This website is now part of Public Health Scotland. Publications released after 16 March 2020 are now published on the Public Health Scotland website.
Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

Food and diet

Food and diet play a major role in health and wellbeing. Inequalities in accessing a healthy diet contribute towards health inequalities.

You can find out more about our work on food and diet, including our healthyliving award for caterers and our Community Food and Health Scotland website below.

  • The cost of eating a healthy diet is greater than the cost of eating a less healthy diet.
  • Eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of developing serious conditions including heart disease, certain cancers, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  • In 2017, 24% of adults and only 15% of children aged 2-15 consumed the recommended amount of five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

You can read more data on food and diet on the Scottish Public Health Observatory (ScotPHO) (external site).

Food and health inequalities

Access to adequate food is a human rights issue. One of the ways to reduce health inequalities, and to improve health, is to integrate the principles of human rights into food policy and decision making.

Food poverty is the inability to access enough of the right food through socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty of being able to do so.

People on low incomes and those living in deprived areas often consume a less healthy diet and are therefore more likely to experience the adverse health outcomes associated with a poor diet. This could be due to them not having affordable healthy food options available where they live.

When considering the impact of food prices relative to income, the lowest income groups spend a greater part of their income on food. They are also most affected by rises in price. Food poverty is a reality for many low income households in Scotland due to the rising cost of food and decreases in household income.

You can download our Food Poverty Position Statement for more information.

You can also read more about this and download our food poverty inequality briefing in our food poverty section.

National and local actions

The Scottish Government introduced a strategic approach to food and diet in 2014 with the publication of Recipe for Success: Scotland's national food and drink policy, becoming a Good Food Nation (external site). This policy sets out action to promote healthier and better informed food and drink choices. 

The Scottish Government and COSLA jointly published Public Health Priorities for Scotland (external site) in 2018. The priorities aim to focus action across the public and voluntary sectors and communities. They reflect a consensus for coordinated action in a number of areas including

  • diet
  • healthy weight
  • physical activity.

The Scottish Government's Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan (external site) also published in 2018, strengthened its commitment to reducing diet-related disease.

These strategies state that a range of actions are required to make improvements to diet in Scotland, including changes to where we live. They include

  • decreasing access and availability of unhealthy options
  • increasing access, availability and affordability of healthy options
  • a whole-systems approach to tackling obesity.

The Scottish Public Health Nutrition Group (SPHNG) (external site) is also working to improve the nutritional well-being of the Scottish population and reduce inequalities in nutrition related health. They are doing this by advancing and transforming public health nutrition policy and practice. 

Healthyliving award

Our healthyliving award (HLA) is a national award for caterers who make it easier for their customers to eat more healthily. The award is open to almost all types of caterers across Scotland from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

You can visit the HLA website to find out what a caterer needs to do to achieve an award and you can also sign up for the newsletter (Coretalk)

Community Food and Health (Scotland)

We work with low income communities to tackle health inequalities that stem from a poor diet through Community Food and Health (Scotland) (CFHS). The core aim of CFHS is to support work with and within low-income communities that addresses the health inequalities and barriers to healthy and affordable food. They include

  • availability
  • affordability
  • skills and culture.

You can visit the CFHS site to find out more about the training, events and resources available. You can also sign up for the newsletter (Fare Choice) and e-bulletin.

The Scottish Grocers' Federation Healthy Living Programme (external site), is an initiative which supports convenience food vendors in Scotland to increase the range and availability of healthy products, especially in disadvantaged communities.

Find out more

You can contact us to find out more about our work and how you can get involved.