Can people afford to switch to sustainable diets?
Dr. Christian Reynolds and his Rowett Institute team were awarded the prize for their innovative research into one of the most commonly cited barriers to sustainable healthy eating – affordability.
The research, published in 2019, demonstrated that in the UK, it was feasible for all income groups to shift their current eating habits to more sustainable patterns whilst keeping within their budgetary boundaries. In addition, the group’s modelling work focused on shifting individuals towards a realistic sustainable diet which entailed minimal deviations from their normal eating patterns.
The study adds to the mounting evidence that diets predominantly based on plant foods and with lower intakes of dairy and meat (without eliminating) are critical for both human and planetary health. If the UK population were to shift to the optimised diet recommended, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 57% would be achieved.
The research did identify two significant differences between the highest and lowest income quintiles:
- The specific food shifts needed to achieve sustainable patterns differed between groups e.g. lower income groups would need to focus on increasing wholegrains more and the types of meat and dairy food consumed differed between groups
- The deviation from current eating patterns would be significantly greater for the lower income groups.
Thus, the authors conclude that public health messaging needs to provide more tailored advice for different income groups to make sustainable eating a reality for all.