Defining sustainable nutrition
One of the biggest global challenges is making food production and consumption healthier and more sustainable. The global challenges are diverse and concern the growing world population, malnutrition, and high contribution to climate change.
Balancing the full potential of nutritionally and environmentally sustainable diets
Defining healthy and sustainable food patterns is complex and should be based on a systematic investigation and sound data.
Optimeal is a software solution that applies optimization to dietary questions involving sustainability and nutritional parameters. This tool helps identify new opportunities and elevate the conversation on food habits that cater to a healthy and sustainable future.
Optimeal supports you with:
Scenario studies aimed at defining policies and strategies
The strategic position of specific foods
Developing food-based dietary guidelines
How does it work?
Optimeal is a tool that uses optimization to solve dietary questions that involve sustainability and nutritional parameters. Optimeal lets you choose from multiple optimization algorithms based on linear or quadratic programming.
Optimization requires data. Optimeal comes with a default dataset for Europe, mainly based on European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) data. The EU dataset consists of a reference diet, nutritional constraints, nutritional properties for the products in the reference diet, and environmental properties (Life Cycle Assessment impacts) for the products in the reference diet.
Meeting nutritional and environmental constraints
Optimization aims to identify a diet that meets all nutritional and environmental constraints with as few changes to the current diet as possible. In this way, it takes the attainability of dietary interventions into account.
Features of Optimeal
Optimeal has several attractive features that make the tool broadly applicable.
User-friendly & intuitive interface
The interface of Optimeal is intuitive to use, with a wizard to guide through the important decisions during an analysis and the consequences of your choices will be highlighted.
Versions and iterations on data, diets and nutritional constraints will be logged and differences relative to the default files will be visualised. Furthermore, it is possible to add comments to any changes. This will allow you to track the work that has been done.
The tool can be used by everybody with some basic nutritional knowledge.
Default dataset: European focus
The dataset supplied with Optimeal has a European focus. The reference diet is an average European diet based on information from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The nutritional boundaries that define a healthy diet are also based on EFSA guidelines. The nutritional values of the foods, such as vitamin and nutrient content, are the averages of values from seven European countries. The environmental impacts of the foods in the dataset have been determined by life cycle assessment (LCA). An extensive methodology document gives detailed information on the data and methods used.
Sound environmental data
Environmental properties of all the products in the reference diet are determined using the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. This methodology captures the impact of a product (or service) through-out its life cycle. The following impact categories are assessed for the default EU dataset:
- Global warming, excl. LUC
- Fine particulate matter formation
- Terrestrial acidification
- Freshwater eutrophication
- Marine eutrophication
- Land use
- Fossil resource scarcity
- Water consumption
You can find more information in the methodology document.
Additional datasets available
In addition to the European dataset, we have also developed regional and detailed datasets, for example for specific diets, age categories or activity levels, or with gender-specific nutritional boundaries. The first available regional dataset is for the Netherlands. We can, of course, also provide bespoke datasets, for example for other countries or regions.
Please contact us for further information.
Optimeal has various functionalities, such as the product creator, which helps food companies to innovate and develop new products. It gives invaluable information on the nutritional and environmental profile of ingredient combinations, so the user can adapt them to obtain the optimum mix for health and/or sustainability. The product creator will give you insight into the nutritional and environmental profile of your new product. You will be able to alter ingredient combinations to identify the optimal composition for the intended market. When you are satisfied with the product composition, you will be able to introduce the new product into a diet for a thorough analysis of how it can make the best contribution to a balanced diet.
Free demo version
We've developed a demo version of Optimeal to help you understand how Optimeal works. You will be able to discover the possibilities of the tool and how it can benefit your organization and work.
More information on the free demo.
Screenshots of Optimeal
Publications & reports
Companies, non-profits, research institutes, and policymakers use Optimeal to think about sustainable diets. Since its release in 2014, the use of Optimeal has resulted in more than 16 reports and scientific publications.
We have the following Optimeal licenses available:
- Academic license: you can use an academic license for educational and scientific research purposes. It includes the default EU dataset and access for 1 user.
