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Operationalising the health aspects of sustainable diets: a review

  • Elly Mertens (a1), Pieter van’t Veer (a1), Gerrit J Hiddink (a2) (a3), Jan MJM Steijns (a4) and Anneleen Kuijsten (a1)...
Abstract
Objective

Shifting towards a more sustainable food consumption pattern is an important strategy to mitigate climate change. In the past decade, various studies have optimised environmentally sustainable diets using different methodological approaches. The aim of the present review was to categorise and summarise the different approaches to operationalise the health aspects of environmentally sustainable diets.

Design

Conventional keyword and reference searches were conducted in PubMed, Scopus, Web of Knowledge and CAB Abstracts. Inclusion criteria were: (i) English-language publication; (ii) published between 2005 and October 2015; (iii) dietary data collected for the diet as a whole at the national, household or individual level; (iv) comparison of the current diet with dietary scenarios; and (v) for results to consider the health aspect in some way.

Setting

Consumer diets.

Subjects

Adult population.

Results

We reviewed forty-nine studies that combined the health and environmental aspects of consumer diets. Hereby, five approaches to operationalise the health aspect of the diet were identified: (i) food item replacements; (ii) dietary guidelines; (iii) dietary quality scores; (iv) diet modelling techniques; and (v) diet-related health impact analysis.

Conclusions

Although the sustainability concept is increasingly popular and widely advocated by nutritional and environmental scientists, the journey towards designing sustainable diets for consumers has only just begun. In the context of operationalising the health aspects, diet modelling might be considered the preferred approach since it captures the complexity of the diet as a whole. For the future, we propose SHARP diets: environmentally Sustainable (S), Healthy (H), Affordable (A), Reliable (R) and Preferred from the consumer’s perspective (P).

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Corresponding author
* Corresponding author: Email anneleen.kuijsten@wur.nl
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