How to Effectively Encourage Sustainable Food Choices: A Mini-Review of Available Evidence (2022 Nov)

This is open-access peer review mini-review from Frontiers (Psychology) by Wokje Abrahamse, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. He describes the review as the following:

“Food choices are difficult to change. People’s individual motivations (such as taste, cost, and food preferences) can be at odds with the negative environmental outcomes of their food choices (such as deforestation, water pollution, and climate change). How then can people be encouraged to adopt more sustainable food choices?

This rapid review uses a dual-processing framework of decision-making to structure an investigation of the effectiveness of interventions to encourage sustainable food choices (e.g., local and organic food consumption, reducing meat and dairy intake, reducing food waste) via voluntary behavior change. The review includes interventions that rely on fast, automatic decision-making processes (e.g., nudging) and interventions that rely on more deliberate decision-making (e.g., information provision). These interventions have varying degrees of success in terms of encouraging sustainable food choices.

This mini-review outlines some of the ways in which our understanding of sustainable food choices could be enhanced. This includes a call for the inclusion of possible moderators and mediators (past behavior, attitudes, beliefs, values) as part of effect measurements, because these elucidate the mechanisms by which behavior change occurs. In light of the climate change challenge, studies that include long-term effect measurements are essential as these can provide insight on how to foster sustained and durable changes.”

This article was shared with us through our SFS Toolkit Community of Practice forum titled: Behaviour Change Techniques In Sustainability. Join us on the forum to learn & GROW together!

Nordic food systems for improved health and sustainability: Baseline assessment to inform transformation (2019)

According to the report “Nordic food systems for improved health and sustainability: Baseline assessment to inform transformation (2019)”, there are sufficient data on Nordic food systems to understand the crucial action areas and to begin taking immediate steps towards food systems transformations. A transformation implies a journey into aspects partly unknown and untested. The report highlights the complementarity of scientific assessment and normative dialogue on this journey.

Dietitians and Nutritionists (D-Ns) are key to this! From the report:

Food system actors would benefit from building a common understanding of desired pathways towards transformation, which should be informed by the best available evidence. This can be achieved through sustained, cross-sectoral (e.g. policy, business, research, civil society, producer, consumer) stakeholder dialogues. It is particularly important to include stakeholders who are often marginalized in these types of collaborative decision-making processes.

There will be challenges to initiating these changes, such as adopting a ‘whole food system’ approach; addressing trade-offs among food system goals; and confronting prevailing forces and lock-ins. Yet these challenges should not be an excuse for inaction.

Key messages

  • Food systems should be a critical lever of change in the Nordics to reach global health and environmental sustainability commitments.
  • The gap between current and desired food systems is substantial enough to require transformative change.
  • An integrated food systems approach aligning agricultural, production, trade, manufacturing, retailing and consumption priorities must be taken.
  • There is enough evidence on necessary food system changes to begin action in setting current food systems on a trajectory towards healthy and sustainable development.
  • Sustained, multi-sectoral forums are needed to steer Nordic food system transformation.

Next steps

  • Begin immediate action to transform Nordic food systems
  • Initiate a multi-stakeholder scenario development process to define a common vision for Nordic food systems
  • Develop strategies to handle the trade-offs of change
  • Evaluate Nordic food systems in the global context

Acknowledgement: This page is an extracted from the introduction to the report.

Catalan Food Based Dietary Guideline (2020)(Catalan)

The Catalan Food Based Dietary Guideline was developed by the Catalan Public Health Agency and is a very useful tool for following a healthy and sustainable diet. Sustainability recommendations are provided in boxes called “care about the environment” such as drinking tap water, prioritizing consumption of legumes more than meat, consuming local foods, purchasing olive oil in large packaging to reduce plastic use, and more.

This resource is in Catalan only. It was provided by @juliamunoz_dn the ICDA SFS Toolkit’s Regional Contact for Spain.

