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This study aimed to identify diets with improved nutrient quality and environmental impact within the boundaries of dietary practices.
We used Data Envelopment Analysis to benchmark diets for improved adherence to food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG). We then optimised these diets for dietary preferences, nutrient quality and environmental impact. Diets were evaluated using the Nutrient Rich Diet score (NRD15.3), diet-related greenhouse gas emission (GHGE) and a diet similarity index that quantified the proportion of food intake that remained similar as compared with the observed diet.
National dietary surveys of four European countries (Denmark, Czech Republic, Italy and France).
Approximately 6500 adults, aged 18–64 years.
When dietary preferences were prioritised, NRD15·3 was ~6 % higher, GHGE was ~4 % lower and ~85 % of food intake remained similar. This diet had higher amounts of fruit, vegetables and whole grains than the observed diet. When nutrient quality was prioritised, NRD15·3 was ~16 % higher, GHGE was ~3 % lower and ~72 % of food intake remained similar. This diet had higher amounts of legumes and fish and lower amounts of sweetened and alcoholic beverages. Finally, when environmental impact was prioritised, NRD15·3 was ~9 % higher, GHGE was ~21 % lower and ~73 % of food intake remained similar. In this diet, red and processed meat partly shifted to either eggs, poultry, fish or dairy.
Benchmark modelling can generate diets with improved adherence to FBDG within the boundaries of dietary practices, but fully maximising health and minimising GHGE cannot be achieved simultaneously.
Shifting towards a more sustainable food consumption pattern is an important strategy to mitigate climate change. In the past decade, various studies have optimised environmentally sustainable diets using different methodological approaches. The aim of the present review was to categorise and summarise the different approaches to operationalise the health aspects of environmentally sustainable diets.
Conventional keyword and reference searches were conducted in PubMed, Scopus, Web of Knowledge and CAB Abstracts. Inclusion criteria were: (i) English-language publication; (ii) published between 2005 and October 2015; (iii) dietary data collected for the diet as a whole at the national, household or individual level; (iv) comparison of the current diet with dietary scenarios; and (v) for results to consider the health aspect in some way.
We reviewed forty-nine studies that combined the health and environmental aspects of consumer diets. Hereby, five approaches to operationalise the health aspect of the diet were identified: (i) food item replacements; (ii) dietary guidelines; (iii) dietary quality scores; (iv) diet modelling techniques; and (v) diet-related health impact analysis.
Although the sustainability concept is increasingly popular and widely advocated by nutritional and environmental scientists, the journey towards designing sustainable diets for consumers has only just begun. In the context of operationalising the health aspects, diet modelling might be considered the preferred approach since it captures the complexity of the diet as a whole. For the future, we propose SHARP diets: environmentally Sustainable (S), Healthy (H), Affordable (A), Reliable (R) and Preferred from the consumer’s perspective (P).
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