Sustainable Healthy Diets


Food systems are not providing sustainable healthy diets for everyone, everywhere. Healthy diets are unaffordable for 3 billion people, and poor quality diets are associated with all forms of malnutrition and 11 million premature adult deaths each year.

Diets are rapidly evolving due to changes in income, women’s employment, urbanization, and developments in technology, food marketing and public policy. These changes, happening in urban and rural areas, contribute to shifts in food environments, which are increasingly promoting ready-to-eat, convenient, cheap and often ultra-processed foods associated with poor health.


This is the only CGIAR Initiative with the main goal of ensuring sustainable healthy diets for all through food systems transformation. Starting from an innovative, consumer-focused perspective, this Initiative aims to identify effective policy options through research; strengthen capacity and develop robust metrics and tools that support stakeholders’ decisions when developing pathways to transform food systems toward sustainable healthy diets, improved livelihoods, gender equity, and social inclusion. 


This objective will be accomplished through:

    • Understanding consumers and their food environments by characterizing food consumption and dietary patterns among marginalized populations and identifying key drivers of inequalities, including between genders, to inform the co-design, testing and evaluation of scalable innovations in the food environment–consumer nexus. 
    • Generating knowledge about food-related small and medium enterprises (SMEs), micro enterprises and the informal food sector, and using this knowledge to identify and promote sustainable, scalable, evidence-based innovations and policies to help improve the quality of food and beverages offered to consumers while promoting increased decent employment among youth, men and women.  
    • Understanding the governance and political economy of food system transformation by identifying the lock-ins and barriers that impede food system contributions to healthy diets, fair livelihoods and sustainable environments, and proposing contextualized and evidence-informed governance and policy solutions. 
    • Conducting trade-off scenario analysis through development, testing and application of decision-support tools and using those tools to raise the awareness and improve the capacity of stakeholders to navigate the potential trade-offs inherent in food system transformation. 
    • Catalyzing food system transformation by identifying, co-designing and supporting context-specific pathways for food system transformation toward sustainable healthy diets. 


      This Initiative will work in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Vietnam as a priority, followed by India, Benin, Senegal, Guatemala and Honduras.


      Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

        1. Stakeholders initiate implementation of at least two innovations or policies to increase the demand for sustainable healthy diets, especially among women, children, youth and other marginalized groups. 
        2. Stakeholders initiate implementation of at least two solutions to improve the ability of SMEs, micro enterprises and informal businesses to deliver sustainable nutritious foods and create inclusive income opportunities for all. 
        3. Stakeholders initiate the implementation of at least two innovations or policies to address issues related to gender equality, youth and social inclusion in food systems in all target countries. 
        4. Stakeholders show a significant increase in their understanding of and ability to engage in governance and political economy issues around the transformation of their food systems.  
        5. Stakeholders show a significant increase in their understanding of and ability to navigate trade-offs among food systems outcomes related to inclusion, sustainability, climate change, food safety and diet quality. 
        6. Stakeholders show a significant increase in their understanding of and ability to implement a coherent multisectoral set of actions to accelerate food systems transformation for sustainable healthy diets.


                  Projected impacts and benefits include:



                  Improved diet quality and safety, and an increase in the number of people in target countries who demand and can afford and consume a sustainable healthy diet, thereby reducing the burden of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, diet-related non-communicable diseases and foodborne illnesses. This results in an additional 74 million people across eight countries benefiting from relevant CGIAR innovations (with 908,000 people meeting minimum dietary energy requirements and 47.9 million meeting minimum micronutrient requirements). 


                  New evidence and solutions to enhance employment among SMEs and micro enterprises and informal actors in the food system, including wholesalers, processors, caterers and retailers, benefit 9.8 million people across eight countries.


                  Evidence generated to address unequal access to healthy diets, employment and income and the inequitable processes and policies that create them, while focusing on poverty, gender and youth, and on how aspects of marginalization interact in different contexts, benefits 3.8 million women across eight countries. 


                  Reduced greenhouse gas emission through shaping food demand via policy frameworks that incorporate climate considerations into trade-off analysis, and through reduced food loss and waste, benefit 68.7 million people. 


                  Improved policy frameworks, the incorporation of environmental considerations into trade-off analysis, and increased demand for sustainably produced, biodiverse food bring 11.8 million hectares of land under improved management. 


                  Sustainable, Healthy Diets for All Will Require a Food System Transformation

                  For more details, view the Initiative proposal


                  Header photo: Ly Thi Nguyen, a market vendor, with her wares in a fresh food market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.