices with respect to the purchase of food products with more than 74% of consumers significantly altering purchasing behavior to drive value for money up. This shift in behavior includes buying in bulk, adjusting quantities purchased, and purchasing less expensive brands or private labels. Despite this challenge, consumer commitment to conscious-eating is fairly robust. However, food companies and retailers need to facilitate consumers in obtaining effective product information and ready access to the right product.

biggest healthy food brands in the worldbiggest healthy food brands in the world

biggest healthy food brands in the world

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Our Methodology

To compile our list of the top 20 countries with healthiest diets, we decided to undertake a consensus-based approach using a diverse variety of credible sources to determine which countries have the healthiest dietary food and habits (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). We then shortlisted more than 50 countries which appeared most frequently during our research. Since a healthy diet is an incredibly multifaceted and complex phenomenon, we established a three-pronged criteria to measure how healthy each local cuisine is; the criteria is premised on overall rates of obesity and diabetes in each country based on data from the WHO (20 points), nutritional value of each country’s staple food based on data from the US Department of Agriculture (15 points), and food diversity, since a diverse diet is usually associated with a broad spectrum of nutrients (10 points). We then proceeded to award each country a cumulative score according to the aforementioned criteria and selected 20 countries which scored the highest points. Subsequently, we ranked each entry based on the total points scored, from lowest to highest. Where there was a tie, we broke it based on the overall rates of obesity and diabetes.

Top 20 Countries with the Healthiest Diets

20. Austria

Total Score: 13

In Austria, the locals are known to divide their meals to add servings of vegetables, fruits, and legumes to ensure a healthy diet. Recent studies show that around 59% of people in Austria are extremely health-conscious, and hence, Austria makes our list of countries with the healthiest diets. 

19. Canada

Total Score: 15

In Canada, the diet mainly consists of vegetables, poultry, and fish. This increases protein consumption amongst the locals to a great extent. Recently, the use of soda and sugary beverages has also been reduced immensely. 

18. United Kingdom

Total Score: 15

The United Kingdom is known to have a healthy diet, mainly because the country ranks incredibly high in healthy packaged foods. 

17. Switzerland

Total Score: 16

Switzerland is a country with one of the healthiest diets in the world, mainly because the locals avoid highly processed food, sugary meals, and tend to follow a strict routine, with regards to their meals. 

16. Australia

Total Score: 17

In Australia, diet mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, and meats. The life expectancy in the country is high because Australians mostly consume food that is produced organically and is non-processed. Hence, Australia makes our list of countries with the healthiest diets. 

15. Vietnam

Total Score: 20

Vietnamese cuisine is known to be oil-free, which makes it one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Vegetables, herbs, and meat are a few prominent ingredients used in Vietnam.

14. Singapore

Total Score: 22

In Singapore, the cuisine does not include processed or sugary foods, instead their food consists mainly of poultry, seafood, rice, and noodles. One such dish is Satay, which is rich in healthy fats and proteins. 

13. Israel

Total Score: 22

Falafel, an incredibly popular food in Israel, is made of ground chickpeas, which is rich in protein and fiber. Israeli cuisine mainly includes Mediterranean food that is full of proteins and omega. 

12. Sweden

Total Score: 23

Having non-processed food is a great contributor to the healthy dietary habits of the Swedish people. Most of Swedish cuisine consists of meatballs, fish, and vegetables, propelling Sweden into our list of countries with the healthiest diets. 

11. Iceland

Total Score: 25

The life expectancy in Iceland is high for all genders because of various reasons including a healthy diet. Their food mainly consists of fresh seafood and free-range meat that are not processed at all.

10. Lebanon

Total Score: 27

Hummus is one of the most well-known and healthiest Lebanese foods. Lebanon has multiple healthy dip options including potato-garlic dip and eggplant dip, pushing it into our list of countries with the healthiest diets. 

9. France

Total Score: 31

French cuisine is immensely diverse depending on the area of the country. The food in France is, at large, rich in olive oil, seafood, herbs, meat, cheese, and poultry. French food is one of the healthiest food in the world and extensively focuses on health, diversity, and quality.

8. India

Total Score: 31

Indian food is known for its spices and flavors that also add to the healthy diet. For example, one of the most important spices used in Indian cuisine is cinnamon, which is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and stabilizes blood sugar levels. 

7. Italy

Total Score: 34

Italian cuisine is largely known for its pizzas and pastas; however, the cuisine also includes many healthier options that includes fresh fruits, whole grain, seafood, and vegetables. 

6. Spain

Total Score: 35

Fresh seafood and vegetables are two very eminent areas of Spanish cuisine. People in Spain also believe in eating smaller portions, which makes their diet healthier and greatly diverse. Spain is number 6 on our list of countries with the healthiest diets. 

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Disclosure: None. Healthiest Food in the World: Top 20 Countries with the Healthiest Diets is originally published on Insider Monkey.