Introducing children to sustainable and healthy school meals can promote a long-term dietary shift to lower climate impact and improve population health. The aim of the OPTIMAT study was to optimize meals for minimum deviation from the current food supply while reducing greenhouse gases and ensuring nutritional adequacy without increasing cost. Optimized menus were tested in four primary schools in Sweden and effects on daily food consumption and waste evaluated. Pupils received their usual menu plan for three weeks and then the isocaloric optimized menu plan for another three weeks. Nutritional recommendations for a school lunch and a maximum of 500 g of carbon dioxide equivalents per meal (CO2 eq/meal) were applied as constraints during linear programming. Pulses, cereals, meat, and eggs increased, while fats and oils, dairy, sauces, and seasonings decreased. The amount of ruminant meat was reduced in favor of other meat products. The new menu was 28% lower in greenhouse gas emissions and slightly less costly than the original. No significant changes in mean food consumption or plate waste were found in interrupted time series analysis between the two periods. This pragmatic approach for combining linear optimization with meal planning could accelerate sustainable development of the meal sector in Sweden and abroad.
- Sundhed, ernæring og livskvalitet