Guide to a healthy and low-cost diet for families with children (2020)(Spanish)

The ICDA SFS Toolkit Regional Contact for Spain, Júlia Muñoz (@juliamunoz_dn in our COP), collaborated with her colleagues (Dr, RD Elena Carrillo, RD Marta Anguera, and Dr Irene Cussó) in the development of this document to help citizens follow a healthier and more sustainable diet at the minimum cost. This guideline is based on the results of a previous European-lead research  carried out at Blanquerna School of Health Sciences Ramon Llull University  to promote a healthy and economical diet for different types of families. They then worked with the Barcelona City Council to publish two documents:

1) Guide to a healthy and low-cost diet for families with children. The guide can serve municipal professionals and other social agents or entities to support families in situations of social vulnerability in the field of food. The ultimate goal is to have a useful tool that families and entities can use to quickly manage the fundamental right to adequate food with a small budget.

2) A booklet on Healthy and economic food for families with children. This is a practical booklet for all citizens, mainly aimed at families with children and adolescents from 18 months to 18 years old, especially in situations of economic difficulties, which provides them with guidance and recommendations to prepare healthy and economic daily meals. The guide provides a shopping list for different types of families, seasonal menus, and an estimated cost for one person. The sample menus were prepared based on recommendations of the Spanish Society of Community Nutrition and the Public Health Agency of Catalonia.

Júlia explains that the recommendations include practices for food sustainability such as the use of leftovers to create new recipes or select seasonal foods. Given the current situation of increasing food insecurity due to the rise of food prices, and acknowledging that when people suffer from stress they tend to eat convenient and non-healthy foods (which have a high environmental impact apart from impairing health), it is important to identify these types of resources to keep promoting sustainable diets in a practical way.

EFAD Position Paper: Sustainable Dietary Patterns (2021)

An interdisciplinary approach is needed to successfully integrate more sustainable healthy diets into a complex system of food production and supply. To achieve that goal, European dietetic associations and the European dietitian workforce are committed and willing to promote healthier and more sustainable dietary patterns through affordable diets that are diversified, nutritious, less resource-intensive, and produce minimal waste.

EFAD also asks European countries to review their national food-based dietary guidelines to include sustainability aspects as a connecting force for the health and the environment and calls upon policymakers, civil society, food industry, farmers, and consumers to support actions and policies which facilitate transitions towards a healthier and greener Europe.
The time is now and the European dietitians are ready.

The position Paper was developed as part of the Sustainable Dietary Patterns Program of EFAD Learning supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Danone and Nestle. it was adopted by an EFAD General Meeting October 2021. It was developed an EFAD working group: Manuel Moñino, Andreja Misir, Katerina Belogianni, Klaus Nigl, Ada Rocha, Angela Garcia Gonzalez, Katarzyna Janiszewska. EFAD Position Paper on Sustainable Dietary Patterns was originally published in Komp Nutr Diet 2021;1:118–119 DOI: 10.1159/000519851.

EFAD is the umbrella organisation for the National Dietetic Associations across Europe. Their primary goal is to improve nutritional health and promote sustainable diets in Europe by advocating the leadership role for dietitians in collaboration with members and stakeholders. All with the aim of improving the health and lives of European citizens.

Changing behaviour to help more people waste less food: a guide (2022 Aug)

Food loss and waste occurs throughout the food system – from farm through to fork. This guide focuses on food waste from households which is a significant issue in many countries. The causes of food waste at household level are complex. There are many drivers and many behaviours, which lead to food being wasted. Many organisations and others who interact with householders have a role to play in helping people reduce the amount of food they waste – by helping to raise awareness and then helping address the barriers to reducing food waste, whether they are related to the product offering or a result of behaviours, skills and knowledge.

Champions 12.3 has collated this guide to help key actors in the food system to focus on how they can help consumers reduce food waste through behaviour change. Recognising the urgent need for strategies addressing consumer food waste, Champions 12.3 brought together in June 2021 food waste experts from around the world, including many with behavioural change expertise, for a workshop to generate promising strategies based on experience and evidence. This guide organises the content generated from this workshop into categories for five key actors in the food system: policy makers, food businesses, non-food businesses, non-profits, and educators/other influencers. It then provides actions they can take to help address consumer food waste.

