Days 2-4: TGIF, time to wine down.

Honestly, thank god for the food scale or I would have gone insane trying to figure out these quantities. Though I will say,I’m starting to get the hang of how much these things weigh and what my daily limit.

For example, a tablespoon of olive oil is around 14g. The reference diet for unsaturated oils is 40g, with a range of 20-80g. So a little less than 3 tablespoons for olive oil a day, an easy thing to keep in mind when cooking. Also, I know what a tablespoon of peanut butter looks spread on how many grams of grain of bread. 16 g of peanuts and 50 g for the toast. So, while the first couple days consisted of a lot of weighing, which meant a lot of washing of bowls and measuring cups, its slowly starting to make sense.

Still, there were somethings I needed to take the calculator out for. Like for milk equivalents. I already knew the milk equivalents for cheese because #priorities, but greek yogurt? No clue. Turns out the internet didn’t clearly know either. But thanks to the lovely people of the internet, I was able to get it down (see the end for values).

Furthermore, it’s Friday. And what if ya wanna turn up this weekend? Or at least grab a glass of wine or a beer with some friends. To our collective dismay, alcohol takes resources- like grain, fruit, and sugar- to make.

Is it really that significant? Well, in the US we drink 9 liters of pure alcohol per year. Now, not sure how much that translates into wine or beer, but I’m assuming it’s a lot.

And how do other countries compare? Check out this cool map from Our World in Data. See Russia and Eastern Europe coming in red hot? I guess some stereotypes do reign true. 

EAT-Lancet, of course, does not offer a reference for sustainable alcohol consumption. Probably fair, offering a recommendation for alcohol sounds irresponsible. Or is it?

This probably warrants another post, but there are plenty of studies that look at moderate alcohol consumption and what that means for health. Some even say that small amounts can be positive. Glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away? Sounds a bit too good to be true. But the report dives into these kind of studies for red meat, which is often unhealthy and culturally inappropriate, so why not alcohol?

Anyway, I took to my calculator to at least figure out how many grains in a glass of beer and grapes in a glass of wine. With another thanks to the people of the internet, I got the numbers. Probably way off, so if you know better- please weigh in. [Pun intended]. The whole point is to make this diet realistic…right?

  • Milk to cheese equivalent: 10 to 1 (ex. 250 grams of milk is 25g of cheese)
  • Milk to greek yogurt: 4 to 1 (ex. 1 gallon of milk is 1 quart of greek yogurt)

As with anything on the internet, these may not be accurate. But it offers something to work with. If you have better values please share!

  • Beer: 30 grams of grains
  • Wine: 200 grams of grapes

Full disclosure, this was even more a shot in the dark than with milk, using spottier internet information. 

So, as with anything on the internet, these may not be accurate. But it offers something to work with. If you have better values please share!

I will update this with other conversions if needed (and more importantly, if I can figure it out). 

You may be thinking: this is great and all, but what did you eat? Here’s a breakdown below. 

And how am I tracking all of this you ask? A good ole spreadsheet. I will upload an easy to use version of this once I nail out the kinks (and figure out how to do it on wordpress).

Eating Eat-Lancet: Day 1 Shopping List

So now that I’ve cranked some of these numbers out, it’s time to hit the store. And actually, this means that it’s back to a flexitarian diet for me. For the past 3-4 months I’ve been sticking to a vegetarian diet.

As mentioned in the Day 0 post, I’ve lumped somethings together, to make shopping easier and keep my sanity.

Some things on my list (which I tailored, you can see those decisions also in Day 0):

  • A half gallon of milk (I need 6 cups) or 150 grams of cheese (about 9 slices). Obviously cheese.
  • .5 lbs of meat. Chicken it is (paying attention to brand).
  • .25 lbs of fish. Not sure which one, but I’ll use the Seafood Watch App
  • We got some veggies and fruit from Hungry Harvest. Waste not, want not- right?
    • What I still need, I’ll check out the Seasonal Food Guide, and try to stick with those in season.
  • A loaf of whole grain bread.
  • And I’m already stocked on rice, beans, lentils, peanut butter, nuts, and olive oil.

Leggo.

What’s this all about you ask? Check out the overview.

This diet cannot be perfect, you say. Well it’s far from it, check out these critiques.

 

As mentioned, I tailored the values slightly (decreased) for a diet closer to 2,000 calories. Here’s the original from EAT-Lancet.  

I’m terrible and didn’t have time to eat breakfast (some argue most important meal of the day, I say its a nuance on work days). 

Also, I wanted to make it easy today and meal prepped yesterday for both lunch and dinner. Which was pretty much a simple veggie stir-fry (without egg) (I split the final in two).

