Sustainability analysis of Finnish pre-schoolers’ diet based on targets of the EAT-Lancet reference diet

Sari Bäck, Essi Skaffari, Henna Vepsäläinen, Reetta Lehto, Elviira Lehto, Kaija Nissinen, Carola Ray, Jaakko Nevalainen, Eva Roos, Maijaliisa Erkkola, Liisa Korkalo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Purpose: The EAT-Lancet reference diet is a healthy plant-based diet produced within planetary boundaries. To inform the food system transformation, we compared Finnish pre-schoolers’ food consumption with the reference diet’s food group targets. Methods: Food record data for 3- to 6-year-old pre-schoolers were collected in the cross-sectional DAGIS survey. Ingredients of composite dishes were available in the data. In addition, we manually decomposed industrial products such as sausages and biscuits by estimating the shares of ingredients. We also estimated the consumption of added sugars and converted the consumption of dairy products into milk equivalents. We used usual intake modelling to estimate the mean consumption and the proportion of children who met the reference diet’s targets. We set the target amounts separately for 3- to 4-year-olds and 5- to 6-year-olds in grams by proportioning the published target amounts (assuming a 2500 kcal diet) to the children’s mean reported energy intake. Results: For both age groups (3- to 4-year-olds, n = 460; 5- to 6-year-olds, n = 402), the daily mean consumption of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils was below targets, whereas the consumption of red meat, dairy foods, tubers, and added sugars was above targets. The consumption of fruit and fish was in line with targets. Conclusion: To comply with the reference diet’s targets, major changes in the diets of Finnish children are needed. The key food groups targeted for higher consumption are whole grains and legumes and targeted for lower consumption red meat and dairy products.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717–728
JournalEuropean Journal of Nutrition
Early online date15 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Children
  • Finland
  • National Cancer Institute method
  • Planetary health diet
  • Sustainable diet

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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