What should you know?
- The food we eat, the ways we produce it, and the amounts wasted or lost have major impacts on human health and environmental sustainability. Getting it right with food will be an important way for countries to achieve the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
- A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet. It is not a question of all or nothing, but rather small changes for a large and positive impact.
- Foods sourced from animals, especially red meat, have relatively high environmental footprints per serving compared to other food groups. This has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, land use and biodiversity loss. This is particularly the case for animal source foods from grain fed livestock.
- What is or is not consumed are both major drivers of malnutrition in various forms. Globally, over 820 million people continue to go hungry every day, 150 million children suffer from long-term hunger that impairs their growth and development, and 50 million children are acutely hungry due to insufficient access to food.
- In parallel, the world is also experiencing a rise in overweight and obesity. Today, over 2 billion adults are overweight and obese, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart diseases are among the leading causes of global deaths.
- Good food can be a powerful driver of change: The EAT-Lancet Commission outlines a planetary health diet, which is flexible and recommends intake levels of various food groups that can be adapted to local geography, culinary traditions and personal preferences.
- Globally, the planetary health diet favors increasing the consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes alongside small portions of meat and dairy. In parts of the world, this diet involves increasing the access to certain food groups while in other areas, the diet requires a significant reduction in the overconsumption of unhealthier foods.
- The planetary health diet recommends consuming a range of foods amounting to 2500 kcal per day that will promote health and well-being by reducing risk of overweight, obesity and noncommunicable diseases.
- Shifting from unhealthy diets to the planetary health diet can prevent 11 million premature adult deaths per year and drive the transition toward a sustainable global food system by 2050 that ensures healthy food for all within planetary boundaries.
What can you do?
- Conduct dietary assessments by:
- Assessing individual diets as a standard clinical evaluation to address specific nutritional needs according to age, sex, comorbidities and physical activity levels, and with an added sensitivity toward the needs of vulnerable groups.
- Monitoring changes in individual diet quality over time continuously alongside their nutritional requirements.
- Provide professional counsel by:
- Giving individuals and vulnerable groups dietary guidance and by encouraging breastfeeding and providing information on nutritional requirements for maternal and child healthcare.
- Promoting the planetary health diet while also giving special considerations to vulnerable groups such as expecting mothers, children and adolescents, and individuals suffering from chronic diseases.
- Support education and training by:
- Actively partaking in education campaigns in schools and other public services to promote the planetary health diet.
- Including nutrition and food systems in the medical curricula as main determinants of health along with several training packages to equip health professionals with the knowledge and skills to carry out diet assessments and to provide guidance and counsel on the planetary health diet.
- Change food procurement practices by:
- Focusing on sustainably grown food to provide healthy foods and beverages from sustainable food systems to a high standard.
- Ensuring that food procurement and provision activities also minimize food waste and food loss in healthcare facilities.
- Drive advocacy efforts by:
- Promoting this agenda in advocacy surrounding the medical profession and in medical communities including medical associations, unions and colleges.
- Setting up guidelines based on the planetary health diet that are applicable to local communities and ensuring the implementation of such guidelines.
- Encouraging and supporting increased collaboration between healthcare professionals such as physicians and dieticians and between actors across different sectors including food, agriculture, environment and health.
The Planetary Health Diet
- Proteins should primarily be sourced from plants where possible, fish or alternative sources of omega-3 fatty acids several times per week, and with optional modest consumption of poultry and eggs alongside low intakes of red meat, if any, especially processed meat.
- At least five servings of fruits and vegetables (500 grams) should be consumed per day excluding potatoes: 200 (100–300) grams of fruits and 300 (200–600) grams of vegetables per day.
- At least 50 (0–75) grams of nuts and 75 (0–100) grams of legumes per day including dry beans, lentils and peas.
- Aim to limit to no more than 98 grams of red meat (pork, beef or lamb), 203 grams of poultry and 196 grams of fish per week.
- Fats should mostly come from unsaturated plant sources with low intakes of saturated fats and no partly hydrogenated oils: 40 (20–80) grams of unsaturated oils per day and no more than 11.8 grams of saturated oils per day.
- Carbohydrates should primarily be sourced from whole grains with low intake of refined grains and less than 5% of energy from sugar.
- Recommend consuming 232 grams of whole grains per day including rice, wheat and corn and 50 (0–100) grams of tubers or starchy vegetables per day including potatoes and cassava.
- Moderate levels of dairy consumption is an option: 250 (0–500) grams of dairy per day.
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