34 Ensuring nutritious diets in a climate constrained world

Country and context specific examples of healthy, diverse and sustainable diets

Organizers: UNSCN; Brazil; Costa Rica; University of Copenhagen


Attention to healthy, diverse and balanced diets has increased since the Second International Conference on Nutrition in November 2014. Today, the focus is expanding to also include considerations of sustainability. This side event explores ways to ensure nutritious diets for all while safeguarding our planet. Learn from a range of stakeholder groups from around the world about their nutritional challenges and solutions. Building on the upcoming UNSCN discussion brief on climate and healthy diets, participants will benefit from on-the-ground experiences and will be encouraged to develop similar initiatives in their countries.

Key speakers

Michel Mordasini, Chair of the UNSCN and Vice-President of IFAD

Liv Elin Torheim, Professor of Public Health Nutrition, Oslo and Akershus University College

Laura Brenes Peralta, Agribusiness Engineer and Master in Environmental Management

Michele Lessa De Oliviera, Brazil

Susanne Gjedsted Bügel, University of Copenhagen

Marité Alvarez, small food producer and livestock keeper from Argentina

Dr Klaus Kraemer, Director, Sight and Life

Main themes/issues discussed

In a world challenged by climate change and evolving food demands, we need to be smarter and fairer about what and how we produce and consume.

The relationship between climate change and how we produce our food is a two-way street. Agriculture is a major driver of climate change. On the other hand, drought and floods resulting from climate change adversely affect agriculture.

Decisive action is needed to dramatically reduce food loss and waste. 

Through increased focus on the quality of foods produced and lowering global consumption of ultra-processed foods, we could effectively address micronutrient deficiencies while improving human health and the well being of our planet.

Solutions are available: The projected 51% increase in food-associated greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 could be reduced to seven percent if WHO Dietary Guidelines were adopted globally.

Food systems need to be fixed so that they are sustainable and promote healthy diets.

Summary of key points

The New Nordic Diet is a prototype regional diet that takes health, food culture, palatability and the environment into account. It shares the Mediterranean thinking but utilizes the ingredients and flavors of a northern climate. The principles and guidelines could be applied in any region of the world.

The Framework Law of Human Right for Food and Nutritional Security was recently submitted to Legislative Assembly in Costa Rica to: build linkage among institutions, sectors and harmonization of existing legislation; be based on human rights; be population-inclusive; be transparent; promote local and regional food safety and security; promote traditional diets and the use of native produce, sustainable production, and family agriculture; and help define the Costa Rican Food Safety System.

The Brazilian Regional Food initiative aims to: promote adequate and healthy eating; rescue, recover and strengthening of the Brazilian food culture; support actions for food and nutrition education in public health system and other sectors; and rescue, enhance and strengthen sustainable agriculture that respects the local knowledge and defends biodiversity, recognition of cultural heritage and historical value of the food.

The importance of economic sustainability was emphasized.

Key outcomes/take away messages

The FAO and WHO have for a number of years promoted evidence-based, food based dietary guidelines developed by nutrition experts describing what people should eat. Many countries have developed such guidelines, of which have so far mainly focused on the health aspect. But there is now an increasing recognition of that sustainability and social justice should also be part of dietary guidelines. Dietary guidelines should give the food vision for a country, across sectors. Such guidelines should be developed in each country because they need to be adapted to the specific country context. There are currently only four countries that really have taken account of environmental sustainability in their dietary guidelines – these are Germany, Brazil, Sweden and Qatar.

Countries have a human rights obligation to their inhabitants to both support their right to adequate food and to protect the environment for future generations. 

There is a need to take immediate action to adopt better lifestyle and healthy and sustainable food habits: Peel more, unpack less.