Designing a healthy, low-cost and environmentally sustainable food basket: an optimisation study

Public Health Nutr. 2021 May;24(7):1952-1961. doi: 10.1017/S1368980020003729. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


Objective: Sustainable diets are diets with low environmental impacts and high affordability which contribute to food and nutrition security. The present study aimed to develop a healthy, low-cost and environmental-friendly food basket for Iran based on current consumption.

Design: The Households Income and Expenditure Survey data were used. Linear Programming was utilised to obtain the optimal diets, separately, for each goal of the sustainable food basket: (1) Diet with maximum Nutrient Rich Food (NRF) index, (2) Diet with minimum cost, (3) Diet with the minimum water footprint and (4) Diet with the minimum carbon footprint. Goal Programming techniques were used to optimise the sustainable food basket by considering all goals simultaneously.

Setting: Iran.

Participants: Households (n 100 500) in urban and rural areas of Iran, nationally representative.

Results: In the 'optimal model', compared with the usual consumption, the amount of the 'bread, cereal, rice, and pasta', 'meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts' and 'fats, oils, sugars, and sweets' groups was decreased. Inside those food groups, cereals, poultry and vegetable oil subgroups were increased. Also, dairy, fruits and vegetable groups were increased. In this model, there was a 14 % reduction in the total water footprint, a 14 % decrease in the total carbon footprint, a 23 % decrease in the cost and a 7 % increase in NRF of diet compared with the usual consumption.

Conclusions: Increasing the consumption of dairy, fruits and vegetables and reducing the consumption of bread, rice, pasta, meat, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, hydrogenated fats and sugars are required to achieve a sustainable food basket.

Keywords: Environmental impact; Food consumption; Iran; Sustainable diets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet*
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Nuts
  • Programming, Linear
  • Vegetables*