The minor choices we make each day have a major impact on both our own health and that of our planet. With 3 billion people across the world malnourished, and the population growing at unprecedented levels, a solution that can feed the population with minimal impact on the environment is desperately required. The population is expected to reach a staggering 10 billion by 2050, which begs the question, how is it possible to feed that many people whilst protecting the beautiful planet we live on?
The link between the food we put on our plates and the impact this may have on the planet is greater than ever before. Whilst it is well documented that intensive meat and dairy farming causes environmental damage, the debate around eating meat, fish, dairy and even vegetables can be a confusing minefield with inconclusive answers. In an attempt to bring together existing research and knowledge and make things a little easier for individuals to know how to do their bit, 37 of the world’s top scientists have come together to create what they call the ‘planetary diet.’ In theory, if everyone were to follow the diet, there would be sufficient food for all 10 billion people without causing catastrophic environmental damage. Yet not just the environment will benefit, the scientists also claim that the diet could save around 11 million lives each year due to a reduction in diseases related to unhealthy diets.
So, what exactly is the planetary diet? Unsurprisingly, the diet revolves around eating a variety of fruit and vegetables and consuming more plant-based proteins such as beans, nuts and legumes than ever before. According to the scientists, half of every plate should be made up of vegetables, and a third by wholegrain cereals. Fruit and vegetable should ideally be eaten in season, to reduce the environmental damage involved with transporting out of season fruit and vegetables. Interestingly, the diet does not completely banish meat and fish, however, they suggest a dramatic reduction in the amount eaten. For red meat lovers, their recommendation equates to around a steak a month, whilst the consumption of plant-based proteins such as nuts and legumes more increase by more than 50%. Fish and chicken may be included in the diet just a couple of times a week, whilst a small amount of dairy, such as a daily glass of milk, remain within the guidelines. The diet appears to encapsulate the saying ‘everything in moderation’, and if it offers an opportunity to stop world hunger whilst protecting the environment, everyone is a winner!
The take away is: don’t be afraid to experiment with fruit, vegetables and all different sources of plant-based proteins. If you’re not prepared to totally give up animal products just yet, enjoy them in moderation and be mindful of where they are sourced. Perhaps try starting with meat-free Monday and you might find you really enjoy it! Our planet is at stake, so we all need to try and take responsibility and make an effort to promote change, and adjusting our diets seems like a great place to start!
words by Harriet Prior
Check out some of our favourite plant-based recipes below.