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Healthiness and environmental impact of dinner recipes vary widely across developed countries

Abstract

Contrary to food ingredients, little is known about recipes’ healthiness or environmental impact. Here we examine 600 dinner recipes from Norway, the UK and the USA retrieved from cookbooks and the Internet. Recipe healthiness was assessed by adherence to dietary guidelines and aggregate health indicators based on front-of-pack nutrient labels, while environmental impact was assessed through greenhouse gas emissions and land use. Our results reveal that recipe healthiness strongly depends on the healthiness indicator used, with more than 70% of the recipes being classified as healthy for at least one front-of-pack label, but less than 1% comply with all dietary guidelines. All healthiness indicators correlated positively with each other and negatively with environmental impact. Recipes from the USA, found to use more red meat, have a higher environmental impact than those from Norway and the UK.

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Fig. 1: Recipes’ protein sources, amount of meat and meat-based ingredients by weight, and environmental impact.
Fig. 2: Correlation between environmental impact and healthiness.
Fig. 3: Correlation between environmental impact and individual nutrients.

Data availability

All data besides the UK recipes’ ingredient lists are available in the repository sustainableRecipes54. Source data are provided with this paper.

Code availability

All code can be found in the repository sustainableRecipes54.

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Acknowledgements

This work was in part supported by the Research Council of Norway with funding to MediaFutures: Research Centre for Responsible Media Technology and Innovation, through the Centre for Research-based Innovation scheme, project number 309339.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

A.A. and C.T. conceptualized and designed the study. A.A. and C.T. were involved in data collection for the study. A.A. conducted the analyses. All authors were involved in the interpretation of the results of the analysis. A.A. drafted the manuscript, and C.T. and A.D.S. revised the article. All authors reviewed the final manuscript and approved it for submission.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Aslaug Angelsen or Christoph Trattner.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review

Peer review information

Nature Food thanks Chloe Astbury, Tom Ball and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1

The percentage of recipes that adhered to each of the criteria that made up the World Health Organization (top) and Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (bottom) dietary guidelines, by country.

Extended Data Fig. 2 The recipes’ raw scores on disqualifying (1–10) and qualifying (1–5) components of the Nutriscore, by country.

The lower and upper edges of the box show the 25th and 75th quartile respectively, with whiskers extending to the value no further than 1.5 times away from the quartile value. The thick line inside the box is the median. The sample size for each country is Norway: 388, UK: 100 and USA: 98.

Extended Data Fig. 3 The (inverted) individual scores from each component of the multiple traffic light system, by country.

The lower and upper edges of the box show the 25th and 75th quartile respectively, with whiskers extending to the value no further than 1.5 times away from the quartile value. The thick line inside the box is the median. The sample size for each country is Norway: 388, UK: 100 and USA: 98.

Extended Data Table 1 The percentage of recipes that received a specific score on each front-of-pack-label indicator
Extended Data Table 2 The percentage of recipes that received a specific score on the dietary guideline indicators

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Tables 8–11.

Supplementary Tables

Supplementary Table 1: The IDs from the Norwegian Food Composition Database and FoodData Central that ingredients were mapped to. Supplementary Table 2: The IDs from the Sharp Indicators Database that ingredients were mapped to. Supplementary Table 3: The raw nutrient and environmental impact values for each recipe. Supplementary Table 4: The raw nutrient values used to calculate the healthiness scores for each recipe. Supplementary Table 5: The percentage of the RDI of each nutrient in the individual recipes per 100 g. Supplementary Table 6: The individual healthiness indicator scores for each recipe. Supplementary Table 7: The URLs of the recipes collected online. Title has been added to each table using the ‘Title’ option in Numbers, while the descriptive caption has been added in the ‘Infotext’ box.

Source data

Source Data Figs. 1–3, Extended Data Figs. 1–3, and Extended Data Tables 1 and 2.

Fig. 1. Protein source of the recipes, their content of meat and meat-based products, and environmental impact of recipes by protein source. Fig. 2. Healthiness indicator score and environmental impact of the recipes. Fig. 3. Healthiness indicator score, environmental impact and individual nutrient content of recipes. Extended Data Fig. 1. Percentage of recipes that adhered to each dietary guideline criteria. Extended Data Fig. 2. Recipes raw scores on Nutri-Score components. Extended Data Fig. 3. Recipes’ raw scores on FSA-MTL criteria. Extended Data Table 1. The percentage of recipes that received a specific score on each FOPL indicator. Extended Data Table 2. The percentage of recipes that received a specific score on the dietary guideline indicators.

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Angelsen, A., Starke, A.D. & Trattner, C. Healthiness and environmental impact of dinner recipes vary widely across developed countries. Nat Food 4, 407–415 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-023-00746-5

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