“The world’s diets must change dramatically,” said Harvard University’s Walter Willett, one of the leaders of the comprehensive EAT-Lancet report released this week researching healthy and sustainable diet.
The findings show we must drastically cut down on meat and dairy, and eat more plant foods.
Published after three years of reviewing extensive evidence from around the world, the message is similar to that of both the British Dietetic Association’s One Blue Dot campaign, the government Eatwell Guide, the World Health Organisation and recommendations made by various non-governmental health organisations, for example World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the British Heart Foundation.
The EAT-Lancet recommended daily diet
Here’s an outline of the recommended daily diet to meet 2,500kcal and all micronutrients:
|Average recommended intake*||
|Beef, lamb and pork||14g||98g||· Less than a quarter pounder per week
· Significantly below the WCRF recommendations of 350-500g per week
· 70-90% below current US & European intakes
|Chicken and other poultry||29g||203g||· Equivalent to around 1½ chicken breasts per week
· EAT suggests that the poultry allowance can be exchanged for eggs, fish or plant proteins and vice versa
|Eggs||13g||91g||· Equivalent to around 1½ eggs per week|
|Fish||28g||196g||· Around 1½ – 2 servings a week
· Oil rich fish is strongly recommended as an omega-3 source
|Legumes: dry lentils, beans, peas & soya foods||75g||525g||· Equivalent to roughly 150g cooked / tinned beans daily
· An allowance within the 75g recommendation for soya products is specified due to the association with lower breast cancer incidence and reduced cholesterol levels
|Tree nuts & peanuts||50g||350g||· Equivalent to 1½ handfuls daily
· The report acknowledges that some nut and legume crops use intense water farming. However, the evidence for their associated reduced cardiovascular disease, cancer and total mortality risk justified this environmental trade off.
|Milk or equivalent in cheese / yogurt etc.||250g||1.75L||· This is a significant reduction in dairy recommendations|
|Rice, wheat, corn and other, dry weight||232g||1.62kg||· Whole grains advocated
· Equivalent to 1 servings of rice or pasta, 40g serving of breakfast cereals & 2 large slices bread daily
|Tubers or starchy vegetables||50g||350g||· Equivalent to 1 egg-sized potato daily or 1½ baked potatoes weekly|
|All vegetables||300g||2.1kg||· Notably, more vegetables than fruit recommended
· 3-4 servings daily
|All fruits||200g||1.4kg||· 2 servings daily|
|Unsaturated oils||40g||280g||· Equivalent to 4tbsp oil daily|
|Saturated oils||≤11.8g||≤83g||· An allowance was made taking into consideration using all animal parts
· Equivalent to a single butter pack
|Added sugars – no more than 5% energy intake – approx. 30g or 7tsp per adult per day.|
* EAT-Lancet recommended diet as well as an average daily intake, also provides a range of intakes.
Some of the notable findings are around red meat for iron and dairy for calcium:
- Iron: There is a problem with deficiency for adolescents but encourages use of inexpensive supplements over consumption of red meat
- Calcium: The United States and other countries over-estimate calcium needs. It is ubiquitous in the diet and there is little evidence that intakes above 500mg per day improve bone health.
The report looks how to change people’s choices to include less meat/dairy, through:
– making healthier foods more accessible and more cost effective
– reducing marketing and availability of unhealthy food.
It also tackles farming changes to a high degree – seen as being as important as, if not more than consumer change.
Conclusion? Change is needed, it’s going to be tough
We need to make big changes in our eating patterns if we’re going to protect our planet and health. It requires a multi-system combined effort approach to reduce food waste/losses, improve food production and encourage dietary shifts.
It is time for everyone to be involved in the urgently-needed transformation of our food system. We’ll be monitoring the impact the report has over time. Stay tuned…