Nutritional transition

Based on the results of a variety of research projects, we have compiled 11 guidelines to assist consumers in selecting sustainable nutrition options:

The infographics may be used with the following picture credits "© ifeu Institut für Energie- und Umweltforschung gGmbH".

  1. Low-meat diet: Meat products have a much higher carbon footprint than, for example, protein-rich pulses and nuts. Therefore, reduce the amount of meat you eat! In particular beef and lamb have the highest footprint, followed by pork, while chicken has the lowest impact.
  2. Reduce dairy products: Milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, cream, curd, ice cream can be replaced with plant-based products such as oat drink, margarine, lupine yoghurt, etc.
  3. Regional and seasonal products: The combination of regional and seasonal makes much difference, avoiding long transport routes, energy-intensive greenhouse production and/or cold storage.
  4. Organic food: We recommend organic food, but not from a climate protection point of view. Reduced use of pesticides protects nature conservation, and organic product guidelines address animal welfare. The disadvantage of organic foods is a higher land use impact because of lower yields.
  5. Avoid one-way glass containers: One-way glass has a much higher environmental footprint than alternative packaging options. For preserved foods, you can often use laminated cardboard or stand-up pouches instead of disposable glass jars.
  6. Avoid airfreighted goods: If foodstuffs such as mangoes or pineapples are transported by air, their carbon footprint is more than 10 times higher than if transported by ship. There is usually a notice on the label so that you can identify airfreighted goods.
  7. Environmentally friendly shopping behaviour: Do your shopping on foot or by bicycle, if you need a car, avoid long detours. If you drive several kilometres to make a small purchase, you will significantly increase the environmental impact of the meal you cook.
  8. Energy-efficient kitchens: The energy consumption of your kitchen appliances can cause significant environmental impacts, and accounts on average for about 20 % of the carbon footprint. Pay attention to the energy efficiency class when buying freezers and refrigerators. Follow the numerous tips on energy-saving behaviour in the kitchen, e.g. by regularly de-ice freezers.
  9. Avoide waste: All food has to be produced, transported, processed, purchased and prepared, even if it ends up in the waste bin. Food waste significantly worsens the environmental balance. Therefore, plan your shopping list well and use up leftovers. In restaurants, you can avoid waste by ordering small portions ("senior plates").
  10. Restaurants: While food preparation in out-of-home catering is usually more efficient, there is often more waste if you have leftovers.  Consider ordering smaller portions and ask the business to offer this option if it is not yet available.
  11. Fairly produced food: Last but not least, fairly produced and traded food can have considerable social effects, improving the lives of farmers and workers worldwide.


Guido Reinhardt

PhD Mathematician, Chemist, Biologist
Scientific Director
+49 (0)6221 4767 31

Andreas Detzel

Dipl. Biology
Scientific and Managing Director
+49 (0)6221 4767 0

Press articles on sustainable nutrition (selection, in German)


Pr:Ins - Holistic evaluation of alternative protein sources with special consideration of insects

Collaborative project of the innovation space "NewFoodSystems"

Pr:Ins creates sustainability profiles of protein ingredients and protein-containing foods from alternative protein sources, with a focus on the sustainability assessment of insects.

GourMed - Sustainability assessment of Mediterranean supply chains based on selected case studies

The collaborative project GourMed conducts research with the aim of further developing food supply in the Mediterranean region and making it more effective, cost-efficient and sustainable.

Environmental footprint of food and dishes in Germany

How are the production, transport, packaging or preparation of food affecting the environment? The new ifeu study "Environmental footprint of food and dishes in Germany" provides not only CO2…


The web app contains 50 climate-friendly recipes and shows not only the greenhouse gas but also the land, phosphate and water footprints of the recipes. If required, the desired number of portions can…


Would you like to see the CO2 footprint of your favourite recipe? Or calculate different scenarios for your milk products? To assist you, ifeu has developed a user-friendly food calculator which is…


The project KEEKS (Climate and Energy Efficient School Canteens) investigates the possibilities to design school canteens more climate and energy efficient. Main aspects include the selection of food,…


Protein2Food is a new research project funded by the EU. The project’s aim is to develop innovative, cost-effective and resource-efficient, healthy plant proteins for human consumption in the form of…

Ecological Optimization of Regionally Produced Food: Energy and Greenhouse Gas Balances

ifeu investigated the greenhousegas and energy balances of regionally produced food compared to national or international production for six exemplary items: apple, lettuce, beef, beer, bread, milk.