Principles of Sustainable Healthy Diets in Worldwide Dietary Guidelines: Efforts So Far and Future Perspectives

Nutrients. 2021 May 27;13(6):1827. doi: 10.3390/nu13061827.


Food choices and eating behaviours have a large impact on both human and planetary health. Recently, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation have developed a list of 16 guiding principles to achieve sustainable healthy diets (SHDs). They proposed that development of food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) should be a core element in the implementation of these SHDs in each country. The objective of this review is to explore the degree of alignment of current FBDGs to these guiding principles. A total of 43 FBDGs, written or translated into English, were collected from the online repository developed by the FAO and were analysed for their adherence to each of the guiding principles. Results were stratified for period of publication and geographical macro-area. Overall, there were high levels of inclusion of the factors related to health outcomes, especially in the most recent FBDGs. Conversely, environmental impact and socio-cultural aspects of diet were considered less frequently, especially in the older FBDGs. These results highlight the importance of revising FBDGs, especially to include emerging topics which represent the areas with the highest scope for improvement in the future versions of FBDGs. Replication of the present study in the coming years will be worthwhile to monitor improvements in the adherence of global FBDGs to the guiding principles of SHDs. The attainment of such a goal could promote a more rapid transition towards SHDs, as well as highlighting pivotal research trajectories to increase adoption and evaluate the impact on the food system.

Keywords: environmental impact; food-based dietary guidelines; healthy diets; sustainability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Healthy*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Global Health
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy*