Today marks National Nutrition Day (DNN), a significant occasion to reflect on the importance of food in our lives and its impact on health and the environment. Under the motto “Sustainable food is life”, this year the Spanish Federation of Nutrition, Food and Dietetics Societies (FESNAD), highlights the urgent need to move towards a fairer, healthier and more respectful food system for the planet.

Food is a fundamental pillar that unites cultures and nations in a common objective: guaranteeing the health and well-being of people. However, according to Professor Gregorio Varela-Moreiras, professor of Nutrition and Bromatology at the Faculty of Pharmacy of the CEU-San Pablo University and president of FESNAD, “we face significant challenges, with millions of people in the world suffering from malnutrition and obesity. In Spain, more than half of the adult population is affected by obesity, while half a million children experience some type of malnutrition. “It is clear that urgent change is needed in our food system.”

Sustainable food emerges as a powerful tool to combat the climate crisis, since the current food model is responsible for between 21% and 37% of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, according to FAO, a sustainable food system contributes to eradicating malnutrition, promoting health and well-being, ensuring access to quality food, and conserving natural ecosystems.

Professor Antonio Villarino, professor at the Faculty of Nursing and professor of the Nutrition Degree at the Faculty of Medicine (UCM) and Treasurer of the FESNAD, has emphasized that “food sustainability is an issue of vital importance for the future of our societies.” . “We must adopt eating habits that respect the environment and promote human health.”

Along the same lines, Professor Varela-Moreiras added that “education of the population is fundamental. We must raise people’s awareness about the benefits of sustainable eating since this not only has a positive impact on our health, but also contributes to the preservation of the environment and the well-being of future generations.

Professor María Rosaura Leis, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Santiago de Compostela and vice president of FESNAD, has highlighted in this regard that “sustainable food is key to guaranteeing a healthy future for our boys and girls. Greater health and quality of life in adulthood requires healthy metabolic programming in the first years of life, for which the promotion of traditional, Atlantic and Mediterranean diets from that moment on is essential.” Furthermore, she continued, “the Atlantic and Mediterranean diets are healthy for the individual and sustainable for the environment, with a low carbon footprint and water footprint. Its promotion from nursery schools, school cafeterias and collective cafeterias is crucial for nutritional education throughout the entire life cycle.”

In Spain, various initiatives have been carried out to promote more sustainable eating, from awareness campaigns to the promotion of the Mediterranean Diet as an exemplary model of healthy and environmentally friendly eating. The AENOR Zero Food Waste certification recognizes companies that implement effective measures to reduce food waste, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment.

«On this National Nutrition Day, we urge people to reflect on the impact of their food choices. Opting for local, seasonal and sustainably produced foods is a concrete way to contribute to the care of the planet and the well-being of all,” highlighted Professor Mercedes López-Pardo, nurse educator in nutrition and dietetics of the Clinical Management Unit. of Endocrinology and Nutrition at the Reina Sofía University Hospital in Córdoba and scientific secretary of the FESNAD.

According to Dr. Yvonne Colomer, executive director of the Triptolemos Foundation and Co-Chair of the UNESCO Chair ‘Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development: Global Food Production and Food Security’, “food sustainability will only be achieved if it is approached as a system of multiple interrelated factors that must be balanced based on science and innovation and that the Triptolemos Foundation structures into four axes (economy; production and availability; legislation; and culture). Without sustainability we will tend towards a double food system: for the rich and for the poor.”

On the other hand, “fake news and misinformation create confusion and condition eating behavior, often in contradiction with proven science. We have many examples, among them the paradox of “ultra-processed” foods; on the one hand, there is no legislation, nor an objective and rigorous definition, and on the other, their use is widespread in society,” he concluded.

Results of the test

According to the results of a very recent survey carried out by FESNAD to find out the opinion of the population on sustainable eating, 80% of those surveyed are convinced that their food choices can have a significant impact on the environment, which “highlights the growing awareness and interest in adopting food practices that benefit both personal health and the environment,” explained Ascensión Marcos, Research Professor at the Institute of Food and Nutrition Science and Technology (ICTAN) (CSIC) and member of FESNAD.

An overwhelming 91% consider that sustainable eating improves health and protects the environment, however, only 42% acknowledge following this type of diet. The additional cost associated with purchasing organic and sustainable foods is the biggest challenge (41%), followed by the availability and accessibility of these foods (28%). The time required (13%) and ingrained eating habits (18%) are also important barriers.

The main difficulties include the lack of availability of sustainable options (47%), the lack of clear information on labels (19%), and the high price of sustainable foods (12%). 12% point out the lack of information about how to have a sustainable diet, and 10% are not clear when a product is sustainable.

To promote a more sustainable diet, 40% of those surveyed suggest food awareness and education campaigns, 36% ask for collaboration between companies and organizations, and 24% believe in government incentives for producers and consumers.

Regarding the role of institutions and companies, 63% believe that institutions should implement policies that promote the production and consumption of sustainable foods, while 29% believe that companies should offer more sustainable options and be transparent about their products. 8% do not have a clear opinion on the matter.

In short, data that indicates a clear trend towards greater awareness and preference for sustainable food practices, highlighting both the barriers and the opportunities to promote healthier and more environmentally friendly habits.