More plants and less meat could be the key to sustaining the planet
Step aside, keto. There's a new diet on the block, and this one promises a whole lot more than an altered appearance. Introducing "the planetary health diet."
No, not a meal plan that'll see you snaffling spherical-shaped foods or even one that prohibits the consumption of animal products. In fact, it's a diet developed by 37 leading scientists in the areas of health, agriculture and the environment to address the impact of an ever-increasing population (which is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050) on the health of both humans and the planet.
The report, commissioned by the EAT Forum and published in the Lancet medical journal, details meal ideals that ensure we get our daily required nutrients without having a detrimental effect on Earth. And best of all? It's fairly flexible, though it will require an overhaul of the world's eating habits. We'll explain…
How does the planetary health diet work?
The idea is to reduce our intake of foods which have been linked to diseases and require a lot of resources to produce and increase consumption of those that offer major health benefits and ask little of Earth in return.
The diet recommends an intake of around 2500 calories per day, and emphasizes the importance of vegetables, nuts and plant protein. Meat isn't off the menu but is advised in much smaller quantities than what is currently consumed.
Were you to follow the planetary health diet, a day's worth of food would consist of:
- Nuts: 50g
- Legumes (like beans, chickpeas and lentils): 75g
- Fish: 28g
- Eggs: 13g (one and a bit per week)
- Red meat: 14g (roughly one beef burger per week)
- Poultry: 29g
- Whole grains (like bread and rice): 232g
- Starchy veg (such as potatoes): 50g
- Dairy: 250g (the equivalent of a glass of milk)
- Vegetables: 300g
- Fruit: 200g
- Added sugar: 31g
- Added fats (such as olive oil): 50g
"There's tremendous variety there," said Professor Walter Willet of Harvard University, one of the 37 experts who contributed to the study, to the BBC. "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."
What are the benefits of following the planetary health diet?
Researchers predict that—if adopted on a global scale—the diet could prevent as many as 11 million premature deaths each year. How? Predominately by the reduction of life-threatening illnesses related to poor diet, such as heart disease, strokes and some cancers.
Experts also forecast a decrease in global greenhouse emissions of which food production is currently responsible for up to 30% of (more than transport such as trains, planes and cars) and preserving water.
But while it sounds like a pretty sweet deal, some big changes are required. North America and Europe must reduce the intake of red meat, whilst East Asia needs to cut back on fish. Plus, a decrease in the amount of food produced globally and reducing food waste are also crucial to the diet's success.
3 tips for following the planetary health diet
If you fancy test-driving the diet, here are three top tips:
1. Plan your meals ahead of time
Realistically, you probably aren't going to eat a slice of egg and a sliver of beef per day. Instead, approach the diet on a week by week basis, allocating proteins, etc, to each day, planning meals around your allowance so you aren't stumped when Sunday evening arrives and you're to create a dish from just a mackerel fillet and a glass of milk.
2. Vary your fruit and veg
Although it may sound somewhat rigid, the plan allows for consumption of all fruits and vegetables, so to save from scoffing the same meal again and again and eventually growing bored, experiment with in-season produce and varied recipes.
3. Utilize leftovers
Food waste is a global issue, and something that, with the implementation of the planetary health diet, the EAT Forum hopes to rectify. So, if you find yourself stuffed halfway through dinner, set the rest aside to eat for lunch the next day, and whip up soups and stocks with vegetable and meat scraps. A benefit besides saved food? Less spending!