A balanced and varied diet, composed of a wide range of nutritious and tasty foods, adds years to life and life to years. Nevertheless, the burden of disease associated with poor nutrition continues to grow in the WHO European Region. Unhealthy diets, overweight and obesity contribute to a large proportion of noncommunicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, which together are the main killers in the Region. National surveys in most countries indicate excessive consumption of energy, saturated fat, trans fats, sugar and salt, as well as low consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and increasing numbers of people with obesity, all of which not only shorten life expectancy, but also harm the quality of life. Simultaneously, in some countries and among some vulnerable groups, undernutrition remains a concern.

Most Member States now have government-approved policies that aim to promote healthy diets, tackle the growing rates of obesity, and ensure nutrition and food security. Policy developments from across the region indicate that improvements to nutrition and diet require the engagement of many different government sectors and will need to involve action by both public and private sector. The new WHO European Food and Nutrition Action Plan 2015–2020 encourages action in a range of policy areas through a whole-of-government, health-in-all-policies approach. The goal is to improve the availability, affordability and attractiveness of healthy foods, with a view to improving the overall quality of the population’s diet and ultimately health and well-being.