How to promote healthy diets

Diet evolves over time, being influenced by many social and economic factors that interact in a complex manner to shape individual dietary patterns.
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Diet evolves over time, being influenced by many social and economic factors that interact in a complex manner to shape individual dietary patterns. These factors include income, food prices (which will affect the availability and affordability of healthy foods), individual preferences and beliefs, cultural traditions, and geographical and environmental aspects (including climate change). Therefore, promoting a healthy food environment – including food systems that promote a diversified, balanced and healthy diet – requires the involvement of multiple sectors and stakeholders, including government, and the public and private sectors. Governments have a central role in creating a healthy food environment that enables people to adopt and maintain healthy dietary practices.

Effective actions by policy-makers to create a healthy food environment include the following: 

Creating coherence in national policies and investment plans – including trade, food, and agricultural policies – to promote a healthy diet and protect public health through: 

  • increasing incentives for producers and retailers to grow, use and sell fresh fruit and vegetables; 
  • reducing incentives for the food industry to continue or increase the production of processed foods containing high levels of saturated fats, trans-fats, free sugars, and salt/sodium; 
  • encouraging reformulation of food products to reduce the contents of saturated fats, trans-fats, free sugars, and salt/sodium, with the goal of eliminating industrially-produced trans-fats; 
  • implementing the WHO recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children;
  • exploring regulatory and voluntary instruments (e.g. marketing regulations and nutrition labeling policies), and economic incentives or disincentives (e.g. taxation and subsidies) to promote a healthy diet; and 

    • encouraging transnational, national and local food services and catering outlets to improve the nutritional quality of their foods – ensuring the availability and affordability of healthy choices – and review portion sizes and pricing.

Encouraging consumer demand for healthy foods and meals through: 
  • promoting consumer awareness of a healthy diet; 
  • developing school policies and programs that encourage children to adopt and maintain a healthy diet; 
  • educating children, adolescents and adults about nutrition and healthy dietary practices; 
  • encouraging culinary skills, including in children through schools;  
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