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Defining a nutritionally healthy, environmentally friendly, and culturally acceptable Low Lands Diet



The purpose of this study is to demonstrate that linear programming can support to define nutritionally healthy, environmentally friendly, and culturally acceptable diets, using the Low Lands as an illustrative example.


Our study quantifies the historical Dutch diet of 75 years ago, based on a cultural history research. We calculate the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE) and land use (LU) of this diet, using actual life cycle assessment (LCA) data for the 206 most consumed products, and the health score, based on ten nutritional characteristics. In order to meet the current requirements, we optimize this diet for adult males using linear programming. We compare the diet with the present Dutch, Mediterranean, and New Nordic Diet.

Results and discussion

An optimized Low Lands Diet has the same healthy nutritional characteristics (Health Score 123) as the Mediterranean Diet (122) and results in a lower environmental impact than the Mediterranean and New Nordic Diet (higher Combined GHGE-LU Score 121 versus 90 and 91). GHGE are 2.60 kg CO2eq per day and LU 2.86 m2 * year per day.


Through applying the method of linear programming, it is possible to calculate an optimal diet for the Low Lands with a short cultural distance, that is, as healthy as and more sustainable than a transition to more foreign European diets.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Low Lands refer to the Rhine-Meuse delta, mainly characterized by fertile flat land at North Sea level, a temperate climate, and a sober, tolerant, former Calvinist, Dutch speaking culture. This study focusses on Dutch data.


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Correspondence to Corné van Dooren.

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van Dooren, C., Aiking, H. Defining a nutritionally healthy, environmentally friendly, and culturally acceptable Low Lands Diet. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21, 688–700 (2016).

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  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Historical Dutch diet
  • New Nordic Diet
  • Linear programming
  • Mediterranean Diet