British Nutrition Foundation supports government dietary guidance

In the foundation’s latest review paper on how to achieve healthier and more sustainable diets, it advocates the benefits of the government’s Eatwell Guide

The British Nutrition Foundation has published a review paper, titled: ‘Healthier and more sustainable diets: what changes are needed in high-income countries?’

The review argues the need to consider the nutritional quality of diets, alongside environmental benefits, in order to achieve sustainable diets that benefit both human and planetary health.

Following government-backed healthy eating advice, such as the UK’s Eatwell Guide, can deliver health and environmental benefits if followed at a population level, the foundation says, but currently less than 1% of people are achieving all of the guide’s recommendations.

A UK study reportedly found that following the Eatwell Guide’s recommendations more closely would lower the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) of current adult diets by 30%, and reduce water use by 4%, as well as reducing mortality risk by up to 7%.

The guide describes a diet rich in foods from plants, but can also include some meat, dairy, fish and eggs. The review says healthier and more sustainable diets will require a shift towards more plant-derived foods such as fruits, vegetables, wholegrains and beans.

The foundation’s evidence did not, however, suggest the need to cut out meat or other animal-derived foods entirely in order to eat a healthier and more sustainable diet, and it is important to consider the essential nutrients that these foods can provide in the diet.

For milk and eggs, evidence did not consistently identify a need to reduce our consumption. This might be due to trade-offs in the modelling studies between the important nutrients these foods provide and their intermediate environmental impact.

Decisions about appropriate substitutes for animal-sourced products typically focus on protein, but the review argues this is not enough. The other nutrients these foods provide need to be accounted for, if we are to ensure that people’s nutrition does not suffer as dietary patterns shift in line with guidelines.

Prof Judy Buttriss, Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation and co-author of the review said, “Looking at the available evidence we recommend that an obvious step is to work together with others in the field of nutrition and beyond to promote diets aligned with the UK’s Eatwell Guide.

An advantage of this kind of plant-rich diet, which can still include some meat, fish, dairy products and eggs, is that it is based on dietary patterns already familiar in the UK and already being adopted to some extent by many of us. However, currently less than 1% of people are achieving all of the Eatwell Guide recommendations, and so there is room for improvement for almost all of us.”