To commemorate World Food Day, the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) has released a new publication that features a series of articles on the relationship between food and the environment. Food and the Environment: Diets That Are Healthy for People and the Planet shares evidence that a diet that is nutritious and wholesome also has environmental benefits.
The good news is that diets that are both healthy and environmentally sustainable are becoming more popular across the world. A new article from Food Tank co-founder Danielle Nierenberg offers a comparison of national initiatives all over the world – in the United Kingdom, Japan, Ecuador, and many other countries – that are working to ensure that their citizens not only eat food that is healthy, but also has little impact on natural resources. To address this issue, many of these initiatives have designed food pyramids emphasizing the importance of fresh produce and limited consumption of animal products while incorporating elements from the local culture. The new Chinese food pyramid, for example, is in the shape of a pagoda.
The publication’s other contributors also shared the following facts on sustainable versus meat-based diets:
- The Mediterranean diet – rich in fresh produce, seafood, and whole grains, all shown to have positive impacts on human health – also has an environmental impact that is 60 percent smaller than that of the typical Western diet, heavy in meat, animal products, and processed starch and sugar.
- An ecological footprint is a measurement of the planet’s ability to regenerate resources required to produce a given food item. The average ecological footprint of a sustainable diet, defined as one that incorporates a small amount of animal products and many fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes, is 25 global square meters, as compared to 45 for a meat-based diet.
- A sustainable diet is also more cost-effective than the typical Western diet. A meat-based diet costs a consumer approximately 45 euros per week, while a diet that incorporates fresh produce and fewer animal products corresponds to a weekly cost of approximately 38 euros.
The publication is available for free download here.