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Food-based dietary guidelines

Dietary guidelines and sustainability

©FAO/Giulio Napoletano

There is increased international attention on the impact that food production and consumption have on the environment. With an estimated population of approx. 9 billion people by 2050 and continuing degradation of the planet's resources, the need to produce more food in a sustainable way is more important than ever.

On the one hand, some current practices of food production are putting the natural environment under stress and contributing to climate change. On the other hand, consumption patterns are often unhealthy and unfair: over consumption and food waste coexist with under-nutrition. A shift to more sustainable food systems and diets is needed to protect people's health and that of the planet while ensuring food and nutrition security and the biodiversity of natural resources.

In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of food production and consumption, some countries, non-governmental and charitable organizations as well as civil society movements have developed dietary recommendations that are considered more sustainable and protective of human health and the environment. 

Such recommendations include: increased consumption of plant foods and a focus on local foods, reduction of food waste, consumption of fish from sustainable stocks only and reduction of consumption of red and processed meat, highly-processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Examples of guidelines that address sustainability issues can be found under "useful links" on the right hand-side column in this page. Please note that FAO does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in the external documents and websites.


Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.
FAO, 2010, Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity.