Food systems-based dietary guidelines (FSBDGs, 2024)

This document is a brief introduction to the new food systems-based dietary guidelines (FSBDGs) methodology developed by FAO, which not only aims to address health and nutritional priorities but takes a food system approach to promote healthy diets, by considering socio-cultural, economic, and environmental sustainability.

Why is a food systems-based methodology necessary?

Most countries have developed dietary guidelines with a focus on improving consumers’ nutrition and overall health. Such guidelines have been mainly used for nutrition education. Only a few countries have extended their use to inform policies and interventions in other sectors, such as in public procurement and social protection.

To leverage their potential for doing more in other sectors, some countries have included sustainability considerations in new or revised dietary guidelines. However, the methodologies and approaches used by these countries differ significantly from one another and are seldom made public.

The international community has recognized the potential and need for dietary guidelines to catalyze food systems transformation towards sustainability and to influence policies beyond the scope of consumer education. However, at present, there is a lack of global guidance and tools to facilitate this.

To fill in this gap, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has developed the new food systems-based dietary guidelines (FSBDGs) methodology through a collaborative process involving multiple global, regional, and country-level experts.

Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning (IFSTAL)

IFSTAL (Innovative Food Systems Teaching and Learning) is a cross-university, interdisciplinary food systems training programme for postgraduate students to address global food challenges.

There is an urgent need to train a cohort of professionals who can address and resolve the increasing number of fundamental failings in the global food system. The solutions to these systemic failings go far beyond the production of food and are embedded within broad political, economic, business, social, cultural, and environmental contexts. The challenge of developing efficient, socially acceptable, and sustainable food systems that meet the demands of a growing global population can only be tackled through an interdisciplinary systems approach that integrates social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

IFSTAL is designed to improve post-graduate level knowledge and understanding of food systems from a much broader interdisciplinary perspective, which can be applied to students’ studies. Ultimately, these graduates should be equipped to apply critical interdisciplinary systems thinking in the workplace to understand how problems are connected, their root causes, and where critical leverage points might be.

Led by the Food Systems Research Programme at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, IFSTAL is a pioneering consortium of institutions: Oxford University, Warwick University, Royal Veterinary College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)

Healthy, Sustainable Eating 101 (Clif bar website)

Clif Bar has a Nutrition Education Hub is filled with a variety of resources to help you discover easy ways to eat with nutrition and sustainability in mind. With actionable guidance, tips and tricks, and answers to your tough questions by their team of dietitians and expert advisors. Thoughtful choices about the foods we eat can support our health, the health of the planet, and the health of generations to follow.

Some Examples on their website include:

  • Webinar – Dietitians Driving Change: Navigating Healthy, Sustainable Diets (1 CEU) – Join registered dietitians Sharon Palmer and Clancy Cash Harrison to learn why sustainability should be a core part of every dietitian’s toolkit. Learn how to evaluate the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of food choices, and what you can do to lead the charge in making healthy, sustainable diets more accessible.
  • Webinar – Behind the Label: Sustainability Seals and Certification (1 CEU) – Third-party sustainability seals and certifications provide verified guidance allowing consumers to identify sustainable options more easily. This webinar provides an overview of commonly used seals and certifications and the criteria they represent. Dietitians can learn key strategies to help their clients make informed choices that can positively impact their health, the planet and the lives of the people who grow and make our food.
  • Article – Everything You Need To Know About Healthy, Sustainable Eating. By Kate Geagan, MS, RD, Clif Nutrition Advisory Council member. Clif Bar & Company recently brought together 20 leading voices in health and wellness (including registered dietitians) to talk about sustainable nutrition. And while each shared their unique perspective based on personal experiences and passions, common themes emerged when it came down to what constitutes a healthy, sustainable diet (and, just as importantly, how to put it into practice). One key takeaway? Good food has the power to nourish so much more than our bodies. Read on to learn more about what these influential voices had to say, including the “what”, “why” and “how” of healthy, sustainable eating made easy.
  • Article – How to Eat Well for People and the Planet – Food has the power to do more than fuel us. Thoughtful choices about the foods we choose can positively impact our health, the health of the planet, and the health of generations to follow. Clif Bar & Company asked 20 leading voices in health and wellness, including registered dietitians what it means to eat a healthy, sustainable diet. Here’s what they said.
  • Article – Packaging with Purpose – Our Commitment to Sustainable Packaging – Clif Bar has proudly signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Commitment to help create a world where plastic never becomes waste or pollution.That means, by 2025, 100% of their packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable. See the link for more of the commitments that you can promote and encourage as well.
  • Article – Making it Better with Organic – At Clif Bar, our journey to use organic ingredients started in 2003. Since then, we’ve maintained our commitment to organic and use a majority of organic ingredients in our products. We’ve learned along the journey that organic can be a catalyst for good. It’s key to creating a healthier, more just, and sustainable food system for all of us, and organic food connects people to a healthy planet.

