Sustainable healthy diet and yogurt Signature of healthy diet

Can a healthy diet be sustainable with meat and dairy?

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Five years ago, this study was the first to demonstrate that it is possible to create a healthy diet with lower GHGEs without eliminating meat and dairy and with no additional cost to consumers.

Public health, nutrition challenges and respect of the planet are compatible

In the United Kingdom, as in many other countries, the common diet population habits fail to meet dietary recommendations. These dietary patterns not only contribute to a high prevalence of obesity, but may also have a high environmental impact. It’s estimated that the food system accounts for 18–20% of UK annual GHGEs (greenhouse gas emissions), which is one element of environmental sustainability. The aim of this study was to estimate if the reduction of GHGEs could be achieved, while meeting dietary requirements for health, by using mathematical modeling.

Eating healthy and sustainable is feasible without upsetting habits

The first model (without any acceptability constraints) failed. With a 90% reduction in GHGEs, it included only 7-food items, all in unrealistic quantities. The addition of acceptability constraints (which includes a number of cultural, nutritional, and economic reasons for both consumers and producers) gave a more realistic final sustainable diet with 52 foods meeting the nutrient recommendations of fruits, dairy, fish intakes and smaller amounts of meat than in current diet with reduced GHGEs by a lesser amount of 36%.

The proportion of dairy products in the sustainable diet was similar to current dietary intakes, but the type of dairy products were lower in fat.  In the current UK diet, 24.5% of dairy products come from ice cream, butter, and cream. In the other hand,  only 5.3% of this dairy subtypes are present in the sustainable diet, which included more milk than the current diet (62% vs 42% of the dairy products). This study demonstrates therefore that it is possible to create healthy diet with lower GHGEs without the elimination of meat and dairy.

No additional cost to consumers

The changes to be made wouldn’t result either in a increased cost for the consumer. On the basis of the cost of midrange supermarket products in the United Kingdom in September 2010, the cost of the food in the sustainable diet was estimated to be£ 29.00 ($46.00)/wk, which is equivalent to 89% of the current average UK ex-penditure on food.

To learn more, read the original article.

Source: Macdiarmid JI et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012 ; 96 (3) : 632-639

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