Learning Module 2: How are Sustainable Food Systems and Diets Relevant to Nutrition and Dietetic Practice?

The relationships between diets, dietary patterns, and human nutrition is one that you are very familiar with. In this section, we integrate how food systems and sustainability mediate some of that relationship, and why that matters to your practice. In this In this Learning Module, we will direct you to resources in the Toolkit that help you to answer the following questions:

  • How do dietary patterns, food systems sustainability, and health relate?
  • In what ways is this relevant to nutrition and dietetics practitioners?

How do dietary patterns, food systems sustainability, and health relate?

Different foods and dietary patterns have differing impacts on certain ecological outcomes, such as greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity, and water quality. For example, it is well established that (in general) diets that have a higher proportion of plant foods lead to better environmental outcomes. Therefore, certain dietary patterns are “better” for environmental sustainability, just like certain diets are better for health outcomes.

The ways that foods are produced, distributed, processed, and retailed, as well as factors like economic structures (all aspects of the food system) are responsible for these different levels of impact. These food system factors also impact the sustainability of social systems, impacting important issues such as equity, access to healthy food, and an ability to influence your own food system. As dietary choices and food systems are impacting social and ecological systems, these are in turn affecting food systems, dietary choices, and health outcomes. The relationship is reciprocal.

Read

In this section we encourage you to explore these issues more deeply:

Reflect

After reading and exploring these two documents, reflect on the following questions.

  1. Describe 3 examples of how dietary choices and patterns impact sustainability of our food systems?
  2. Describe 3 examples of how unsustainable conditions in our food systems impact diets and human health?
  3. The readings present global data. Which of these are happening in your country, or community? Can you think of examples that demonstrate these relationships?

Keep Learning

We encourage you to keep exploring how dietary patterns impact food systems sustainability, and vice versa.

  • The toolkit continually adds emerging research and discussions in the Podcasts, Webinars, Workshops.
  • You can look at some topic-specific relationships between the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their relationship to nutrition using the the SDG Briefs. We strongly encourage you to examine how these issues manifest in your community, and speak with your clients and community members about how they are being affected.

In what ways is this relevant to nutrition and dietetics practitioners?

These issues are relevant to everyone, and nutrition and dietetics practitioners are very well positioned to contribute positively because you work in various roles throughout food systems. Nutrition and dietetic practitioners around the world define these titles slightly differently, depending on the region and place. What you have in common is work to improve nutritional health of individuals and groups, from the household to the global level. The sustainability of food systems have direct impacts on your work in many ways.

Read

In this section we encourage you to learn from dietitians sharing about how this knowledge is highly relevant to improved service provision in dietetics.

  • We ask you to read about examples of roles that dietitians can and are taking to contribute to sustainable food systems. For this we redirect you to Part 2 of the Canadian publication, The Role of Dietitians in Sustainable Food Systems and Sustainable Diets, introduced in the previous question in this Learning Module.
  • After which, explore the SDG Briefs, which outline not only the relevance to practice, but generate suggestions for potential roles for dietetics. Choose one or two briefs that interest you.

Optional Listening

For those readers that are members of Dietitians of Canada or are able to pay the ~$20.00CAD fee for non-members, there are 2 webinars that are worth listening to:

Reflect

After listening and reading, reflect on the following questions.

  1. In what ways is contributing to sustainable food systems and diets relevant to the goals you have in your practice? Think of ways that your clients, or your employer, benefit from making more sustainable choices. This could be about ecological or social sustainability, or both!
  2. What are 3 ways that you could contribute to sustainable food systems and diets in your current role as a nutritionist or dietitian?
  3. Other than the ones relevant to you, what are 3 additional roles or actions that nutrition and dietetics practitioners can use to contribute to sustainable food systems and diets?

Keep Learning

We encourage you to continue to explore different ways this is relevant to your practice.

  • Talk to your colleagues about their ideas for how sustainable food systems could benefit their practice.
  • Continue to explore more SDG Briefs: Dietitian-Nutritionist Roles for new topics and ideas.
  • Explore the Examples of Sustainability in Practice in the Toolkit from your colleagues to get a sense of how and why dietitians are getting involved.
  • You can participate in the Toolkit’s Discussion Forum if you want to pose questions about how your colleagues are finding co-benefits between sustainability and nutrition.

Nutrition and Dietetic Associations SFS Position Papers

Several nutrition and dietetics associations are officially recognizing the relevance of sustainable food systems and diets to practice through role and/or position papers. See how nations are explaining the relevance:

Summary

In this Learning Module, you explored resources in the toolkit that help you to answer the following questions:

  • How do dietary patterns, food systems sustainability, and health relate?
  • In what ways is this relevant to nutrition and dietetics practitioners?

To continue learning about how these concepts apply to your practice, explore Learning Module 3: How to Contribute to Sustainable Food Systems and Diets in Your Practice.

Feedback? Questions? Ideas? Contact the ICDA SFS Coordinator:  ICDAsfs.coordinator@acadiau.ca