2 min

Making Our Nutrition Sustainable

Study and Recommendations on Measures for a Sustainable Nutrition Policy

Making Our Nutrition Sustainable

Researchers of the Institute of Health Sciences at the St. Pölten University of Applied Sciences have analysed political documents issued by ten Austrian ministries and institutions in the fields of health, agriculture, nutrition, food, and sustainability as well as the measures for achieving sustainable nutrition contained in them.

The scientists see a particular need for adopting a holistic approach.

Making Dietary Behaviours More Sustainable

Around the world, there is a pressing need to make our nutrition systems and our eating habits more sustainable in order to attain the UN’s Sustainability Goals.

“The worldwide food production – and especially meat production – is contributing tremendously to our global environmental problems, and excessive consumption of red and highly processed meat in particular is associated with chronic diseases such as colorectal cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. The challenging transformation towards healthier and more sustainable diets demands integrated and coherent measures on various political levels,” says Ursula Trübswasser, Senior Researcher at the St. Pölten UAS’ Institute of Health Sciences.

The objective of the study was to analyse political documents with regard to planned measures that aim at promoting sustainable and healthy nutrition in the population.

Healthy Nutrition on Four Levels

For the study, the researchers analysed political documents issued by ten Austrian ministries and institutions from the areas of health, agriculture, nutrition, food, and sustainability.

The focus was on four pillars that can contribute to a healthy diet and a sustainable nutrition policy:

  • A reduction in the consumption of animal products and an increased intake of plant-based food
  • A reduction in the consumption of unhealthy foods that contain, e.g., a lot of sugar, fat, or salt and/or are highly processed
  • An increase in the consumption of organic food products
  • A reduction of food waste

The Need to Adopt a Holistic Approach

Most measures recommended in the documents pertain to informative instruments: information campaigns for the general population, advice for consumers, educational initiatives especially in schools, and awareness-raising campaigns. On the other hand, regulatory or financial instruments for promoting a healthy and sustainable diet were not mentioned. When it comes to organisational instruments, most measures referred to communal catering in institutions.

“Most documents address measures of an informative nature instead of suggesting legally binding regulatory instruments. The strong focus on regionality is good but might distract from other, partly more important measures. We see an urgent need for a systemic, participatory approach that promotes various kinds of behaviours simultaneously, coherently, and inclusively and is carried by different sectors, population groups, and stakeholders in food production through a mix of instruments,” explains Trübswasser.

Recommendations for Political Measures

As a consequence, the researchers formulated several recommendations for political measures including:

  • Regulatory instruments for implementation
  • Intersectoral, systemic approaches
  • Measures at the behavioural and relationship levels (e.g., availability, affordability, food hygiene, and accessibility of healthy and sustainable food)
  • A focus on social aspects

Recommendations for Research

The study also contains recommendations for research, for example:

  • An analysis of documents at the provincial level
  • A survey regarding the implementation of measures
  • A survey of sustainable nutrition competence in consumers
  • A survey of social aspects as a prerequisite of sustainable consumption
  • An understanding of power structures through an examination of imbalances and interests in decision-making processes

The study was carried out by Ursula Trübswasser, Theres Rathmanner, and Barbara Wondrasch from the Institute of Health Sciences at the St. Pölten UAS.

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Mag. Trübswasser Ursula, PhD

Mag. Ursula Trübswasser, PhD

Senior Researcher Institute of Health Sciences Department of Health Sciences
Mag. Hammer Mark

Mag. Mark Hammer

Section Head Press
Marketing and Communications