Topical Area: Climate/Environment, Health, Agriculture and Improved Nutrition
Objectives : The high prevalences of ultra-processed foods and obesity in Chile, with increasing climate change, signal an urgent need for novel analyses to characterize sustainable diets. Therefore, the study objective was to describe the sustainability of 24 highly consumed and liked traditional Chilean culinary preparations (dishes) as perceived by those in the Metropolitan Region (RM).
Methods : Pre-existing methods on documenting traditional food systems were adapted, and combined with the FAO’s 5 criteria for sustainable diets (culture, nutrition, environment, physical, and economic access). In 2018, 40 individual semi-structured interviews were done by an ethnographer/anthropologist, 8 per age (25-45 y, 45-64 y, >65 y) or ethnic (first nations or not) group. Each interview involved tasks about 24 traditional dishes (card sort exercises per sustainable diet criteria; and brief surveys to assess diet and taste preferences), was recorded, and transcribed. Based on the positive associations between a dish and the 5 sustainable diet criteria, an average sustainability score (0-100%) was calculated by dish. ATLAS.ti v. 8.3.1 was used to conduct the study analyses.
Results : The traditional dishes identified as the most sustainable were: fruits (91%); salads (90%); scrambled eggs with tomato/onion (82%); vegetable soup (78%), and legumes (78%). With fish soup (52%), shredded beef (48%) and empanadas (39%) as the least sustainable. Of the 5 sustainable diet criteria, the environment dimension was the most difficult for participants to think about in relation to diet, and thus, verbally expound upon. Two-thirds of participants thought that no dish produced any environmental impact. Others erroneously confused environmental impact with health problems or with household contamination from cooking fried foods. The livestock and fishing industries were often cited as having negative environmental impacts.
Conclusions : Chileans in the RM can identify traditional dishes, largely based on primary agricultural products that are both healthy and sustainable. The finding that many lacked an understanding of how diet may be linked to the concept of sustainability; and more specifically, to environmental impacts signals an important need for more education and awareness regarding how sustainability relates to diet.
Funding Sources : CONICYT-FONDECYT Initiation Project