Following the planetary health diet?

January 20, 2019 8:13 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Do you want to save the world? Of course you do! Are you thinking about following the planetary health diet? If so, you’ve come to the right place…. We’ve been advocating eating along these lines for a long, long time. We’re pleased to see the scientists have caught up!

Eating the planetary diet?

The planetary health diet hit the headlines this week. It was devised by a group of 37 scientists, experts on everything from nutrition to climate change. They gathered from around the world, as part of the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health. After a number of years of analysis and discussion, they came up with this diet, which aims to feed the 10-billion-strong projected population of the world in a healthy and sustainable way.

What’s on the menu?

Here’s what you can have, every day, on the planetary diet.

Nuts: 50g (a good couple of handfuls)

Pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils and so on): 75g (it’s hard to be sure if the scientists are referring to cooked or dried weight here – a rookie error in diet-plan terms)

Fish: 28g (about a spoonful)

Eggs: roughly 1 per day

Meat: not much! 14g of red meat (for reference, the standard steak size is about 180g, while a portion of mince in spaghetti bolognaise comes in at around 100g) and 29g of chicken (probably about one-fifth of what you’d usually eat in a chicken-based meal)

Wholegrains: around 4 slices of bread or 230g of cooked rice

Starchy vegetables: a tiny, tiny amount of potato (about one chip)

Dairy products: 250g (not bad, unless you drink a lot of milk, in which case you’re limited to 1 glass of that per day)

Fruit: 200g (a few apples)

Vegetables: 300g (the equivalent, roughly, of all you can eat)

Sugar comes in at around the current recommended level (30g of added sugars) and you’re allowed some oil too.

Where can I buy it all?

From Naturally Good Food, of course!

We’ve got more nuts in our building than you can shake a squirrel at. Almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamias, peanuts, and more: they’re packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.

We’re up to our eyeballs in pulses (beans, chickpeas and lentils). We can sell them to you in small packs or bulk sacks, dried or in tins.

We’ve got fish, too, but only from sustainable fisheries, courtesy of Fish4Ever. Wholegrains, meanwhile, are our speciality, including brown rice and wholewheat flour.

For sugar (and sugary fruit), you’ll need the very best on this diet (and the same goes for your oil). We’ve got unrefined sugar, organic dried fruit and the best cold-pressed oils. If you’re cutting down on quantity, ramp up the nutritional elements instead.

This diet isn’t vegan, or even vegetarian, which came as a surprise to some. The scientists explained that while a vegan diet would work best in terms of simply reducing greenhouse gas emissions (animal husbandry being responsible for much of these), they weren’t fully convinced of its overall health benefits. The diet can therefore best be described as ‘flexitarian’, with its small portions of meat, fish and dairy products.

Will I go hungry?

I’m reminded of the comment made by Winston Churchill during the war, being shown a plate of rations. ‘Hmm’, he murmured throatily. ‘Not a bad meal. Not a bad meal’. ‘Prime Minister’, ventured one of his aides, ‘Those are the rations for a whole week’.

While Churchill probably wouldn’t be convinced by the planetary diet, it’s generally accepted now that Britain’s second-world-war rations were pretty good (many would have it that we never ate so healthily). This diet too is sensible, well-thought-out and perfectly acceptable. It also has lots of flexibility. One of the researchers, Professor Walter Willet, said of it:

“There’s tremendous variety…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.”

In the West, the big change for most people would be a shift in sources of protein, away from meat and towards nuts and pulses. Fruit and vegetables, meanwhile, would make up around half of a plate at each meal.

Will it work?

In theory, this is the perfect diet. In practice, it would be extraordinarily hard to pull off on a global scale. It would require a huge change in eating habits for most of the world, not just the developed parts (Africans, for instance, would have to eat significantly fewer starchy vegetables). Places replete in certain foodstuffs – fish, for instance, or free-ranging meat – would have to ship much of this around the rest of the world, to balance things out. There’s a counter point of view that it makes much more sense, from a planetary perspective, to simply eat sustainably within your local environment.

“Humanity has never attempted to change the food system at this scale and this speed,” said Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University.

Is it worth a try?

Good for the world?

As our population continues to grow, this is a diet that the scientists reckon can keep pace with all our needs, without resulting in species extinction (ours, or any others).

“It’s time to dream of a good world,” Line Gordon says.

Good for the environment?

This diet aims to avert catastrophic climate change, drought and food shortages. The environmental impact of the food sector is huge, mainly because of current meat and dairy farming practices.

Good for you?

Unhealthy diets are the main factors behind the biggest killers in developed countries: heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. If you eat healthily, your chances of remaining fit and well are significantly higher.

“We must look forward”

Another Churchillian quote. Maybe you’ll choose this diet for altruistic reasons – or perhaps you’ll plump for it for utterly selfish ones. It’s unlikely to become law, but it’s a good indication of the kind of changes we might ultimately be obliged to make, for a more sustainable world. If you’d like to give the planetary diet a go right now, Naturally Good Food will be right behind you!

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This post was written by Yzanne

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