A diet that optimises good health AND that’s good for the planet? This is the basis of the Planetary Health Diet proposed by an international team of scientists brought together by the EAT-Lancet Commission. According to the authors of the report, the Planetary Health Diet can prevent up to 11.6 million premature deaths without harming the planet. The report proposes that this will be achieved by making drastic changes to our diet. This includes cutting back on red meat, halving sugar consumption and upping our intake of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
The authors warn that a global change in diet and food production is in dire need. There are currently about 3 billion malnourished people worldwide, this includes those who are both under- and over-nourished. Rapidly increasing demand is driving food production to overstep environmental targets, drive climate change, cause biodiversity losses and pollution.
The world’s population is set to reach 10 billion people by 2050. This population growth together with our current diet and food production habits will “exacerbate risks to people and planet.” It’s clear that change is needed. By reinventing the way we produce and consume food, society as a whole can begin to cut down on the destruction it causes the environment.
CHANGING OUR DIET TO SAVE THE PLANET
The world’s food systems are struggling to produce food for a growing population on a planet where we’ve already breached sustainable boundaries. The EAT-Lancet researchers looked at how to feed more people, more sustainably. This means reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preventing further species extinction, curbing the expansion of farmland and conserving water. The production of animal protein has the highest detrimental impact on the environment. Thus their recommendation to reduce our consumption of meat. Similarly, eating highly processed foods is discouraged to reduce the negative impact of food manufacturing and distribution on the planet.
CHANGING OUR DIET FOR IMPROVED HEALTH
While the planetary health diet focuses on a sustainable global food system that is better for the environment, it has also been specifically designed to be beneficial to our health. What’s good for the planet is also good for us.
What is the Planetary Health Diet eating plan?
The planetary health diet is a flexitarian diet. It is largely plant-based but can also include modest amounts of fish, meat and dairy.
Dr Mariaan Wicks , a lecturer at North-West University and spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) describes the planetary health diet as: “…rich in plant-based foods, with fewer animal source foods and limited amounts of added sugars. The planetary health plate consists of approximately half a plate of non-starchy vegetables and fruits. The other half of the plate should primarily consist of whole grains, plant protein sources such as legumes and nuts, with only modest amounts of unsaturated plant oils and animal sources of proteins.” The picture below shows a typical daily planetary health plate.
Globally, the eating plan aims to halve the world’s consumption of red meat. To achieve that goal, the world’s top red meat-eating countries, such as the USA, need to reduce their consumption by 80% . This equates to eating one hamburger a week, or a big steak once a month.
START BY MAKING BETTER CHOICES EVERY DAY
Dr Wicks advises that South Africans can take small steps towards eating more sustainably rather than making sweeping changes. “Start with little easy changes, and then as you become more comfortable and familiar add new changes. Every little change can make a big difference,” says Dr Wicks. She provided guidelines for 5 ways we make small changes to start eating more sustainably (and healthily).
Rethink your regular meat consumption
Be especially mindful of how much meat you consume. Plan on making bite-sized changes to reduce your consumption daily.
-Reduce portion sizes. If you usually eat 180g of meat in a meal, start by reducing this to say 100g.
-If you eat meat daily, try and implement a day on which you go completely “meat free”. Join Sir Paul McCartney on his Meat Free Monday crusade. Take 5-minutes to watch this short film ‘One Day a Week’ highlighting the environmental impact of animal agriculture. The aim is to enlighten and courage people to eat less meat, with appearances by Paul and Stella McCartney, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone.
-When planning the weekend BBQ, resolve to include only 1 meat option.
Start exploring vegetarian options
-Exchange your breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausages for a delicious vegetarian omelette with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers.
-Experiment with versatile beans, lentils and chickpeas. There are fantastic recipes available online that are easy and affordable. (This lemony lentil and chickpea salad recipe is a personal favourite.)
-Supplement your 1-meat dish only BBQ offering with items such as black mushrooms with a garlic butter filling, brinjals in barbeque sauce and vegetable sosaties made with onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes and baby marrows.
Reduce your dependence on refined starches
-Experiment with wholegrain alternatives such as brown rice, couscous and whole-wheat pasta.
-Replace your starchy vegetables and maize meal BBQ side-dishes by creating salads with wholegrains and lentils or chickpeas for a complete meal.
Plan your meals to reduce wastage
Develop a weekly menu plan and go food shopping for the week. By having a clear plan of what you want to buy, you will not only save money and time but will also limit your food waste.
Rethink what you do with food waste. Using leftovers for the next day’s lunchboxes or freezing the remaining sauces for a base for a next meal is a good start.
Together we can make a real difference.
THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST
(RELATED POST: Everyday breakfast myth-busting)