How to eat healthy – and sustainably?

Nutrition and climate protection How to eat healthily – and sustainably?

Little meat, lots of nuts: Researchers have calculated what a menu looks like that is healthy and sustainable at the same time. But is this even suitable for everyday life??

Stuttgart – Many people want to eat sustainably – but what exactly does sustainability mean in this context?? So far, everyone has defined this for themselves. Some are concerned that rainforests are being cut down to grow soy as feed for cattle – and become vegans. The others do not want to do without meat, and make sure that it comes from animals from responsible husbandry.

With a large 37 scientists from all over the world have redefined sustainable nutrition in a research project that is currently underway. The EAT-Lancet Commission has named its nutrition concept the "Planetary Health Diet" – in other words, a healthy diet for a healthy planet. Researchers have calculated what a menu looks like that conserves the earth’s resources and is good for people at the same time. The starting point for the research was the question of how the world is to feed ten billion people healthily by 2050 without destroying the planet in the process. The good news is that this is feasible, say the scientists – and the world’s arable land would even be sufficient to achieve it. But for many people in many countries, this would mean an enormous change in their current diet. At the moment, our diet is endangering both the planet and human health, the researchers write.

This is what the Planetary Health Diet looks like in concrete terms

The Planetary Health Diet is intended to provide a kind of reference framework or point of reference for a sustainable diet. Depending on the region in which you live, you may eat different vegetables or grains. In addition, the concept is based on a daily calorie intake of 2,500 calories – which would not be enough for athletes or heavy workers.

According to the scientists’ suggestions, only very small portions of meat would be on the plate, as well as little dairy products and sugar, but more vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains instead. In concrete terms, this means that only 29 grams of poultry meat are allowed per day, plus 14 grams of beef or pork – that’s about as much as two medium-sized steaks per month. Also recommended are 250 grams of dairy products per day – the equivalent of a glass of milk – and 13 grams of eggs per day – in other words, one and a half eggs per week. Even a fillet of fish weighing about 200 grams is likely to make it onto the plate each week.

According to these calculations, the consumption of sugar and, above all, meat would have to be reduced by half worldwide. For Germany, the change would actually be even greater: every German eats an average of 170 grams of meat a day. However, just 43 grams would be climate-friendly and healthy. For this to happen, an average consumer would have to eat according to According to the recommendations, each person should eat 300 grams of vegetables, 230 grams of whole grains, 75 grams of pulses and about a handful of nuts every day.

How suitable is the proposed diet for everyday use??

If all people adhered to these amounts, it would not only be good for the climate and the earth’s resources, but could also, according to the researchers, prevent about 11 million premature deaths a year that are the result of diet-related diseases. A good 40 percent of the world’s population is considered malnourished. Climate researchers also stress that food production as a whole must change. It is currently responsible for about 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Johan Rockstrom of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, for example, calls for the issue of nutrition to be included in all climate protection measures. However, the responsibility for this should not lie solely with the consumers, but the guidelines should be shaped by politics, says Rockstrom.

The menu proposed by the EAT-Lancet-Comission would be a good fit for flexetarians, for example, according to the Federal Center for Nutrition – people who eat a piece of meat now and then. Britta Klein, an expert in sustainable nutrition culture, advises people to take the "Planetary Health Diet" as a starting point: If you pay attention to regional products, don’t eat a lot of meat, cook legumes and replace milk from time to time, you’re doing a lot right.

Our authors spent a week and a half testing what this might look like in practice: Anja Troster’s family of four opted for classic regional dishes, while Hanna Spanhel optimized her already vegetarian diet. The conclusion of both: Paying attention to the quantities takes quite a bit of time at first – but it’s not really difficult. See more in the video.

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