Towards healthy and sustainable food consumption: an Australian case study

Sharon Friel, Laurel J Barosh, Mark Lawrence
Public Health Nutrition 2014, 17 (5): 1156-66

OBJECTIVE: To articulate a healthy and sustainable (H&S) diet; outline key health and environmental sustainability principles that can be applied in the selection of foods for inclusion in such a diet; and describe a methodology with which to assess the availability and affordability of a H&S food basket.

DESIGN: We synthesized publically available evidence on the environmental impact of different foods from academic, government, industry and non-government sources and constructed a hypothetical H&S equivalent of the typical Australian diet. Based on this, we constructed a weekly H&S food basket for a household of two adults and two children.

SETTING: Australia.

SUBJECTS: Australian populations.

RESULTS: The H&S diet is based on three overarching principles: (i) any food that is consumed above a person's energy requirement represents an avoidable environmental burden in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, use of natural resources and pressure on biodiversity; (ii) reducing the consumption of discretionary food choices, which are energy-dense and highly processed and packaged, reduces both the risk of dietary imbalances and the use of environmental resources; and (iii) a diet comprising less animal- and more plant-derived foods delivers both health and ecological benefits.

CONCLUSIONS: We have focused on the articulation of a H&S diet not to facilitate 'policy drift' to focus on individual dietary choice, but rather to provide evidence to extend dietary guideline recommendations so as to integrate environmental considerations within the scope of food and health policy advice in Australia and elsewhere.

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