On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg,” journalist Alex Sammon sits down with Walter Willett, EAT-Lancet Commission primary author, Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Live on stage, Willett talks about how the diets of today are abusing the planet’s resources—but that there is hope in the diets of tomorrow. “If we continued to produce food the way we do and eat food the way we do, waste food the way we do, we couldn’t stay within planetary boundaries,” says Willett. “But almost all diets can be improved with just a little bit of fine-tuning to fin in the dietary target.”
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“We are very off track both in terms of feeding the world a healthy diet and in terms of climate change. We are on track to way exceed two degrees Centigrade warming by the end of the century, which will have really devastating effects for civilization as we know it,” says Willett. As the primary author on the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, Willett recommended that global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes should double, and the consumption of foods like animal source foods and sugar should be reduced by eaters in certain cultures by 50 percent—predominantly for cultures in North America and Europe.
However, with diets varying around the world, Willett notes that some cultures may actually have the room within their planetary boundaries to consume more meat as is applicable to their health and cultural traditions. “These are some boundaries we have to stay within if we’re going to have a sustainable planet,” says Willett.
Reflecting back on diets before globalization and food processing may help the next generation feel inspired to create widespread diet changes. “The good thing is that we have a variety of diets around the world, and the first thing is to look at the traditional cultural diets that people evolved with, identify the best part of those diets, and then tweak the rest of them to be even healthier and more sustainable,” says Willett.