Environmental sustainability of children’s dietary intakes

The nexus between nutrition and environmental sustainability of populations’ diets is increasingly being recognised as a vital factor in public health – whether it’s locally in the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Plan 2019-23, or internationally in the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health.

As dietary intakes and preferences in childhood influence longer-term eating behaviours, this is an opportune time to set up nutritious and environmentally sustainable eating patterns for the life course. Yet it is known that early childhood diets do not meet dietary guidelines to promote health in Victoria, nationally or internationally – generally being low in vegetables and fruit, and high in discretionary foods (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013; Spence et al. 2018; Welker et al. 2018). It is also known that children’s intakes of healthy and unhealthy foods are socioeconomically patterned. However, how children’s diets align with sustainability recommendations, and whether these aspects are socioeconomically patterned, is not known.

Aim of the project

This project aims to examine the alignment between children’s dietary intakes and recommendations for environmentally sustainable diets and explore opportunities to improve children’s dietary intakes in ways which align nutritional quality and environmental sustainability.

The specific research questions and research issues of interest for this project may include:

  • Examining how children’s dietary intakes align with sustainable eating recommendations, with particular focus on where nutritional and sustainability benefits align (e.g. legumes, pulses, whole grains, nuts, processed & packaged foods, food wastage).
  • Assessing socioeconomic differences in alignment of children’s intakes with sustainable eating recommendations
  • Assessing cultural and international differences in alignment of children’s intakes with sustainable eating recommendations
  • Investigating potential opportunities to co-promote and improve environmental sustainability as well as nutritional quality of children’s diets, which could include modelling of nutritious and sustainable child eating in Australia, assessing views of parents and children about such diets, or testing feasibility of strategies for improvements.


Applications are invited for PhD students to work with Dr Katie LacyDr Alison Spence and other IPAN researchers.


Applicants will have previous studies in a relevant discipline, such as nutrition, food science/technology, epidemiology, health, environmental science, or childhood studies. Interested students must be eligible for enrolment in a PhD program at Deakin University and eligible to apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award or equivalent. Applicants must meet Deakin’s PhD entry requirements. Please refer to the entry pathways to higher degrees by research for further information. We will work with suitably qualified applicants to apply for scholarship funding.

For more information

Contact Dr Alison Spence (Burwood campus) or Dr Katie Lacy This project has potential to be based at either Waurn Ponds or Burwood campus.

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