Aligning Santal tribe menu templates with EAT-Lancet Commission's dietary guidelines for sustainable and healthy diets: A comparative analysis

Sarah Armes, Arundhita Bhanjdeo, Debashis Chakraborty, Harmanpreet Kaur, Sumantra Ray, Nitya Rao

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Background: In the context of global shifts in food systems, this paper explores the unique dietary practices of the Santal tribe, an indigenous group in eastern India, to understand the health, nutrition, and sustainability aspects of their traditional food systems. This study evaluates the nutritional content of the Santal diet in comparison to the EAT-Lancet Commission’s 2019 dietary guidelines for healthy and sustainable diets. Methods: The University of East Anglia, in collaboration with the NNEdPro Global Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health in Cambridge, PRADAN; colleagues in India and local Santal youth, conducted nutritional analyses of traditional Santal recipes. Two menu templates, Kanhu Thali and Jhano Thali, were selected for comparative analysis based on their representation of diverse dietary practices within the Santal community. Nutritional data, including energy as well as the distribution of macronutrients and micronutrients, were compiled and compared with the EAT-Lancet guidelines. Results: The Santal menu templates (nutritionally complete meals) demonstrated alignment with EAT-Lancet recommendations in aspects such as whole grains, starchy vegetables, vegetables, plant-based protein sources, unsaturated fats, and limited added sugars. However, notable deviations included the absence of animal-based protein sources and dairy. The Santal diet showed high protein intake, largely from plant-based sources, and emphasised the importance of whole grains. Seasonal variations in nutritional content were observed between the two templates. Conclusions: While the Santal diet aligns with some aspects of global dietary guidelines, there are notable deviations that underscore the complexity of aligning traditional diets with universal recommendations. The findings emphasise the need for culturally sensitive dietary recommendations that respect traditional diets while promoting sustainability. Research needs to support tailored global guidelines enshrining core principles of nutritional adequacy which are inter-culturally operable in order to accommodate cultural diversity, local practices, and seasonal variations, crucial for fostering sustainable and healthy eating habits in diverse sociodemographic contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number447
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2024


  • cultural diversity
  • health effects
  • indigenous food
  • nutrient adequacy
  • plant-based diet

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