Eating for the health of our planet

The food we eat and our food systems can have a significant impact on our planet’s health. We often hear about people in the media promoting a particular way of eating as being the healthiest for our bodies and in recent times debate about which foods are best for the environment have surfaced. But how do we know what to believe? It can be really confusing and although I have the knowledge about the best evidence for eating for human health I wasn’t so sure about what was best for planetary health. That was until the EAT-Lancet commission released their report on the Planetary Health Diet https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/eat-lancet-commission-summary-report/.

Who is the EAT-lancet commission I hear you say? And what do they know about what’s best for our health and the planet? The EAT-lancet commission consists of 37 world leading scientists from a range of scientific backgrounds and from 16 different countries. Their goal was to come to an agreement on targets for a healthy diet and sustainable food production to feed a population of nearly 10 Billion by 2050. The report was published in the Lancet Medical Journal in January 2019.

How do we know we can trust the contents of this report? Well, the report was peer reviewed which means they gave it to other scientists outside the EAT-lancet commission to scrutinise the content and provide feedback. The EAT-lancet commissioners received no financial compensation from EAT or the Wellcome Trust (who funded the research). EAT is an independent non-for-profit organisation which is financed by non-for-profit services. This means no one gains financially from the findings of the report which can be the case with some research resulting in bias from the researchers.

What is the Planetary Health Diet?

The diet is a reference diet for adults which provides foods that are best for human health (reducing chronic disease and premature death) and has the least impact on the planet. It’s a win-win in my opinion.

Planetary health plate
Planetary Health Plate: https://eatforum.org/content/uploads/2019/07/EAT-Lancet_Commission_Summary_Report.pdf

Do you have to be vegetarian or vegan?

No you don’t! Believe it or not meat and dairy can be incorporated into the Planetary Health Diet but in smaller amounts than the current average person living in Western countries. The diet is mostly plant based with a significant proportion of food coming from fruit and vegetables and wholegrains and the majority of the protein coming from plant based proteins like legumes, soy etc. Small amounts of meat can be eaten if you choose to – max 98g red meat, 203g poultry and 96g fish per week. Small amounts of dairy, eggs and added sugars are also included.

Tips for following following the Planetary Health Diet:

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables
  • Try interesting and tasty ways to cook vegetables (eg.roasted in Olive oil, stir fried in some soy sauce)
  • Experiment with interesting salads – no more boring lettuce, tomato and cucumber!
  • Reduce your meat portions
  • Start experimenting with meat-free meals (Meat-free Monday)
  • Increase your meat-free days as you find meals you enjoy
  • Swap to plant-based milks like oat, rice, soy (make sure they are calcium fortified and unsweetened)
  • Eat more legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils)
  • Try tofu in a stir fry instead of meat
  • Eat more wholegrains (brown rice, popcorn, wholegrain bread, oats)
  • Reduce meat in casseroles and Bolognese sauce and replace with lentils or kidney beans
  • Choose vegetarian options when eating out
  • Eat seasonal food
  • Eat local food and avoid buying produce shipped from other countries

What are your thoughts about the Planetary Health Diet? Will you make changes to improve your health and the health of our planet?

For further information go to https://eatforum.org

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