Are You Eating a Sustainable Diet?

help the environment, sustainable diet, healthy eating habit

Were your New Year resolutions about fitness or helping the planet? You can reach both goals by adjusting one crucial thing: your diet. According to a new study, if we all follow the national dietary guidelines it would actually help the environment. Maybe it’s time we all partake in a sustainable diet.

New Sustainable Study

Researchers from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands studied the environmental impact of nationally recommended diets from 37 different countries. They then compared the recommended diets with an actual average diet in those nations. The researchers found that if people in high-income nations (such as the United States) followed their national dietary guidelines it could lead to reductions in greenhouse gases (13 to 24.8 percent), eutrophication (9.9 to 21.3 percent), and land use (5.7 to 17.6 percent).

Most of these environmental savings would be due to reduced meat consumption, as most Americans and people in other high-income nations eat more than the recommended amount of meat products. Meat production takes a toll on the environment. It causes a lot of greenhouse gases and raising the animals requires a lot of land. Thus, substituting meat with alternative forms of protein—such as legumes, nuts, and soy products—is a great way to help the environment. It’s also great for your health.

Meat-free Sustainable Diets

As we all know, eating too much red meat can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease. That’s why most national recommended diets suggest sticking to lean meats and other sources of protein, such as legumes and soy products. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, there are six key recommendations for establishing a healthy eating habit:

  • A variety of vegetables

(dark green, red, orange, legumes, starchy, and other)

  • Fruits 
  • Grains

(half of which should be whole grains)

  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy

(milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages)

  • A variety of protein

(beans, peas, nuts, seeds, soy products, and some lean meats)

  • Oils

If excluding meat from your diet seems too extreme, start small. Substitute one of your daily meat products (like your breakfast bacon or afternoon ham sandwich) with an alternative source of protein like veggie bacon or a nut butter sandwich instead. You’ll help the environment, and your body will thank you.

Bonus. Now that you are establishing a healthy eating habit, do you need meat-free recipes? Try Thai grilled tofu and vegetable shish kabobs or broccoli and soy bacon salad. They are nutritious and delicious.