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Changing to healthier & more sustainable diets: how can this be achieved?

In April 2014 the Food Climate Research Network organised a workshop, funded and hosted by the Wellcome Trust with additional support from the Food Security programme of the UK research councils. Its aim was to bring people together to develop a research agenda on how our eating practices might be shifted in healthier and more sustainable directions.  Particular emphasis was placed on meat eating as an exemplar of an important, yet difficult aspect of our consumption practices, and one with a strong bearing on health and sustainability.

The meeting spanned two days and involved a diverse interdisciplinary and intersectoral group of about 30 participants.  The workshop time was spent thinking about the following questions: 

  • How do different disciplines and sectors think about consumption practices and behaviours – about why people consume the way they do?’ 
  • How do these disciplines and sectors think about altering consumption - what theories of change do they use, implicitly or explicitly?
  • What values and frames underpin these approaches?
  • What evidence do they bring in support of their approach?  How robust is that evidence? 
  • Where do these different disciplinary approaches agree and where do they disagree?  What are the knowledge and evidence gaps? 
  • And, on the basis of all these discussions, can we define what research is needed that would help us (begin to) answer the following key question: “how can mainstream eating patterns in the UK become healthier and more sustainable?” 

A workshop report summarising the conclusions and recommendations from the workshop has also been published "Changing what we eat: A call for research and action on widespread adoption of sustainable healthy eating".  

An FCRN pre-workshop discussion paper focusing on changing food practices and behaviours, circulated in advance to workshop participants, available here.

Note that this paper focuses on why we eat and how this might be changed – rather than on ‘What is a sustainable healthy diet?’. For a discussion paper on the latter see here.

The workshop presentations can be downloaded by following the links below:

Tara Garnett, Food Climate Research Network- FCRN , ECI, Oxford University - Eating differently - FCRN workshop on changing what we eat

Sue Dibb, Eating Better - Diets and Behaviour Change – How do people eat today?

Andrew Darnton, AD Research & Analysis - Applying ISM to Reducing Eating Meat

Dale Southerton, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester - Some thoughts from the sociology of consumption

Richard Tiffin, University of Reading - What can economics contribute to understanding a sustainable diet?

Monique Raats & Jennie MacDiarmid, Food, Consumer Behaviour & Health Research Institute, University of Aberdeen - The health psychology approach - Is it a question of health?

Tom Crompton (WWF) and Tim Kasser (Knox College) - A Values-based Approach to Campaigns and Communications

Ben Essen, Iris Worldwide - A marketing approach -  Sustainable diets and behaviour change

Corinna Hawkes (World Cancer Research Fund) & Tim Lang (City University London) - Sustainable and Healthy Diets – the policy problem

Moira Howie, Waitrose - Sustainable Diets & Behaviour Change - A Retailer Perspective

The workshop agenda can be found here and the full list of participants here.

Do send through your comments in the following ways: by posting a comment on the website using the Add new comment link below (you will need to be logged into do so – contact us if you have forgotten them), by discussing in our Sustainable healthy diets Forum or by contacting the FCRN’s Tara Garnett directly:

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