New RIVM Food Consumption Survey (2019-2021): Netherlands eating healthier

09 February 2023
People in the Netherlands tend to eat more plant-based products, such as unsalted nuts, seeds, legumes, vegetables and fruit, and less sugar-containing beverages and red and processed meat. The percentage of protein from plant sources increased slightly. The vast majority of people in the Netherlands, however, still do not adhere to the dietary guidelines of the Health Council of the Netherlands. The extent to which Dutch adults follow the guidelines varies from 10-50% between product groups. This is the finding of new food figures from RIVM's Dutch National Food Consumption Survey (FCS) 2019-2021. Results on energy and nutrients will be published later in 2023.

Key changes
In the period 2019-2021 compared to the period 2012-2016:

  • The consumption of vegetables increased by about 20% and fruit by 10%. The average intake is nevertheless still lower than the guideline of eating at least 200 grams of vegetables and 200 grams of fruit on a daily basis.
  • The consumption of brown and wholemeal bread and grain products remained about the same. About half of adults meet the guideline of eating at least 90 grams of brown bread, wholemeal bread or other wholegrain products on a daily basis, which makes it the one of the most closely followed guidelines.
  • The consumption of sugar containing beverages (soft, dairy and sports drinks with added sugars and fruit juices) fell by more than 35%. The Health Council of the Netherlands recommends to minimise consumption of sugar-containing beverages.
  • The consumption of red and/or processed meat fell by about 12%. The Health Council of the Netherlands recommends limiting the consumption of red meat, and in particular processed meat.
  • Dairy consumption fell slightly. Dairy consumption, however, has fallen by nearly 14% since 2007-2010, while the Health Council of the Netherlands recommended in 2015 to keep consumption at the same level.
  • The percentage of people who meet the guideline to eat fish once a week dropped from 33 to 28%.
  • The use of dietary supplements increased, while it was not recommended.

Slightly increase in plant protein
The percentage of plant protein of the total protein intake increased from 41% to 43%. This means that the percentage of protein from animal sources fell from 59% to 57%. A shift towards a more plant-based and less animal-based diet in accordance with national and international dietary guidelines is conducive to good health and greater sustainability. For this reason, various organisations in the Netherlands are steering towards a transition from 60% animal / 40% plant protein intake to 40% animal / 60% plant protein intake in 2030. This is referred to as the ‘protein transition’. The short-term target is a 50/50 ratio.

Consumption of potatoes and potato products declining
The consumption of potatoes and potato products decreased from an average 76 grams per day in 2012-2016 to 63 grams per day in 2019-2021. On average, people in the Netherlands still eat potatoes and potato products 3 days a week. Potatoes are in the Wheel of Five of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre because they are a good source of carbohydrates and nutrients. However, a guideline on potatoes is missing from the dietary guidelines because, according to the Health Council of the Netherlands, there is insufficient scientific data available on the health benefits of potatoes.

The table shows the dietary intake data from the Food Consumption Surveys 2007-2010, 2012-2016 and 2019-2021 for each food group taken from dietary guidelines.

Table. Results from 3 Food Consumption Surveys by food group from the dietary guidelines. Source: RIVM – Wat eet Nederland – Alle veranderingen [What the Netherlands eats – All changes]
Guideline Food group from the dietary guidelines 2007-2010      2012-2016      2019-2021
Increase Unsalted nuts and seeds (grams per day) 0 3 5
Increase Legumes (number of days per week) 0.2 0.3 0.4
Increase Tea (grams per day) 190 237 242
Increase Vegetables (grams per day) 128 135 163
Increase Fruit (grams per day) 103 117 129
Increase Plant protein (% of total protein) 40 41 43
Increase Brown and wholemeal bread and wholegrain products (grams per day) 99 102 102
Increase Fish (% once a week) 32 33 28
Replacement Share of soft fats and vegetable oils of total fats and oils (average % of consumers) 82 85 85
Replacement Share of brown and wholemeal of total bread and whole grain products (average % of consumers) 52 51 52
Maintain Dairy (grams per day) 386 346 333
Restrict Dietary supplements (%) 44 42 54
Restrict Alcoholic beverages (drinks more than 1 glass per day; 18-69 years of age) 53 53 52
Restrict Red and/or processed meat (grams per day) 92 83 73
Restrict Sugar containing beverages (grams per day) 363 382 240
No guideline Potatoes and potato products (grams per day) 92 76 64

From June 2019 to July 2021, RIVM collected and then analysed data from a total of 3570 people who live in the Netherlands, between the ages of 1 to 79 years. Data was collected through a written questionnaire and two 24-hour dietary questions on non-consecutive, independent days (dietary recall). For the youngest and oldest age groups, the survey was supported by a food diary.

About the Food Consumption Surveys
Food Consumption Surveys have been conducted on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport since 1987 and they provide insight into what, where and when Dutch people eat and drink. The results of the Food Consumption Surveys contribute to the development of policies for healthy food, sustainable and safe food, product innovation, education and nutrition research.


Media contact

Andries Olie, Spokesman
Andries Olie, Spokesman
Senior Manager of Nutrition, Health and Sustainability