Blog: Environment-friendly diets must be good for people too

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

AHDB Lead Nutritionist Kate Arthur looks at the important role animal-based foods including meat and dairy play in providing essential vitamins and minerals in a healthy and sustainable diet.

Working as a Nutritionist at AHDB, it is always great to find new and innovative ways to help educate and inspire consumers to eat healthily.

One of AHDB’s key marketing campaigns, which you may have seen on tv or social media, is We Eat Balanced. This is a great example of how we can successfully communicate to our consumers the key nutritional benefits of meat and dairy, and the important role these animal-based foods play in a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet.

Campaigns like We Eat Balanced are also useful when we need to counter misinformation. In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission developed the Planetary Health Diet – the world’s first scientific targets that address the need to feed a growing global population a healthy diet, while also defining sustainable food systems that will minimise damage to our planet.

New research, published in The Lancet Planetary Health, has highlighted concerns over the nutritional adequacy assessment of the Planetary Health Diet. The research suggests that this diet may not provide enough essential vitamins and minerals to nourish the global population. It recommends that to make the planetary health diet sufficient in micronutrients e.g. iron, zinc, calcium and vitamin B12, would require an increase in nutrient-dense animal-source foods.

While the evidence base on sustainable food systems has grown significantly in recent years, all too often nutritional quality, the food composition of local diets, and the delivery of essential nutrients to all age groups is not considered in recommendations for a healthy diet with a lower environmental impact.

It’s vital that nutrition is central in discussions about transformation of food systems. Otherwise, we risk encouraging dietary changes that might benefit the environment but could be unrealistic for people to achieve, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies and putting a greater burden on public health.

Looking at this new evidence, we recommend collaboration with others in the field of nutrition, environmental science, and food policy. This is to promote diets aligned with the UK’s Eatwell Guide and encourage better adherence to these current UK national food-based dietary guidelines that we know are realistic, healthy, sustainable and affordable for all.

Read more blogs and news stories