- Class room license: you can use a classroom license for educational purposes. You can only utilize the carbon footprint functionality relating to environmental impact. This license includes access for 20 users.
- Business license: a business license is the default Optimeal license for businesses. It includes the default EU dataset and access for 2 users.
Prices are available upon request.
What is included in a license?
An academic or business Optimeal license will give you many benefits:
A license will include the EU dataset based on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) data and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology.
Updates & inspiration
We will keep you updated and inspired! You will receive information about new applications of Optimeal.
We will offer you personal advice on using Optimeal in your specific case or relating to the issues you want to address.
Curious about Optimeal? Interested in how Optimeal can help you and your organization? Or do you just want to see how the tool works?
We've developed a demo version to help you understand how Optimeal works. You will be able to discover the tool's possibilities and how it can benefit your organization and work.
Demo: Healthy & sustainable lunch
In the Optimeal demo, we use a simple lunch as a reference diet. Its composition and constraints are hypothetical and help you understand how Optimeal works. We set nutritional constraints for a healthy lunch and nutritional and environmental properties for its ingredients. We include possible alternative products to add to the lunch.
We've created a document to guide you through the demo and grasp the purpose and possibilities of Optimeal.
Some examples of projects related to Optimeal
A dietary pattern that is healthy for both Belgians and the planet
WWF launched the European Eat4Change project to make young Europeans aware of ways to develop and adopt a healthier and more sustainable diet. Our current food system has a substantial environmental impact. With Eat4Change, WWF wants to make food production more sustainable, combat biodiversity loss and tackle the climate crisis. As part of this European project, on behalf of WWF Belgium, we analyzed which products fit into a sustainable and healthy diet for a family of four. We did so using our Optimeal software tool. The results also show that a sustainable and healthy diet is cheaper than the average Belgian's current dietary pattern.
Eating for 2 degrees - WWF UK and Sustainable Diets
In 2011 WWF UK published the first 'Livewell plate'. This was very successful in putting the topic of sustainable diets on the agenda of governments, food companies and health organisations, as well as demonstrating that it was possible to incorporate sustainability in dietary recommendations. Building on this success and the 'Paris Agreement' WWF UK decided to update the Livewell Plates. The new Livewell Plates demonstrate that by adopting a sustainable diet it is possible to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees.
Future-proof food & beverage products
The main challenge for companies producing foods and beverages is to become 'future-proof' regarding health, environmental, and other sustainability concerns. Future-proof foods and beverages properly balance their nutritional value and environmental impact. This concept is called the Sustainability Nutrition Balance (SNB), which identifies whether a product or product group fits into a healthy and sustainable diet. The SNB-score can be determined in several steps, offering directions toward developing products that meet nutritional and sustainability requirements. Blonk Consultants developed the Optimeal optimization tool to grasp the complete picture of and study healthy and sustainable diets and assign SNB-scores to products or product portfolios.
Menu for Tomorrow
For the Dutch environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu Blonk Consultants investigated what a healthy and sustainable diet would be for the Netherlands. The result is the Menu for Tomorrow, which provides a considerable reduction of greenhouse gases emissions and a smaller claim on scarce natural resources.
Healthy and sustainable diets for people and planet
Recently, the EAT-Lancet commission published a report on healthy and sustainable diets. In our studies we arrive at roughly the same conclusion. However, our research method was different, and actually more precise, with fewer limitations.
How to make the shift to a more sustainable and healthy food system?
In order to reach the goals and to make the shift to this sustainable and healthy food system, everyone needs to participate. This means governments, private sector, civil society organizations and consumers need to be involved. We see that companies, governments and civil society organizations are looking for ways to tackle the challenge and aim to define the contours of a healthy and sustainable society. However, defining healthy and sustainable food patterns is complex. To help organizations to come up with sound solutions, we have built a tool, Optimeal, which enables to grasp the full picture of healthy and sustainable nutrition.
Get in touch
Please contact Megan if you want more information on Optimeal and its uses, or if you are interested in a license.