Sustainable Healthy Food Choices: The Promise of ‘Holistic’ Dietary Guidelines as a National and International Policy Springboard

  • Christine Parker University of Melbourne
  • Hope Nadine Johnson Queensland University of Technology and the Institute for Future Environments


A healthy diet is generally a sustainable diet. This point is illustrated in the large body of work exploring the interconnections between public health nutrition and environmental issues associated with food choices. Unhealthy diets and their contribution to diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are receiving growing attention from international and national policy-makers. Dietary guidelines that inform consumers about food choices and that shape policy actions to enable choices in line with the guidelines are foundational to both national and international responses to diet-related NCDs. The purpose of this paper is to argue for holistic dietary guidelines as part of national and international policy responses to diet-related NCDs. Holistic dietary guidelines simultaneously address health and environmental sustainability to address common causes and harness synergistic solutions. They are based on evidence, and free of conflicts of interest. Moreover, they act as a policy springboard for effective regulatory action to change the food environment and not just as an education tool. Holistic dietary guidelines raise potential concerns under international trade and investment law, for example, to the extent that such guidelines promote local products as a means of supporting both nutritional and environmental health. These issues will be examined in more depth in a second paper in this special issue that follows on from this one.