A pathway to personal, population and planetary health for dietitians and nutrition professionals (2023 Nov)

MacKenzie-Shalders, K. L., Barbour, L., Charlton, K., Cox, G. R., Lawrence, M., Murray, S., Newberry, K., Senior, N. M., Stanton, R., & Tagtow, A. M. (2023). A pathway to personal, population and planetary health for dietitians and nutrition professionals. Public Health Nutrition, Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/puh2.137

Abstract

Background

Earth and all its inhabitants are threatened by a planetary crisis; including climate change, deforestation, biodiversity loss and pollution. Dietitians and nutrition professionals have a responsibility to lead transformational change in contemporary food and health systems to help mitigate this crisis. The study aims to develop a conceptual framework to support dietitians towards personal, population and planetary health.

Methods

Non-empirical methods were used by the co-researchers to explore and explain the application of an international framework ‘Next-Generation Solutions to Address Adaptive Challenges in Dietetics Practice: The I + PSE Conceptual Framework for Action’. (I+PSE = Individual plus Policy, System, and Environmental)

Results

A non-sequential pathway guide to personal, population and planetary health for nutrition professionals was developed including several key guiding principles of Agency, Action, Ascension, Alignment, Alliance and Allyship, and Advocacy and Activism. Each guiding principle features descriptors and descriptions to enhance dietitian and nutrition professional

  • Agency (i.e. vision, self-belief, confidence, strength and responsibility),
  • Action (i.e. start, shift, translate, achieve and commit),
  • Ascension (i.e. build, overcome, manage, challenge and progress),
  • Alignment (i.e. leadership, transparency, diplomacy, values and systems),
  • Alliance and Allyship (i.e. support, collaborate, represent, community and citizenship) and
  • Advocacy and Activism (i.e. disrupt, co-design, transform, empower and urgency).

The framework and its descriptors support enhanced understanding and are modifiable and flexible in their application to guide the participation of dietitians and nutrition professionals in transformational change in personal, population and planetary health. This guide acknowledges that First Nations knowledge and customs are important to current and future work within this field.

Conclusions

Alongside the international body of work progressing in this field, this framework and visual guide will support dietitians and nutrition professionals to achieve urgent, transformational change in personal, population and planetary health.

Next-generation solutions to address adaptive challenges in dietetics practice: the I+PSE conceptual framework for action (2022)

Tagtow A, Herman D, Cunningham-Sabo L. Next-generation solutions to address adaptive challenges in dietetics practice: the I+PSE conceptual framework for action. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022; 122(1): 15-24.

This article focuses on Applications for Professional Practice. The following is taken from the introduction to the article:

“It describes the Individual plus Policy, System, and Environmental (I+PSE) Conceptual Framework for Action (known as the “Framework”) as a roadmap for RDNs across all areas of practice (eg, research, education, clinical, community, and management) to better address adaptive challenges and to formulate multidimensional strategies for optimal impact. The Framework has cross-cutting practice implications for all areas of dietetics practice and can lead to the next generation of solutions to tackle adaptive challenges that better support nutrition and health.

