The new diet that could save the planet

Tuck in: The food you should be eating each day, according to the “planetary health diet”.

Much less meat and lots more vegetables! That is what we should all be eating according to scientists who have assembled a new diet which could “transform” the future of planet Earth.

It could save millions of lives, feed billions and help avert environmental catastrophe. Introducing, the “planetary health diet”.

Based on detailed analysis, it presents what scientists believe is the best solution for keeping Earth’s population fed in an environmentally friendly way.

While meat would not be totally banned, for many it means eating a lot less. The plan allows the equivalent of one burger per week or one steak per month. Overall, the average European would have to eat 77% less red meat.

“The numbers for red meat sound small to a lot of people in the UK or US,” said Professor Walter Willet. “But they don’t sound small to the very large part of the world’s population that already consumes about that much or even less. It is very much in line with traditional diets.”

Two portions of fish and chicken a week would still be allowed (as well as the occasional egg), and you would eat a lot more nuts, vegetables and other plant-based foods.

Over the course of one day, the diet would contain the following: nuts (50g), legumes (75g), fish (28g), eggs (13g), red meat (14g), chicken (29g), carbs (232g), potatoes (50g), dairy (250g), vegetables (300g), fruit (200g). To see how big these portions are, see the image above.

“There’s tremendous variety there,” says Willet. “You can take those foods and put them together in thousands of different ways. We’re not talking about a deprivation diet here, it is healthy eating that is flexible and enjoyable.”

Poor diet is one of the leading causes of mortality in the world, thought to be a factor in around 20% of all deaths. Researchers say this new diet could prevent 11 million deaths every year.

Then there is its potential environmental impact. Currently, food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gasses — more than all the world’s planes, trains, cars and ships combined. Scientists hope the “planetary health diet” will help cut emissions, save animals from extinction, and stop the expansion of farmland.

“Civilisation is in crisis,” write Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas. “If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”

Green World

Working out the best diet for the planet is one thing, encouraging people to take it up is another. Should meat be taxed? Perhaps it is a question of culture — some people argue that eating meat should be seen as being as harmful as smoking. But is this taking things too far?

And what about going vegan? According to this diet, it is not about giving foods up entirely, but about moderation. When people argue that we should give up meat and dairy full stop, are they actually harming the environmental cause?

You Decide

  1. Could you follow this diet?
  2. Is it immoral to eat meat?

Activities

  1. Study the picture at the top of this article. What foods can you see? Use the list in the article to help. How would you use the ingredients in front of you to make breakfast, lunch and dinner? Share your ideas with the class.
  2. What is your favourite food in the world? It could be one item or a meal. Write down all the ingredients that go into that food. Research how much impact consuming each ingredient has on the environment. Use the climate change food calculator link as a starting point. How environmentally friendly is your favourite food?

Some People Say...

“Moderation is best in all things.”

Hesiod

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Another major factor in this diet is rising populations. The world population is now around 7.5 billion. However, this figure is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, and keep on rising. Pressure on food systems is also increasing due to the increasing demand for meat and dairy in developing countries.
What do we not know?
How much impact this report will have. Researchers say that other measures must also be taken by governments to avoid environmental catastrophe. This includes dramatically reducing the amount of food waste we produce and developing more efficient farming methods.

Word Watch

Analysis
Research produced by a group of 37 scientists and published in the The Lancet.
Per week
Or, as Sky News reported, the equivalent of one bite of sausage per day.
Legumes
For example, beans, nuts, peas and lentils.
Carbs
Whole grains like bread and rice.
Potatoes
50g of potato is roughly a quarter of one baked potato. Besides red meat, a decrease in starchy vegetables is one of the biggest sacrifices that Western diets must make.
20%
According to the Global Burden of Disease study, undertaken in 2017. It revealed that non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes account for nearly three quarters of the 56 million deaths worldwide. Diet can be a significant factor in these conditions.
Farmland
According to the World Bank, over 37% of the world’s land is currently used for agriculture.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.