  • 200 g of brown rice (grain)
  • 167 g of red bell pepper (red and orange vegetables)
  • 100 g of snap peas (dark green vegetables (I hope))
  • 140 g of onions (other vegetables)
  • 100 g of black beans (legumes)
  • 40 g of olive oil (unsaturated oils)

This caps my limit for grain, legumes, oils, and I technically go over the limit for vegetables. Actually fo vegetables, EAT-Lancet gives a pretty big range- 200 to 600 g per day- so I’m not worried about going over the limit for those. 

So, that leaves fruit, dairy, meat, eggs, fish, tree nuts. I’ll have some fruit and nuts as snacks to reach 2000 calories, but to start off strong today is #veganday. 

Eating Eat-Lancet Day 0: What’s a gram?

Not to be confused with your mother’s mother.

Alright.

So, I got a food scale. Turns out I had no conception of how much a “gram” is, which is what the reference diet is in, so I spent a good 15 minutes just measuring different food items from around my kitchen.

For one, it’s really hard to translate these guidelines into actual meals. Also, not everything fits into a category…where do I put my millennial items of quinoa and coconut milk? Quinoa is technically a seed, but nutritionally is more like a grain. And coconut milk? Is it a fruit, is it a nut? The internet isn’t even sure. You chose to be specific EAT-Lancet, and specificity comes with obligations.

Though, a thought. As I’m looking at the coconut milk can I bought a while ago… I start thinking, what is actually more sustainable? Maybe I should be consuming more American produced dairy (considering especially the plight of US dairy farmers) instead of importing coconut milk from Thailand…Is that more sustainable? I do deeply care about US farmers, especially small producers who’s stories are often heart breaking and devastating.

This is a tough question, that highly depends not just on miles traveled, but how it was produced and what went into production. The coconut milk traveled over 8,600 miles (!!!). Now that was a reality check (thanks, Siri). Still, dairy production can be unsustainable in its own ways. All things considered though, I will stick with American dairy cows (sticking to brands that deal with small farmers and sustainable methods).

Also…really? 13 grams of eggs is about 1/4 egg a day. I like my eggs over easy…do they know how messy that would be? I’ll just stick to 1-2 eggs a week, but likely eaten all at once. Crazy, I know. 

This egg issues also brings up the meat issue. Let’s see…shopping for 49 grams of beef, 49 grams of pork, and 203 grams of poultry for the week? I’m already getting a headache. See below under the toggle “give me the breakdown” to see how I make it a bit simpler. 

A couple things I won’t think about- spices and coffee. I know these things take a lot of resources to make/produce and don’t just magically appear, but I also need to keep my sanity.

Prepping my lunch and dinner for tomorrow, where the real counting and measuring will begin. Turns out 232 grams of rice is kind of a lot. So where am pulling these numbers from? Check out the first post that gives a bit more background, or see below to see the reference diet.

This is the reference diet from the report, Food in the Anthropocene. 

So the total intake is 2500 kcal/day, which is a bit high for me, who should be sticking closer to a 2000 calorie diet. 

So, here’s how I adjusted it (no scientific method was used, so if a nutritionist weighs in on how a female in her mid 20s should be eating, that would be great)

  • Grains: 200g, instead of 232g
  • Meat: 32 g instead of a total of 43g (.5 lbs a week)
  • Milk: 214g instead of 250g (6 cups of milk a week)
  • Fish: 21 g instead of 28g (.25 lbs a week)
The rest were as is, allowing vegetables, fruit, and legumes to fall towards the higher end of the range. I’m also tracking what I eat through an application too, to see calories and nutrition.

So, while I changed the diet a bit for myself, here would be the numbers as is. 

You’ll notice I categorized some for the whole week, this is mostly because eating 13 grams of eggs or 7 grams of beef a day would be 1) unenjoyable and 2) extremely inconvenient. So I lumped it together for the week. I don’t believe this has major nutritional implications, but feel free to comment otherwise. 

So, let’s say you wanted to look at your meat intake for the year. And so you add 301 grams of meat to your shopping list for the week. Let’s say you stick with one type of meat for that week.

300 grams is about 2/3 (.67) lbs of meat per week. To stay within the EAT-Lancet ratio for the whole year, that would mean: 

  • Poultry: 34 weeks out of the year
  • Beef: 7-8 weeks out of the year
  • Pork: 7-8 weeks out of the year

Your weekly shopping list for fish would be 196 grams, or about .43 lbs. 

For milk, that would be around 7 cups of milk, or a little less than half a gallon (which has 8 cups). So, you would be buying a half gallon of milk every 8 days or so. 

For cheese lovers who would prefer to get their dairy in this form (ME). That’s about 175 grams of cheese a week (10:1 ratio, for those curious). This is about 6.173 ounces of cheese for the week (EVERY DECIMAL COUNTS HERE). On average, that’s about 10.3 slices of cheese a week. 

Eating Eat-Lancet: The Roots

Eating Eat-Lancet

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:

  1. Use this journey to create a guide that helps others eat sustainably, within their own contexts.
  2. Allow for a discussion on how to eat for both nutrition and the planet.