Healthy and Sustainable Diets

You may be familiar with the term ‘Healthy and Sustainable Diets’ but what is this and why is it so important?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, healthy and sustainable diets are “dietary patterns that promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing; have low environmental pressures and impact; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable.” 

The reason that there is so much talk about healthy, sustainable diets is due to the impact of the food we produce, and subsequently eat, has on the health of our planet and people. 

Globally, food production has a huge effect on the environment. It contributes to over a quarter (26%) of greenhouse gas emissions, uses over two thirds of freshwater, and agriculture uses nearly half of the worlds habitable land. Focusing on human health, in the UK two thirds of adults are overweight and nine of the top fifteen risk factors for diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, are linked to poor diet.  

So how do we choose a diet that is good for the environment AND good for us?  

The Eatwell Guide is a useful tool to use to help you choose a diet that supports the health of the planet and people. It outlines a diet that is high in fruit and vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, and wholegrain starchy foods; moderate amounts of dairy products or alternatives; and lower consumption of meat and fish, particularly red meat.  

If everyone in the UK followed the Eatwell Guide, this could result in: 

  • 31% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions  
  • 34% reduction in land use  
  • 17% reduction water use  
  • 17.9m more years of healthy life 

However, less than 1% of people in the UK follow a diet that fits into The Eatwell Guide.  

Eatwell Guide


Tips for eating a healthy, sustainable diet: 

  • Reduce your consumption of red meat – you could even try having some meat-free days in the week. 
  • Focus on eating more plant sources of proteins, such as beans, lentils, soya, nuts and seeds.  
  • If you eat fish, choose fish from sustainably managed sources – look out for logos such as the blue Marine Stewardship Council. Try and eat one portion of oily fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines) a week as these are high in essential fatty acids (omega-3) which are linked to good heart health. 
  • Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. Try and ‘eat the rainbow’ – include as many different coloured fruit and vegetables as they will increase the variety of vitamins and minerals you’re consuming. You could even try to eat 30 different plants a week! Our partner Dr Megan Rossi aka The Gut Health Doctor has some tips on her website about this.  
  • Choose wholegrain varieties of starchy carbohydrates such as wholewheat bread, and brown pasta and rice.  
  • Opt for tap water and unsweetened teas or coffees instead of soft drinks which are high in sugar. Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups to limit your use of single-use items; some places even give you a discount on your drink if you bring in your own cup! 
  • Finally, try and reduce your food waste at home and at work. A whopping 60% of food waste in the UK comes from our homes. You can find some more information on how you can do you bit to reduce your food waste on Love Food Hate Waste’s 


BDA (2024) Sustainable Diets 

BNF (2024) What is a healthy, sustainable diet? 

IGD (2022) Healthy sustainable diets: driving change 

NHS England (2024) Food and nutrition 

Ritchie, Rosado and Roser (2022) Environmental Impacts of Food Production

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