Healthy diets from sustainable food systems

©FAO/Daniel Hayduk

Sustainable healthy diets are better for us and our planet. However, today’s food systems are failing to deliver them. Over 3 billion people don’t have access to healthy diets, and furthermore, climate change is influencing how, where, how much food is produced and even the nutrient content of what we eat. This is increasing nutrition and food security vulnerabilities, thereby jeopardizing the health and well-being of many people around the world. On the other hand, current dietary patterns and food production practices are unsustainable and contributing to adverse environmental impacts.

Food systems account for ~34% of anthropogenic GHG emissions that cause climate change


Pollution from food systems is behind ~78% of aquatic eutrophication

undermining the potential of aquatic foods to nourish people with a lower carbon footprint than other food sources

Just 3 staple crops make up
of global caloric intake


This makes it more important than ever to intervene from multiple angles! And UN-Nutrition is uniquely positioned to mobilize climate-smart nutrition action from different parts of the UN System.

UN-Nutrition's niche

Today’s cost-of-living crisis and triple planetary crisis have created a perfect storm and give impetus to food systems transformation. The co-benefits of healthy diets from sustainable food systems are clear. With that in mind, UN-Nutrition has made it a priority to raise awareness about nutrition-environment win-wins as well as to advocate and support countries in joint action on nutrition, health and environmental policy.



Draws on

Draws on the diverse technical expertise and reach of its Member Agencies to consolidate the evidence base, including through the development of discussion papers on sustainable healthy diets and the interlinkages between nutrition and the environment, as well as other knowledge products. These discussion papers highlight various strategies for shifting production and consumption trends to support better human health within planetary boundaries.


Builds bridges with environmentalists to foster multidisciplinary dialogue and action, such as the integration of food consumption and nutrition considerations into climate adaptation and mitigation planning and financing (e.g. Nationally Determined Contributions [NDCs]);


Equips countries with the methodologies and tools they need to weigh nutrition and environmental trade-offs;


Provides a forum for Member Agencies to discuss and craft common messaging used at climate and biodiversity COPs to influence policy, programming and capacity development in order to make nutrition action more climate-smart and vice versa;


Supports environmentally friendly nutrition initiatives, such as the One Planet Network’s Sustainable Food Systems Programme and the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN). The latter was launched by the Government of Egypt at COP27 with support from UN-Nutrition Member Agencies, particularly WHO and FAO, who are playing an advisory role.


Advocates for the development of national food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) with environmental sustainability criteria, including recommendations to promote dietary diversification, the consumption of aquatic foods, tree-based foods, neglected and underutilized species, and the reduction of food waste and loss;


Profiles innovative approaches and country experiences in its publications, communications and events so that others can benefit from them and replicate good practices; and 


Engages in and supports coalitions, including the Coalition for action on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for children and all (HDSFS) and the School Meals Coalition, which promote a people-centred approach as part of UN-Nutrition’s greater efforts to foster safe and supportive environments for nutrition.

Healthy Diets Coalition

UN-Nutrition is part of the Coalition for action on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for children and all (HDSFS), launched in May 2022. Today, the HDSFS coalition has around 30 members, including several frontrunner countries.

Both UN-Nutrition Member Agencies and the Secretariat are actively involved, contributing to HDSFS newsletters, webinars/events, as well as the development of principles of engagement and annual workplans that set out the coalition’s strategic directions.

The coalition’s secretariat consists of dedicated FAO and WHO staff and is supported by the UN-Nutrition Secretariat. These institutional arrangements are helping to ensure follow-up action, stemming from the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 in pursuit of nutrition and environmental goals.