Feature Story | 11-Oct-2023

European food systems in the UOC's spotlight

The FoodLab research group is participating in Plan'EAT, a Horizon Europe project that aims to improve Europeans' diet and make it more sustainable Today's Western diet, with its high amount of red meat and ultra-processed food, is less healthy and more

Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

Food production and consumption account for a third of Europe's ecological footprint. Transforming food systems to make them more sustainable and healthy for people is key to avoiding the catastrophic consequences of climate change. It is with this ultimate goal that the FoodLab research group of the UOC's Faculty of Health Sciences is working, through Plan'EAT, a four-year Horizon Europe project that will run until 2026. Led by the Italian organization CREA (Council for Agricultural Research), the research group of the 11 countries involved aims to assess the eco-agri-food systems of nine European countries. The members of Plant'EAT met at the UOC on 9 and 10 October to share the progress made so far and plan the next steps.


"The Western diet has been gaining ground in recent decades, especially among younger people. This has entailed replacing foods such as vegetables, fruit and cereals with others of animal origin, such as red meat; eating more simple sugars, such as those added to food and soft and sugary drinks; and increasing products with higher sugar, salt and fat contents, such as ultra-processed products", said the FoodLab researcher Iris Blázquez, a project technician and a student of a UOC doctoral degree in the Health and Psychology programme.

The work of the researchers at the UOC laboratory focuses on analysing the eating patterns of people aged 40 to 85 in Catalonia in order to identify the barriers and the necessary facilitators to move towards eating behaviours that promote sustainability and have a positive impact on health.

The results will be used to design interventions to improve our diet, that is, to eat less red meat and ultra-processed foods, increase our consumption of fruit, vegetables and pulses, and improve cooking activities. "We're focusing on this age group because it represents different times of life, including people's years of work as well as the transition to retirement. The over-65s age group is of particular interest to us because it accounts for more than 19% of the population in Catalonia", explained Blázquez.

This work is carried out through the Living Labs - user-centred open innovation ecosystems. In total, Plan'EAT has integrated nine Living Labs, which will work in coordination with each other in Italy, Sweden, France, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Hungary and Poland.


What is the true impact of food?

The study is based on a participatory approach using surveys and interviews with various actors of the agri-food system in the nine countries under analysis, as well as focus groups. The researchers use True Cost Accounting (TCA), a new approach for the holistic analysis of the impact of food systems - including the economic, environmental and health perspectives - to identify all the true costs of food.

Once the study has been completed, the Plan'EAT researchers will design interventions for specific contexts and population groupsas well as innovative educational tools to help professionals drive the shift towards healthier lifestyles with a lower environmental impact. According to the researcher, all interventions will be tailored to specific sociocultural and geographical contexts.

Survey in Catalonia

FoodLab researchers have launched a survey for people aged 40 to 85 in Catalonia to find out how they perceive the food environment and food consumption habits. For more information, and/or if you would like to collaborate in other activities in the Plan'EAT project, please contact FoodLab by email at planeat@uoc.edu or fill in the following form: https://forms.gle/sxVtvNYRmYJwK5dt9.


This research contributes to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3, good health and well-being and 13 climate action


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