Sustainable Diets | WWF
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SUSTAINABLE DIETS

Our food choices can make a positive difference to people and nature – improving our own health, the health of others, and the health of the planet. But over-dependence on select foods, a lack of diversity in our diets and the continued consumption of unsustainably produced items have a harmful impact on nature.
THE TRUE IMPACT OF WHAT WE EAT

In almost every country in the world we face serious challenges due to our eating habits. Whether the challenge is undernutrition or obesity, global development efforts in areas such as poverty and disease are under threat. But what we eat also threatens the climate, life on land and life below water.

Globally, our diets are too narrow. Even though more than 6,000 crops have been used for food historically, fewer than 200 are used today and only nine account for nearly 70% of all food produced. This lack of diversity in our diet causes a lack of diversity in nature, and also makes us less resilient to pests or diseases in our food supply.

Many people in middle-income and developed countries, and wealthier people in developing countries, typically consume more meat and other animal-source foods than are required for nutrition alone, with adverse impacts on both human and planetary health. Much of this is unsustainably produced. Overfishing is threatening not just our fish stocks, but the entire ecosystems of oceans as many species are fished to critical limits or beyond. Too many of the crops we eat are grown on freshly-converted land and are not subject to nature positive production practices which protect the health of soil and water – for future growing and for all the other benefits they supply, from carbon sequestering to providing drinking water.

We understand and respect people’s diets are heavily influenced by local cultures and individual choice so we would never be prescriptive in recommending what people eat.

Our vision is that at least half of the world is eating within evolved National Dietary Guidelines, which account for the health of people and planet, within the next decade.

Healthy, balanced, diverse and sustainable diets will look different in different parts of the world, dependent on what food is available and culturally relevant.

These diets must meet National Dietary Guidelines in terms of nutrition but also ensure there is no over-reliance on any select commodities. Though some people and communities may benefit from reducing the amount of certain things they eat, there is no need to universally eliminate anything from our diets. Instead we can focus on ensuring the variety of foods we eat are better produced. By removing unsustainably produced foods, which cause deforestation or conversion of wildlife habitat, or degradation of water and soil quality, or unduly increased greenhouse gas emissions, we can ensure we have the option to eat all the foods we love forever.

Plant-based foods tend to have a lower planetary impact than animal-based foods. As such, as a global community, we can reduce our environmental footprint by increasing the proportion of plant-based products that we eat; as long as they are available, affordable and deliver the required nutritional needs for each individual. Sustainably produced meat and fish are valuable sources of nutrition to many communities and, in certain areas, can play a key role in landscape management and maintaining ecosystem services. Families should eat the food which is readily available to them and supports nutrition, livelihoods and the planet.

What we're doing

We support eating a wide variety of foods, the agrobiodiverse production of which provides ecosystem services benefits, while also making farming systems and communities more resilient.  We support foods which are better for the natural environment and biodiversity, in terms of how they are produced, processed and distributed. In particular, we support consumption of independently verified (credibly certified) sustainably produced food.

To ensure that healthy eating equates to sustainable eating, we work with a variety of stakeholders who can help ensure that people everywhere understand the principles of a healthy, balanced, diverse and sustainable diet, and have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature.

PERSPECTIVES

THE POWER IS ON OUR PLATES


"We all want to make the world a better place. But what power does one person actually have? You can start by wisely choosing the food that you put on your plate. In fact, this may be the most powerful action that each of us can take to make the world a better place - and we can start today."

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REDESIGNING THE FOOD SYSTEM FOR PLANETARY HEALTH

"The devasting Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that no matter how much we try to think humans and nature are separate, our civilization has always and will always depend on human health, flourishing natural systems, and the wise stewardship of natural resources."

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT: WHAT WE EAT CAN HELP NATURE AND THE PLANET. 

"When we think of food, we tend to think of all the great things that come with it. The tastes, the aromas, the memories of special times celebrated. What we don’t think about is the natural capital that went into producing our food."

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A HEALTHY PLANET NEEDS DIVERSE DIETS


"Like all other global structures, the food system will transform, but while we strive to provide nutritious and healthy food to all we can’t forget what we rely on for our food: nature. It can no longer suffer from how we produce, consume and waste food."

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What YOU can do
  • Eat sustainable foods - get to know where your food comes from, look for certified products and consider local or organic foods
  • Eat more plants than animals -you don’t have to go vegan but eat a higher proportion of plant-based foods relative to animal-source foods
  • Eat healthy and minimally-processed foods - look for fresh ingredients where possible, though some shelf-stable and pre-packaged goods are fine… but don’t let convenience dictate your decision-making!
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet - too much of any one food won’t be good for you or the planet! Eat different food groups and different foods within those groups
  • Check your National Dietary Guidelines and find sustainable options that fit the health guidance