Sustainable Diets | WWF
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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.

Almost every country in the world faces a serious challenge 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 threaten the climate, life on land and life below water. 

Globally, our diets are too narrow. Even though more than 5,000 crops have been used for food historically, we get more than 50 per cent of our plant-based calories from just three crops. We get around 75 per cent of our total calories from just 12 crops and five animals. 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 proteins 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 agro-ecological 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.

What YOU can do
  • Check your national dietary guidelines and do your best to follow them
  • Eat a wide variety of planet-based foods and ensure they make up a large proportion of your diet
  • Look for trusted third party accreditations, or traceability information, which can help you understand where your food came from and how it was produced
  • Make sure any meat and fish you eat is sustainably produced - if you can't find a trusted certification ask your supplier if they know where it came from
  • Don’t eat types of fish which are over-harvested – shellfish and molluscs are great alternatives

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