‘Over consumption of unhealthy foods is increasing’
[A] ‘Substantial global shift is urgently needed'‘.
Yes, it is true.
The new planetary diet could save millions of lives, the planet and meet individual nutritional requirements including protein, iron and B12. A huge statement i know, so today I break it all down for you. Who funded the report, what question they wanted to answer and how their conclusions can be translated into real, tangible action.
More plants. Less meat. Period.
In this blog, I summarise the findings and discuss what this means for a vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and meat-lover alike.
What is the EAT-Lancet report?
A 47-page report summarising what a healthy yet sustainable diet looks like. The 16 co-authors describe what individuals, governments and policy makers around the world must do in order to reduce the global impact of the food system on human health and the environment. As with any study, they had to ask a question - what is the most environmentally sustainable diet that meets human nutrient requirements?
Why was the EAT-Lancet report needed?
Put simply, Australia (and many other countries around the world) consume a high intake of red meat, dairy and processed foods causing our health to basically be the worst it has ever been. Plus we know the Earths climate is changing and agriculture plays a huge part in this.
The stats on our planet:
60% of the worlds fish stocks are FULLY fished
More than 30% are OVERFISHED
Food production is responsible for up to 30% of global green-house gases
Agriculture (most of which is used to grow grain to feed to cattle) takes up 40% of land
The stats on our people:
More than 820 million people are not getting enough to eat
151 million children are undernourished and therefore have stunted growth
2.1 billion (…BILLION) adults are overweight or obese
… these three stats is what people call ‘the double burden of malnutrition’.
Globally, the rise of diabetes in the last 30 years has doubled (yes, is just 30 years, diabetes has doubled)
Plus the EAT-Lancet report goes on to state that ‘Unhealthy diets are the largest global burden of disease and pose a greater risk to morbidity (disease) and morality (death) than does safe sex, alcohol, drugs and tobacco combined’.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
Unhealthy diets are a greater risk to health than all of those things COMBINED.
How did they do it?
Independent scientists from around the world got together to read and discuss the highest quality of evidence on the topic of food, nutrition and environmental sustainability. They then pooled the conclusions of all these studies to make an assessment of what needs to be done on a global level to make a healthy, environmental sustainable diet achievable.
Who funded the report?
No one! They declare strongly that ‘this Commission is not setting actionable science-based targets on behalf of any country, sector, or business, nor does it have a mandate [aka an offical order] to do so’
‘Replacing protein from animal sources with protein from plant sources was associated with substantially reduced overall mortality.’
What does the planetary diet look like?
A planetary health diet is an eating pattern that includes an abundance of plant-based foods with a small amount of fish, meat, dairy and processed foods. This way of eating may also be better known as a flexitarian diet. There many benefits individuals can expect from making the switch to a more plants and less meat including a longer life with an overall reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Sound familiar? More plants and less meat isn’t a new concept. What is though, is the amounts recommended by the EAT-Lancet report. Let’s take a look at what they recommend:
Red Meat: 7g per day. This equates to 49g per week of red meat or 200g per month.
Chicken: 29g per day is about two small pieces of chicken per week. I.e on weekends enjoy a 100-200g piece of chicken
Eggs: 13g per day works out to be about 1 egg per week. Opt for avocado on toast most weekend with the occasional 2 poached eggs every second weekend.
Fish: 28g per day. Aim for 2x100g pieces of fish per week. Optimised your fish intake by focusing on oily fish such as salmon or opt for for smaller and local fishes including whiting and anchovies.
Dairy including cheese: 250g per day. That’s about 1 glass of milk per day.
Legumes including 25g from soy: 100g per day (dry weight). Aim for about 1 cup of raw lentils per person when cooking Dahl or lentil bolognese.
Fruit: 200g per day fruit equals about 1 1/2 bananas or 3 apricots
Vegetables: 300g per day which is about 4 cups of salad or 2 cups of cooked vegetables
Starchy vegetables: 50g per day starchy veg (up to 100g per day). This is about the size of one medium potato.
Whole Grains: 232g per day. Equalling about a 1/2 cup brown rice (uncooked)
Almonds, walnuts, cashews*: 25g per day which is approximately a small handful
*tree nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, filberts/hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts + other types too.
Fat and oils: 50g per day of total added fat from olive oil, rape seed oil, hemp seed oil. This is just over 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Sweeteners: 31g per day of all sweeteners or less than 5% of energy. This equates to less than 2 tablespoons of honey, maple syrup, sugar or any other added sugars found in packaged foods.
How is a planetary diet different to a vegan diet?
The planetary diet designed by the EAT-Lancet report takes into consideration that adopting a vegan lifestyle is less likely to be the norm for most people. In some counties where children are malnourished, animal foods such as red meat, and dairy do provide a valuable source of nutrition.
The planetary diet does not compare to a vegan diet because a vegan diet is one that avoids the consumption and use of all animals foods and products in order to avoid, reduce and eliminate animal cruelty in any form. If your vegan or want to go vegan for either health, the animals or both then go for it because it too has a huge impact on the environment, of which is a positive one! The same can be said for pescatarian and vegetarian diets. Reducing the intake of animal foods will not only benefit you but also the planet - so choose a way of eating that you enjoy and if this means having a steak occasionally (like once per month) then do so but do it because you want to do not because you have to. We don’t need meat to have a healthy diet.
‘Low intake of red meat consumption consistent with traditional Mediterranean diets have been associated with longevity’
Start your journey towards a planetary diet with my top tips:
- Make it an enjoyable transition & start trying new plant-based foods
- Introduce Meat-Free Monday
- Choose fish instead of red meat or chicken
- Buy one new vegetable or fruit to try each week
- Start aiming for half of the plate to be vegetables
- Buy less processed and packaged foods
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
What did you think of the EAT-Lancet report, will you be changing what you choose to eat? Were you already vegan or vegetarian and planning to stay or has this changed your opinion about the way you eat?
All quotations are from the EAT-Lancet report.