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Food-based dietary guidelines

Dietary guidelines and sustainability

©Alex Webb/Magnum Photos for FAO

The need to shift to more sustainable diets and food systems is increasingly evident but certainly not simple to achieve. According to the definition by FAO, the sustainability of diets goes beyond nutrition and environment as to include economic and socio-cultural dimensions. This showcases the complexity .

In the past decade, more and more countries have started to incorporate sustainability considerations into their food policies and consumer education programmes. Given the policy and programmatic implications of FBDGs, the development and integration of recommendations that promote specific food practices and choices have been an obvious strategy for addressing sustainability, mainly in its nutrition and environment dimensions.

Such recommendations include for example: having a mostly plant-based diet, focus on seasonal and local foods, reduction of food waste, consumption of fish from sustainable stocks only and reduction of red and processed meat, highly-processed foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.

The joint publication of FAO and the Food Climate Research Network: Plates, pyramids, planet provides an in depth review of the state of play of how countries incorporate sustainability into their FBDGs.

Examples of national 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.