New research unveils a true appetite for a sustainable and healthy diet

Recent research conducted by Coyne research on behalf of the National Dairy Council shows the factors considered by Irish consumers when choosing a sustainable, healthy diet.

As food prices continue to soar, it’s not surprising that affordability was top of mind, closely followed by nutrition with the highest number of Generation Z respondents at 67 per cent. Choosing locally produced foods ranked third in the top three factors.

The survey also revealed confusion over the term ‘plant-based diet’ with almost half surveyed believing it to refer to a vegetarian or vegan diet, and a further 15 per cent saying they did not know what it meant.

“Given it’s a term that is used frequently in relation to eating sustainably, this is an important finding. The confusion is understandable however, as the term ‘plant-based diet’ is not consistently defined. We would define it as diets based mostly on plants, including cereals and breads, pulses [peas, beans, and lentils], nuts and seeds, but that also include moderate amounts of animal-based products like meat, eggs, fish and dairy. In fact, the Irish food pyramid, which recommends varying proportions of both plant and animal foods, is a good example of a plant-based diet if we were to actually follow it. We know that Irish diets are not sustainable from both an environmental and health perspective so any confusion is a barrier and we need to be clearer about what we need people to do to eat more sustainably,” Dr Aifric O’Sullivan, assistant professor at UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, said.

Dr O’Sullivan, is also a principal investigator of the myplantdiet research project, which aims to explore how to move people to more sustainable healthy diets.

“We are looking at whether giving personalised advice would be more successful. Trying to change a diet too drastically is unlikely to work. Some people don’t eat a lot of meat, for example, so general advice to reduce may not be helpful or may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Others may need more guidance about how to increase plant foods in their diets while maintaining balance. We also forget that high fat and sugar treats, wine, or even coffee have a carbon footprint too but are not actually essential or even highly nutritious, so its good to see that a third of people in the NDC survey said they were trying to consume less,” she added.

The good news is that 84 percent of those surveyed had registered one or more changes they had made towards eating a more sustainable diet. Approximately half of the resopndents said they were trying to only consume what they needed and were trying to reduce food waste through better planning.

 

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