The I+PSE Conceptual Framework for Action (see Figure) is a blueprint for RDNs and their partners to develop and implement multidimensional strategies using a systems orientation to achieve greater responsiveness to adaptive challenges and realize greater impacts.

  • Phase 1 –
    • Once an adaptive challenge is identified, RDNs can apply a determinants of health lens (Figure, phase 1) to closely examine nutrition and health problems and better identify why problems are worsening despite best efforts to solve them. The result of this focused assessment is a stronger diagnosis of the root causes that supports strategic decision-making in phase 2.
  • Phase 2 –
    • Is the formation of coordinated multidimensional strategies that produce a sustainable and synergistic effect.
  • Phase 3 –
    • Is the evaluation of outcomes and impacts of the suite of strategies and the degree to which change has occurred at the individual, practice, program, organizational, policy, and population levels. Encircling the Framework is systems thinking and reflection to support an iterative cycle of robust assessment, planning, implementation, and impact evaluation. The Framework is versatile and can be adapted to a wide range of nutrition issues, areas of dietetics practice, and diverse partnerships.”

Food environment framework in low- and middle-income countries – An integrative review (2023 Dec)

Neha Gupta, Vaishali Deshmukh, Sonika Verma, Seema Puri, Nikhil Tandon, Narendra K. Arora. Food environment framework in low- and middle-income countries – An integrative review. Global Food Security. Volume 39. 2023. 100716. ISSN 2211-9124. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2023.100716. (pay wall)

Relevant to: 

Researchers from multidisciplinary domains, policy makers, program managers

Question: 

The integrative review addressed the following objectives: (1) to develop a multi-level framework of Food Environments (FE) for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) based on McLeroy socio ecological theory and Penchansky and Thomas’s theory of access; (2) to identify the factors operating at different levels of the FE framework; and (3) to understand the relationship between factors operating at different levels of FE framework and dietary behaviors in LMICs.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • Food environment embedded in the food systems is a key consideration in sustainability. This study finds that the food environments in LMICs are in a dynamic state and have context specific mix of traditional systems and emerging modern supply chain-based markets.
  • The proposed socio-ecological model of the food environment in the context of LMICs should lay the foundation for an operational and analytical tool for surveillance, capturing dynamicity and its determinants.

Abstract: 

  • There are major gaps in our understanding of food environments (FE) in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) witnessing differential and complex social and economic transition. The present integrative review was conducted to develop a conceptual framework of FE for LMICs using socio-ecological and access theory. The FE framework has four layers: public policy, community/neighborhood (including organizational e.g., markets, schools), household, and individual. Availability, accessibility, and affordability with built-in socio-cultural and contextual factors were the major domains in every layer. The following additional domains emerged: global influences, marketing and regulation, nutrition programs, time-constrained family members, and food behavior. Wet and informal markets are important components of FE. The next step is determining the model’s resilience to accommodate and capture nuances across LMICs.

Details of results: 

  • The integrative review included evidence from 28 studies about food environment in low and middle-income countries in the last two decades.
  • The review used McLeroy’s socio-ecological model and Penchansky’s access theory as the basis for identifying the socio-economic and ecological factors operating at multiple levels in the LMIC food environment that influence dietary outcomes.
  • The factors were operating at (i) policy, (ii) community, (iii) household, and (iv) individual levels under the availability, affordability, and accessibility domains at each level are interwoven among themselves
  • The review identified that context and neighborhood characteristics characterise the food environment. In addition, the unorganized markets comprise of the major component of food environment
  • The evidence synthesis identified the following additional domains at multiple levels: Nutrition programs and global influences (Policy level); marketing and regulations (policy and neighborhood level); and time constraint and food behavior (household level).

Of additional interest: 

n/a

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.

