This chapter discusses the current state of our diets and the dietary trends around the world. There are four things that are happening globally: people are consuming too many calories, those calories are of poor quality, diets are not very affordable, and they’re not sustainable. People are consuming more than they need to on average, but what they consumer is of poor quality, or “junk food.” Sugar consumption is on the rise, particularly with processed foods. Our diets cost a lot; the poor spend most of their income on food, and eating healthily is incredibly expensive. Animal source foods are costly and costly to the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and resource consumption. More sustainable protein sources include chicken, some types of fishing, insects, etc. The implications of diet choices are health consequences, environmental consequences, and social inequity. Diet is the number one risk factor of disease burden, and also has a big contribution to environmental degradation. The social inequity problem arises in the context of access to meat and other expensive food products. Those who are most vulnerable in low-income countries will most likely suffer most from the high income countries’ decisions on diets due to climate change. Children need high-nutrient, high-density food, and if they don’t have access to those food they have impairments and deficiencies that lead to serious health consequences. The nutrition transition was characterized by Barry Popkin, who says that it mirrors demographic transitions, in that as countries get wealthier, people tend to get fatter because as they move into urban centers and become more sedentary, they consume different foods, and the burden of disease shifts as well. Food moves through the food value chain and hits the food environment, where consumers engage with the food system and make choices and purchases, influencing their diets and influenced by a number of factors. The individual is highly influenced by the private sector and the food producers, and not so much concerned about health when making choices about what to eat. It can be pricey to have a healthy diet. A new space in the nutrition community is behavior change, in which the food environment is being studied and understood so that people will eat more healthily. Things like taxes have been implemented to make unhealthy foods less desirable, as well as “nudging.” Demand drives supply, however, and there is a high demand for unhealthy foods.
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