Healthy and sustainable diet can also be affordable


Healthier and more sustainable diets go hand in hand. Various studies have indicated that existing dietary guidelines do not only improve health, but are also eco-friendly. The Italian Double Food pyramid clearly illustrates that the lower the ecological footprint of a food product of the Mediterranean diet, the more preferable the product is in terms of health benefits.

In 2011, the Health Council of the Netherlands wrote “a shift from the usual diet towards that described in the Guidelines for a healthy diet is not only good for the health, but would also seem to be beneficial in terms of land use and greenhouse gas emissions.”

The question often raised is whether a healthy and sustainable diet is more expensive?

Van Dooren and colleagues compared the costs of the usual Dutch diet (based on the food consumption survey) with the cost of an optimized healthy and sustainable diet. Healthy is based on the recommendations from the Netherlands Nutrition Centre and sustainaible is a 50% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

The average Dutch two-person diet costs about €54 per week. The optimized diet which is both healthy and has half the average climate impact is also much more affordable with a cost of €37 per week or a 68% cost reduction.

The optimized diet is primarily plant-based: consisting of wholegrain bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, open-field (not greenhouse) vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and calcium-enriched soy drink. Cheese, eggs and meat are replaced by plant-based sources of protein, such as nuts and legumes. Dairy was partly replaced by soy drink.

The study further illustrated that the Dutch open-field locally grown vegetables are best suited to a healthy, sustainable and affordable diet. Alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and juices are relatively expensive and generally have a large environmental impact, these were replaced by water.


Reference: Van Dooren C et al. Combining Low Price, Low Climate Impact and High Nutritional Value in One Shopping Basket through Diet Optimization by Linear Programming. Sustainability 2015, 7(9), 12837-12855.
- Alpro Foundation

Related articles