Sustainable Diets - Good for You, Good for the Environment

The concept of a ‘sustainable diet’ encompasses an intricate web of nutritional, economic, environmental, social and cultural issues that concern the whole supply chain, where farmers and consumers only represent two pieces of the puzzle.

The concept of a ‘sustainable diet’ encompasses an intricate web of nutritional, economic, environmental, social and cultural issues that concern the whole supply chain, where farmers and consumers only represent two pieces of the puzzle. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), sustainable diets are “those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” 1 Food production and consumption models have a massive impact not only on health and the environment, but also on the socio-economic system as a whole. Therefore, sustainable diets are a strong foundation for a viable economy, which the European Union institutions and Member States should strive to achieve through a pan-European strategy. The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) wishes to share its contribution to this possible strategy by providing an optimum model to achieve sustainability goals: the Food and Environmental Double Pyramid, a cornerstone for a greener and healthier economy in Europe.

The BCFN Foundation created the Food and Environmental Double Pyramid as a model for assessing both the nutritional aspects and the environmental impact of foods. The model places food products along an upright pyramid (the Food Pyramid) and a reversed one (the Environmental Pyramid). In the Food Pyramid, foods at the base should be consumed more frequently, while recommended consumption decreases gradually closer to the top of the pyramid. This is opposed to the Environmental Pyramid, where foods with the greatest impact on the environment are at the base. The Double Pyramid model suggests a simple principle: foods that are recommended in higher quantities for health also have a lower impact on the environment. Human health and environmental protection are therefore two sides of the same coin that fit into a single sustainable food model, the Mediterranean diet.
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