There is no single solution which will result in sustainable behaviour change to reduce household food waste. Initiatives should consist of partnerships between the different actors and should be evidence-based, using an appropriate behavioural change model wherever possible. They should use a combination of raising awareness together with practical tips and tools to increase “ability” and “opportunity” to reduce food waste.

The guide has sought to illustrate the approaches using real life examples. However, there are still only a small number of examples of behaviour change approaches being used with consumers where the impact and effectiveness has been properly evaluated. This guide can therefore only be a starting point. More examples are needed, especially from the global South.

The evidence suggests that changing consumer behaviours is not easy. Simple awareness raising is not enough. It is important to understand the drivers for food being wasted at a household level and real change requires a mix of interventions that target specific behaviours. This will best be achieved by a partnership of actors in the food system working together.

Sustainable healthy diets – Guiding principles (2019)

Acknowledging the existence of diverging views on the concepts of sustainable diets and healthy diets, countries have requested guidance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) on what constitutes sustainable healthy diets. The two organisations jointly held an international expert consultation on Sustainable and Healthy Diets from 1 to 3 July 2019 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy, to address these issues.

The Consultation agreed on guiding principles for what constitutes “Sustainable Healthy Diets”. This comes at a time when the debate around the sustainability of diets is high on the agenda of governments, international organisations, civil society organisations, the private sector and academia.

These guiding principles take a holistic approach to diets; they consider international nutrition recommendations; the environmental cost of food production and consumption; and the adaptability to local social, cultural and economic contexts. At the Consultation the experts agreed on the term “Sustainable Healthy Diets” which encompasses the two dimensions – sustainability and healthiness of diets. Countries should decide on the trade-offs according to their situations and goals.

These guiding principles emphasize the role of food consumption and diets in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs at country level, especially Goals 1 (No Poverty), 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and 13 (Climate Action).

This publication on Sustainable Healthy Diets – Guiding principles (2019) aims to support the efforts of countries as they work to transform food systems to deliver on sustainable healthy diets.

Farm to Fork strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system (EU, 2020)

The Farm to Fork Strategy is part of the European Green Deal aiming to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly. Food systems cannot be resilient to crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic if they are not sustainable. We need to redesign our food systems which today account for nearly one-third of global GHG emissions, consume large amounts of natural resources, result in biodiversity loss and negative health impacts (due to both under- and over-nutrition) and do not allow fair economic returns and livelihoods for all actors, in particular for primary producers. Putting our food systems on a sustainable path also brings new opportunities for operators in the food value chain. New technologies and scientific discoveries, combined with increasing public awareness and demand for sustainable food, will benefit all stakeholders.

The Farm to Fork Strategy aims to accelerate our transition to a sustainable food system that should:

  • have a neutral or positive environmental impact
  • help to mitigate climate change and adapt to its impacts
  • reverse the loss of biodiversity
  • ensure food security, nutrition and public health, making sure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, nutritious, sustainable food
  • preserve affordability of food while generating fairer economic returns, fostering competitiveness of the EU supply sector and promoting fair trade

Impacto ecológico de la alimentación en España (2022)

Presentamos la nueva edición (31) de Cuadernos de las Cooperativas de Consumidores con un monográfico sobre el «Impacto ecológico de la alimentación en España». Nuestros hábitos de alimentación y el sistema actual de producción y consumo de alimentos tienen un indudable impacto en la salud del planeta, de manera que las decisiones de compra y consumo deberían ser tomadas con la mayor información posible.

Como sociedad, es necesario avanzar hacia modelos más sostenibles y todos los eslabones de la cadena alimentaria deben contribuir a mitigar el impacto ambiental de nuestras prácticas y actividades. Analizado en términos de oportunidad, el camino hacia la sostenibilidad se presenta como un buen momento para transformar nuestro sistema alimentario.

En este trabajo se aborda, desde el punto de vista del sector de la alimentación, cómo nuestros comportamientos y decisiones de consumo generan considerables impactos ambientales y qué se necesita para minimizar los efectos de nuestros hábitos cotidianos con respecto a los alimentos. Esta publicación forma parte del Proyecto “Impacto ecológico de la alimentación”, subvencionado por Ministerio de Consumo, y cuenta con el apoyo y colaboración del Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación.

