Towards a sustainable diet combining economic, environmental and nutritional objectives

Michele Donati, Davide Menozzi, Camilla Zighetti, Alice Rosi, Anna Zinetti, Francesca Scazzina
Appetite 2016 November 1, 106: 48-57
Foods consumed and dietary patterns are strong determinants of health status. Diet and nutrition have a key role in health promotion and maintenance during the entire lifetime, but what we choose to eat and drink greatly affects the environmental impact on ecosystems as well as monetary resources. Some studies suggest that a healthy diet with a low environmental impact is not necessarily more expensive. This paper aims to identify a healthy, greener and cheaper diet based on current consumption patterns. Dietary information was collected from 104 young adults in the last year of high school in Parma (Italy). Diet was monitored with 7-day dietary records. Subsequently, food items were decoded to obtain nutritional, economic and environmental impact data. An optimization tool based on mathematical programming (Multi-Objective Linear Programming) was used to identify sustainable diet. Three different 7-day diets were identified, based on nutrition recommendations for the healthy Italian adult population, characterized by different targets and optimizing different impacts: first the diet at the lowest cost (Minimum Cost Diet - MCD), then the Environmentally Sustainable Diet (ESD) obtained by minimizing the three environmental indicators (CO2e emissions, H2O consumption and amount of land to regenerate the resources - m(2)). Finally, the Sustainable Diet (SD) was identified by integrating environmental and economic sustainability objectives. Lastly, suggestions and recommendations for communication campaigns and other interventions to achieve sustainable diet are suggested.


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