Main principles of sustainable diets as defined by FAO

According to the manual ‘‘Sustainable Healthy Diets Guiding Principles’’ published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), Sustainable Healthy Diets are dietary patterns that:

  • promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing
  • have low environmental pressure and impact
  • are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable

Aims of Sustainable Healthy Diets:

  • achieve optimal growth and development of all individuals
  • support functioning and physical/mental/social wellbeing at all life stages for present and future generations
  • contribute to preventing all forms of malnutrition (i.e. undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, overweight and obesity)
  • reduce the risk of diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
  • support the preservation of biodiversity and planetary health.

Sustainable healthy diets must combine all the dimensions of sustainability to avoid unintended consequences.

  • The environmental aspects of sustainable healthy diets:
    • maintain greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, nitrogen and phosphorus application and chemical pollution within set targets.
    • preserve biodiversity, including that of crops, livestock, forest-derived foods and aquatic genetic resources, and avoid overfishing and overhunting.
    • minimize the use of antibiotics and hormones in food production.
    • minimize the use of plastics and derivatives in food packaging.
    • decrease food loss and waste.


  • The sociocultural aspects of sustainable healthy diets:
    • avoid adverse gender-related impacts, especially with regards to time allocation (e.g. for buying and preparing food, water and fuel acquisition).
    • are accessible and desirable.
    • are built on and respect local culture, culinary practices, knowledge and consumption patterns, and values on the way food is sourced, produced and consumed.