Nutrition, aka how we get our nutrients to be healthy, cannot be removed from how those nutrients are produced. Far too often we look at nutrition and food production in isolation. So backwards. That would be like trying to diagnose a disease without looking at the symptoms. Tracking down a criminal without looking at the evidence. Trying to pass an exam without understanding the material. You get it.
As environmental threats and limitations increasingly put stress on our food system, we have to look at the kind of healthy diet we can have while also having a planet. As the population grows, it increases demands on the food system. So, we need to think about how much food, and in what quantities, we can sustainably feed the world and also meet nutritional requirements. This is what the EAT-Lancet report attempts to address, and it’s the first attempt of its kind.
Nonetheless, while a commendable effort, it has it’s issues- just like any “first” does. Some argue that the recommendations are too specific. And while they give ranges, this is a valid concern. Some argue that the diet is nutritionally deficient. Nonetheless- due to the global problems of obesity, hunger, and malnourishment-one can argue that if everyone ate according to these guidelines, many of these health issues would be solved. Even with a diet that isn’t perfect nutritionally. Because what is a healthy diet? There’s still a lot we don’t know.
Still, an example. This diet isn’t always sustainable when it comes to the vilification of red meat compared to poultry, something that doesn’t always reign true. Cattle grazed under good management can provide valuable nutrition and restore the land, with more sustainable practices than industrial poultry production- which uses feed that could otherwise be fed to people.
Still, the main message of the report “eat less meat, eat more plants” is clear, and its what we should be doing.
However, eating sustainable is highly context specific. It really depends on where you live, what you have access to, and what you can afford. Its highly country and regionally specific. For example, if a country’s land wealth is in its grasslands, having more red meat in your diet than poultry- which would have to be produced industrially- would probably be better for the environment. So let’s say you stick to the recommended 43 g/day of meat, and all of that came from unprocessed red-meat. This is still likely a small enough amount that would be far from risking your health (though if there are any nutritionists out there reading this, please weigh in).
So, this journey is a goal to roughly translate these recommendations listed in the EAT-Lancet report, into a “sustainable diet”, but one that is based on context, in this case Washington, D.C. That being said, the plan is to take the ranges given in the report and apply them to what’s available- working to meet all nutritional requirements. The next post in this series, Day 0, gives more of a breakdown on what this will look like.
2 End goals:
- Use this journey to create a guide that helps others eat sustainably, within their own contexts.
- Allow for a discussion on how to eat for both nutrition and the planet.