20 Mar 2024

 “The Plate of Change” for healthy and sustainable diets in Central and Eastern Europe

Research for WWF CEE into more sustainable, healthier eating patterns in Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary

WWF Central and Eastern Europe (WWF CEE) launched the “Plate of Change”, inspired by the Livewell diet, first introduced by WWF UK as an approach to healthy, sustainable diets. Blonk supported WWF CEE with diet modelling techniques and environmental data to develop win-win eating patterns that meet national nutritional requirements and reduce environmental footprints of diets for adults in Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary in 2030, while respecting cultural dietary habits. There is no one-fits-all solution to healthy and sustainable diets. In this research, we used diet optimization to gain insight into the dietary changes needed on a population level to achieve healthy and sustainable diets, mitigating any possible incompatibilities among the health, environmental, economic and cultural aspects of the diet.

Diet optimization

Using our diet optimization software tool Optimeal, we modelled diets to simultaneously reduce carbon footprint and meet nutritional requirements of adults in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, while ensuring diet costs did not increase and staying as close as possible to national dietary patterns. Our findings show that increasing consumption of vegetables, legumes and nuts, moderating meat consumption, and reducing consumption of foods rich in added sugar, salt and saturated fats are needed to achieve healthy and sustainable diets.  

The suggested diets reduce carbon footprint by 30-50%, while not introducing too many changes to the current dietary habits. 

Blonk Sustainability produced a study for WWF Central and Eastern Europe to define a sustainable diet for Central European region (CZ, SK and HU). Despite the difficult conditions (lacking data, …) they conducted all the work highly professionally, were very flexible and reliable. Their work is highly appreciated in our countries and we hope to continue cooperating with them in the future.

Lenka Fryčová, Head of WWF Czech Representation


Reference diets

Creating nutritionally optimal sustainable diets requires data on the current average diet of the population of interest. The basis for the current diets in this study comes from dietary survey data that was compiled by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in the EFSA Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database. This data was supplemented by country-specific nutritional composition data, where possible. The final dataset covered intake of 127 food products in Czechia (CZ), 130 food products in Hungary (HU) and 137 food products in Slovakia (SK).

Environmental impact of food products

Environmental impacts from farm to fork of all food products in the reference diet were determined using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, according to ISO 14040/ 14044 standards and calculated following the ReCiPe 2016 impact assessment method. Environmental data from the Optimeal EU database were used as basis and adapted to better reflect trade and production statistics and other background processes (e.g., electricity, water, etc.) for CZ, HU and SK.

Since we optimise the diets for the year 2030, we applied forecasted environmental impacts of foods for 2030, considering the projected increases in efficiency of food production as well as expected reductions in food loss and waste in 2030.


Diet optimization aims to find an optimal combination of food items that meet certain requirements that define a healthy and sustainable diet. These requirements are called constraints or boundaries, which can have an upper limit (maximum), lower limit (minimum), or both. In this study, constraints related to nutrition, environment, costs, and acceptability were included.

Optimization strategy

Using quadratic programming, we aimed to minimise deviation from the current diets while satisfying the constraints. We applied a stepwise reduction in carbon footprint of the diet while also ensuring that the diets met nutritional requirements and that they did not increase in other environmental impact or prices, and identified the diet that was best balanced with culturally acceptability. 

Results and findings

Figure 1. Composition of reference and optimised diets for Czechia (CZ), Hungary (HU), and Slovakia (SK), excluding beverages*

*The quantity of liquid milk products (in g/d) was reduced by half in the figures. The category ‘other’ includes composite foods, sugar and confectionary, and seasonings, sauces and condiments. 


Like any diet modelling study, the results are highly dependent on the availability and quality of the data. For instance, the quality of the food consumption data was not equivalent across the three countries in scope, leading to differences in food intake and environmental impacts across the countries.  With more specific and higher quality data on food consumption, nutritional composition, and environmental impacts becoming available over time, and improved methods that comprehensively integrate nutrient interdependencies and the coproduction links among food items, we can continue to gain new insights into solutions for healthy diets from sustainable food systems.

Read more

Read more about the methodology, results and limitation in our technical report.

More information

Get in touch 

Alessandra Grasso
Medior Consultant - Sustainable Nutrition Specialist

Do you have questions about this research, or are you interested in optimization for healthy and sustainable diets? Get in touch with Alessandra.