External relevant links:  

n/a

Corresponding author: 

Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, dr.seemapuri@gmail.com

Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries (2023 Dec)

Sachdeva B, Puri S, Aeri BT. Environmental imprints of agricultural and livestock produce: a scoping review from South Asian countries. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2023: 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1111/jhn.1323 (pay wall)

Relevant to: 

Medical professionals, nutrition experts, chefs, foodservice procurement

Question: 

The present study explored the role of South Asian food crops and livestock in environmental degradation.

Bottom line for nutrition practice: 

  • A prerequisite for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is the sustainable food production. Many foods that are healthy for people are healthy for the environment, too. Trained medical professionals and nutrition experts encourage healthy eating. According to the research, nutrition experts in South Asian nations do possess enough understanding about sustainable food systems. Thus, in addition to nutrition education, they can spread the knowledge about food sustainability as well.
  • At the public level, concept of food sustainability can be promoted by chefs or nutritionists who oversee large food establishments and serve maximum population. Providing plant-based, seasonal, varied, and traditional menus, along with reduced portion sizes, could be easy yet effective ways to encourage sustainable diets and decrease food waste.

Abstract: 

  • Background: Global agricultural activities in 2020 produced 5.5 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, and this amount is projected to increase since 70% more food would need to be produced in 2050 to feed the world’s population. Food security in South Asian countries is expected to rise due to increased agricultural output, yet it is unclear how their livestock and food crops will affect the environment. The purpose of this review was to evaluate the environmental effects of agricultural activities (pre and post-production) associated with edible food crops and livestock products consumed in eight South Asian nations.
  • Methods: Three databases—PubMed, Google Scholar, and Science Direct—were used to find the studies between 2011 and 2022. There was no registered protocol for this scoping review.
  • Results: The criteria for inclusion were met by twenty-seven studies. Most of the research was done in India. The assessment of greenhouse gas emissions was reported in twenty-four papers followed by water footprints (n = 5), emissions of nitrogen and phosphorus (n = 4), and land requirements (n = 4).A major source of greenhouse gas emissions has been found to be the cultivation of wheat and rice. It has been reported that the production of livestock (meat, dairy, prawns, and bovine) in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka has also a negative impact on the environmental. For other environment variables, inconclusive data were obtained.
  • Conclusions: Growing more coarse cereals (millets) and diversifying the food production are the requisite steps to reduce the GHG emissions. However, to corroborate the current analysis, further long-term studies for South Asian nations are necessary.

Details of results: 

  • A total of twenty-seven screened studies met the scoping review’s eligibility and were included in the final analysis. Selected research articles discussed the impact of livestock and/or food production on various environmental parameters.
  • With the help of this review, information about various environmental effects of pre- and post-production activities pertaining to food crops and livestock products in South Asian nations was gathered. In accordance with the World Bank’s classification, eight South Asian nations—India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan—were taken into consideration.
  • It was observed that greenhouse gas emissions were the most often researched environmental impact worldwide. Retrieved data on land requirements, water footprints, and nitrogen.
  • Understanding a nation’s food production and consumption pattern is essential to ensure food sustainability. Research indicates that due to globalisation there has been a nutrition transition in South Asian countries.
  • Refined products, high fat, high sugar and animal-based food which are consumed more frequently are considered harmful for the environment. Diversifying one’s diet is recommended at the individual level in all six countries. This includes consuming a range of grains and substituting millets (bajra, ragi, and sorghum) for rice/wheat and plant based milk (almond milk for dairy or animal products.

Of additional interest: 

Conflict of interest/ Funding:  

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

Corresponding author: 

Seema Puri, Department of Food and Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India, dr.seemapuri@gmail.com

Sustainability Practices in School Feeding Programs (2023 Sep)

This paper provides an overview of research on environmental considerations in school feeding programmes and a synopsis of evaluations of two school feeding programs (U.S. National School Lunch Program and Portugal) with emphasis on their environmental impacts.

The paper concludes that estimates of the environmental impacts of school feeding programs are needed to design menus and make policy recommendations, which, in turn, can reduce their environmental impacts and help students develop food preferences aligned with sustainable dietary patterns. Studies can be performed to better inform implementation of different components of new standards.