Hemos conseguido reunir las reflexiones de responsables en la materia y reconocidos especialistas, incluyendo los aspectos normativos y nutricionales, dando voz al sector de la producción y la distribución comercial. Cada artículo se aproxima al problema con un punto de vista diferente, configurando un completo trabajo de lectura recomendada.

Las personas consumidoras quieren reducir su huella ecológica y ya apuestan por las empresas que se comprometen y actúan para reducir tanto sus emisiones como los impactos ambientales. Pero cada día es más patente la gran distancia que existe entre la intención y la acción. A esto se añade el aumento del coste de la vida, que impide tomar decisiones de forma responsable con el planeta. En esta situación, el precio se ha convertido en una barrera para el comportamiento sostenible, por lo que debemos tener en consideración a aquellos colectivos de personas vulnerables para que no se queden fuera en estos momentos y avancen igualmente en el camino hacia la reducción del impacto ambiental de los hábitos de compra y consumo de alimentos. 

En la apuesta por la sostenibilidad, compartida de forma unánime por todos los sectores, hay muchas lagunas y la persona consumidora, como último eslabón de la cadena, reclama más información y un compromiso real y contrastable del sector de la alimentación con el medio ambiente, para que se ofrezcan productos que nos permita seguir unos patrones de alimentación más saludables, a la vez que sostenibles. 

Con este Monográfico también queremos hacer, en nombre de las cooperativas de consumo un llamamiento al compromiso sincero con la sostenibilidad, impulsando innovaciones y nuevas oportunidades empresariales, que permitan avanzar hacia un sistema alimentario más sostenible y respetuoso con el planeta y las personas.

A Global Analysis of National Dietary Guidelines on Plant-Based Diets and Substitutions for Animal-Based Foods (2022 Nov)

Anna-Lena Klapp, Nico Feil, Antje Risius, A Global Analysis of National Dietary Guidelines on Plant-Based Diets and Substitutions for Animal-Based Foods, Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 6, Issue 11, November 2022, nzac144, https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzac144

Abstract

Discussing plant-based diets and substitutions for animal-based foods in food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) can be a key step in making dietary recommendations more sustainable and healthy as well as more inclusive. The existing large-scale evaluations of FBDGs do not assess whether and to what extent countries cover the broad spectrum of plant-based diets and have policy positions on vegetarian diets, including vegan diets, and whether they mention specific plant-based alternatives to milk, dairy products, and meat. The main aim of this state-of-the-art review was to determine whether and how FBDGs provide such information.

An overall 95 guidelines and 100 corresponding countries were assessed via an exploratory sequential mixed method. This involved qualitative explorative content analysis of the guidelines, followed by hierarchical cluster analysis. Furthermore, the Balanced Food Choice Index (BFCI) was constructed, which measures the extent to which FBDGs provide recommendations that cover the broad spectrum of plant-based diets, with some or no animal-based products. To explore the correlations between FBDGs’ recommendations and ecological and economic country characteristics, ordinary least squares regression was used.

It was found that most countries do not provide information to their citizens that cover the broad spectrum of plant-based diets, as indicated by the mean score of the BFCI (33.58 of 100 points). A total of 38 guidelines (40%) contain a position on vegetarian diets. Nearly half (45%) of all FBDGs already mention plant-based alternatives to meat or animal milk. The regressions showed that the BFCI correlates positively with countries’ ecological efforts and negatively with the importance of animal-based products in their economies.

This study demonstrates considerable information insufficiency in current FBDGs worldwide. FBDGs should provide recommendations for the broad spectrum of plant-based diets and balance the ethical, ecological, religious, and economic aspects that play a role in people’s food choice.

Declarations

This research was financially supported by the Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony through the Nachhaltige Ernaehrungsstile project, the Open Access Publication Funds of the Göttingen University, and ProVeg e.V. The funding sources had no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to submit the article for publication.