What should you know?
- The food we eat, the ways we produce it, and the amounts wasted or lost have major impacts on human health and environmental sustainability. Getting it right with food will be an important way for countries to achieve the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
- A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet. It is not a question of all or nothing, but rather small changes for a large and positive impact.
- Foods sourced from animals, especially red meat, have relatively high environmental footprints per serving compared to other food groups. This has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, land use and biodiversity loss. This is particularly the case for animal source foods from grain-fed livestock.
- What is or is not consumed are both major drivers of malnutrition in various forms. Globally, over 820 million people continue to go hungry every day, 150 million children suffer from long-term hunger that impairs their growth and development, and 50 million children are acutely hungry due to insufficient access to food.
- In parallel, the world is also experiencing a rise in overweight and obesity. Today, over two billion adults are overweight and obese, and diet-related noncommunicable diseases including diabetes, cancer and heart diseases are among the leading causes of global deaths.
- Good food can be a powerful driver of change: the EAT-Lancet Commission outlines a planetary health diet, which is flexible and recommends intake levels of various food groups that can be adapted to local geography, culinary traditions and personal preferences.
- The planetary health diet recommends consuming a range of foods amounting to 2500 kcal per day that will promote health and well-being by reducing the risk of overweight, obesity and noncommunicable diseases. By choosing this diet, one can also drive demand for the right foods and send clear market signals all the way through the food value chain back to the farmers.
- Globally, the planetary health diet favours increasing the consumption of a variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes alongside small portions of meat and dairy. In parts of the world, this diet involves increasing access to certain food groups while in other areas, the diet requires a significant reduction in the overconsumption of unhealthier foods.
- Shifting from unhealthy diets to the planetary health diet can prevent 11 million premature adult deaths per year and drive the transition toward a sustainable global food system by 2050 that ensures healthy food for all within planetary boundaries.
What can you do?
- Change culture by changing menus. Chefs and other culinary professionals are well-positioned to make healthy and sustainable foods delicious by applying unique insights, skills and creativity to craft next-generation models of innovation in food service and hospitality. This is integral to bring the public along on a journey of discovery and adoption of the planetary health diet.
- Emphasise the benefits of dietary shifts. Eating healthy foods from sustainable food systems is only partially about decreasing the intake of certain foods. Place the emphasis on eating more of the healthy options rather than simply focusing on decreasing the intake of unhealthy foods.
- Explore new foods and mix up menus. Focus on the array of new flavours, ingredients and menu options that the planetary health diet opens up by embarking on a lifetime of discovery. Commit to regularly menuing new ingredients to keep planetary health diets innovative and exciting.
- Lead with messaging around flavour. Use culinary techniques and source the best-tasting ingredients to ensure that healthy and sustainable options are as desirable as, or more so than, the alternatives. Making the healthiest and most sustainable options by far the tastiest and appealing is critical.
- Work with suppliers and consumers. Whether they are managing a cafeteria at Google or running a school program in Burkina Faso, food service professionals have tremendous leverage with both food suppliers and consumers. Work with both and utilise the positioning of food service professionals as primary pathways to nudge consumers toward planetary health diets.
- Focus on both quality and quality. Use culinary strategies to promote satiety, value and pleasure from food without fuelling overconsumption. Actions from using smaller plates and bowls to avoiding dining hall trays and all-you-can-eat buffets will also help reduce food waste.
- Waste not, want not. Minimise food waste through careful planning and portioning and be proactive by using the entire product at every chance. Converting unusually shaped or sized produce into dishes where shape and size do not matter can also be helpful.
- Let plants take centre stage. The planetary health diet recommends a consumption level of no more than 98 grams of red meat (pork, beef or lamb), 203 grams of poultry and 196 grams of fish per person per week where possible. Food service professionals can help reduce meat consumption through portion sizes, for example by blending meat with vegetables and plant proteins in bowls, burgers, curries and stews or by using meat as a condiment or garnish (in servings of less than 20 grams) while allowing fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes to take starring roles.
- Embrace cultural food influences. Look to a variety of traditional, plant-forward food cultures across the globe for inspiration around both flavour strategies and to craft tasty dishes on restricted budgets through cultural exchanges.
- Bring biodiversity to the table. Bold conservation targets require collaboration between farmers and farming communities to maintain habitats on or around farms and to enable the safe passage of wildlife. Source ingredients from farmers and suppliers who contribute to efforts for biodiversity.
- Share the farmer’s story. Convey to diners the important contributions of farmers to conservation and carbon capturing efforts in protecting environmental sustainability through menus and marketing materials. This will, in turn, help create demand for healthy and sustainably produced foods, which translates into a “win-win” dynamic for food service professionals and farmers alike.
To download a copy of the EAT-Lancet Commission Brief for Food Service Professionals, click here.
Get free tickets to the The EAT-Lancet Commission launch in Melbourne on February 1.