The following were strategies found to assist:
💰 Financial incentives, including local food procurement, could encourage school districts to offer beef less frequently, and provide plant-based meals on school menus.
📝 School-based curriculum that emphasizes food literacy (e.g., cooking, gardening) and marketing campaigns could ensure that menu changes are well-received by students.
🫛 Sourcing plant-based school meals seasonally and locally that use eco-friendly production practices such as organic food production and agroecology can provide environmental, economic, and social
sustainability benefits.
🧑‍🍳 Finally, introducing plant-based school meals gradually, giving careful consideration of the seasoning, naming, and aesthetics of plant-based meals, and training kitchen staff in the preparation of plant-based meals are all strategies that can be used to overcome potential implementation barriers.

This article appeared in a member-only newsletter of the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is shared with permission. The author, Christine McCullum-Gomez, PhD, RDN, is a food and nutrition consultant based in Bogotá, Colombia. She has a PhD in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University with minors in Program Evaluation and Public Policy. Her research and work experience lie in food security and sustainable food systems. Dr. McCullum-Gomez is a Column Editor and serves on the Editorial Board for the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. She is also Chair-Elect of the Global Member Interest Group (GMIG) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit (2023 Dec)

The Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit aims to help national policymakers translate global climate and food commitments into local actions directly supports the COP28 Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. The opportunity for the Declaration’s signatories to translate their commitments into ambitious national-level action lies in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

The toolkit is 40-pages and mentions nutrition throughout. Priority actions identified in the Toolkit include shifting to nature-positive food production, reducing and repurposing food loss and waste, and transitioning to nutritious and healthy diets. Only a combination of these actions will bring food-based greenhouse gas emissions within a 1.5 degrees Celsius carbon budget, and ensure that food producers can adapt to changes in what, where and how they can grow and harvest food.

It identifies six priorities for policymakers to incorporate in updated NDCs and NAPs, provides a series of case studies from countries already integrating food systems actions in their national climate plans, and gives an overview of existing resources that can enable the enhancement, replication and scaling of successful practices.

Although most countries have introduced at least one food-based measure in their NDCs and NAPs, many continue to face significant challenges in holistically integrating and implementing food system measures. Most countries focus on food production, with a limited number including actions on food loss and waste, and only a handful considering consumption and diets. By identifying good examples from different parts of the world, the toolkit will support policymakers in introducing additional measures that will deliver the most impact in their own context.

The COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit was produced by a taskforce – which included WWF, Global Alliance for the Future of Food, Climate Focus, NDC Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT – convened by the UAE COP28 Presidency and will be a valuable resource for countries as they transform their food systems to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Including aspects of sustainability in the degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics: An evaluation based on student perceptions (2020)

Education is progressing towards having a more sustainable outlook. Numerous approaches to sustainability teaching have been conducted at different educational stages, but few studies have used quantitative methods to measure its impact.

The aim of this quasi-experimental intervention was to integrate competences in “Sustainable Development” (SustD) into the teaching syllabus of a degree at University of the Basque Country (Spain), in Human Nutrition and Dietetics through active methodologies. Seven courses were selected to implement ten activities, across four academic levels of this degree. Students completed a questionnaire both before and after the intervention in order to measure their perception of knowledge of SustD and to assess their sustainable intentional behaviour (SIB).

According to the results, their SustD related knowledge increased after the intervention, although this was not clearly reflected in their SIB. This study aims to identify good practices and the best conditions for future longitudinal interventions.

Pay Wall to access: Virginia Navarro, Olaia Martínez, Jonatan Miranda, Diego Rada, María Ángeles Bustamante, Iñaki Etaio, Arrate Lasa, Edurne Simón, Itziar Churruca. Including aspects of sustainability in the degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics: An evaluation based on student perceptions, Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 243, 2020, 118545, ISSN 0959-6526, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.118545.