Healthy sustainable diets

How can we all eat a diet that is healthy, affordable and accessible for everyone, and also has a lower impact on the environment? How can we produce more food to feed a growing population at the same time as using fewer resources, such as land and water, and energy? These are some of the issues outlined below and some tips on how we can make more sustainable food and drink choices.

The balance of foods that we consume is not only important for our own health, but also the health of our planet. At present, one in five deaths worldwide are linked to consuming a poor quality diet. Global food production also has a big impact on the environment. At the same time, we have a rising global population, which is expected to reach almost 10 billion people by 2050. This will mean demand for food around the world will increase by 50%. This higher demand for food will place extra pressure on current global food systems, which are already being affected by climate change.

Finding solutions to address these changes is one of the biggest challenges facing us in the 21st century. Globally, to improve our health and reduce the effects of our current food systems on the environment, we need to change the ways we produce food and also how we consume it. This will help ensure a future where there is enough safe and nutritious food for everyone, produced in a sustainable way that protects our planet while improving human health.

The British Nutrition Foundation conducted a review of recent research literature to identify the main principles of a healthier and more sustainable diet, acknowledging this is a rapidly evolving area and that not all production systems are equal. For example, the carbon footprint of UK beef is about half the global average figure. 

The following is based on the recommendations from this review (published August 2021). For more information about the review, click here.

How can we achieve a healthier and more sustainable diet?

We all know that a healthy and balanced diet is important for good health. However, when it comes to defining a diet that is healthy and sustainable, there are lots of different factors to consider. This includes good nutrition and a lower environmental impact, but also the right balance of foods (and drinks) that is affordable and acceptable, so that dietary changes are fair and equal for everyone.

How to make diets healthier and more sustainable

While there is no ideal ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, there are some actions that everyone can take now that are likely to benefit both their own health and the environment.

Over time, resources will be developed to support each of the six areas. For the first two, current resources have been highlighted. Review the six key areas and consider how these can be integrated into your teaching and pupil learning – through activities in healthy eating, where food comes from, and cooking.

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