Planetary Health Diet - Goodness Me!

Planetary Health Diet

April 20, 2022 6 min read

Planetary Health Diet

How a plate can help save the world!

Eating to save the planet. Sounds a little too easy to be true, right? But with the Planetary Health Diet, each bushel, bundle, stalk, and stir-fry can lead to a more sustainable future. And a healthier self!

Think back to when you first discovered Goodness Me!. Was it as a conscientious consumer looking to feed your family healthier and complete meals? Or maybe you wanted to reduce your impact on climate change? Whatever the reason was, the Planetary Health Diet is sure to fit into your current lifestyle.

And if this is your first time hearing about it, you’re not alone! We’ve done the research, so you don’t have to. 

Why is sustainable eating important?

A recent Harvard study on modern dietary habits unveiled a grueling truth about Canada and the rest of the Western World: we’re eating too many calories, too much processed foods, and high amounts of animal products [i].

This is an example of how broken our food system is: While roughly two billion folk worldwide are malnourished, another two billion are considered obese and overweight [ii]. The Planetary Diet is a response to this disheartening reality — calling us back to traditional foodways that connect us to the Earth and each other. 

For centuries, humans have lived agrarian lifestyles. It consisted of plant heavy diets with occasional meat consumption, as raising livestock was labour and land intensive. This would help keep our diets balanced. But with the advent of modern commercial farming, we can now grab steak like it were the morning paper — which far exceeds our healthy dietary and planetary limits [iii]. Not to mention that meat production contributes to 70% of the total greenhouse gas emissions produced by farms [iv]. With the increased global demand for animal products, we’re raising more animals – polluting our soil and water with exorbitant amounts of excrement, and their *ahem* flatulence entering the atmosphere in the form of methane contributing to rising global temperatures.

So, what does this mean for you? While eating meat is a cultural staple on many North American plates, you don’t have to primarily rely on it for your dietary needs. It takes roughly seven pounds of grain to produce just one pound of beef. And around three pounds of grain for a single pound of chicken. 

According to senior researcher, Dr. Hannah Ritchie [v], “In terms of calories and total protein, this [meat production] is very inefficient. When you feed an animal, not all of the energy goes into producing additional meat, milk or eggs. Most is used to simply keep the animal alive.” 

We can offset much of this wasted energy by eating plant sources directly — which also helps to feed more mouths. Quite literally, tonight’s dinner could help set the table for your children’s future.

“[H]umans eat so much beef and milk, there are an awful lot of cows in the world, and their burping and farting causes a sizable contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions - nearly a third of all emissions are from agriculture…”Dani Rabaiotti, environmental scientist and co-author of True or Poo? [vi]

What’s the Planetary Health Diet?

Before we dive too deeply into the topic, let’s first define what the Planetary Health Diet is.

The Planetary Health Diet is a plant-based way of eating that balances both dietary and planetary needs. It was established by the EAT-Lancet Commission [vii] – a group of authorities and professionals from across the spectrum of health, environmental, and social sciences. Their goal was to find the most equitable pathway to a fair and sustainable global food system for healthy people and a healthy planet.

There are many ways to fulfil a planet-centred diet – as the context of the world changes from country to country, region to region. By eating intrinsically with the earth, you’ll be able to adapt to whatever cuisine you have in front of you. That’s why veganism, vegetarianism, and pescetarianism all fall within the spectrum of the planetary diet — it’s not just about what you’re eating but how you’re eating.

Here’s what you can expect from a typical plate. Roughly 50% of the plate will be represented by fruits, veggies, and nuts. The remainder is primarily whole grains, plant proteins, and unsaturated plant oils (30-40%). But there is still room for modest amounts of meat, dairy, sugar, and starchy vegetables [viii]. Potatoes, yams, cassava root, and corn are all considered starchy vegetables and should be eaten in moderation.

You’ll notice that it is predominantly plant-based but does not have to be meat-free. The objective of the Planetary Health Diet is quite simple – increase healthy food access for a healthy planet. EAT-Lancet was able to realize this in two ways: a healthy diet and sustainable food production. 

Our favourite aspect is that you don’t need to eliminate meat altogether. It’s a conscious reduction in the amount of meat you’re consuming — in North America, we’re eating six times more red meat than the globe (and our bodies) can sustain [ii].

If you plan on eating an omnivorous diet, look to sustainably raised meats like Blue Goose farm’s chicken. Never putting profits before the planet, the BC-based operation lives by this simple statement, “Take care, eat well”. 

On days that you’re cutting out meat, try subbing in mushrooms, eggplant, legumes, tofu, or tempeh – all fantastic options that will satiate your cravings. But if you’re still not convinced, just remember: It’s all about the sauce, baby! Browse through our sauce options to add the flavourful hit you’re looking for, like Naam’s coconut curry thai sauce on your favourite stir-fry or Good Food for Good’s Chile De Arbol sauce for #TacoTuesday!

When it comes to sustainable food production, organic produce is the conscientious choice. Free of environment-choking synthetic pesticides and engineered GMOs [ix] that have been linked to cancer, soil and water contamination, and outright poisoning of wildlife, organic produce is what we stock on our shelves at Goodness Me!

How can you start eating with the planet in mind?

So how does one transition to the Planetary Health Diet? Through mindfulness and small incremental steps.

1.One of the things we tend to forget when starting a new eating habit is that change takes time. Practicing self-graciousness is the healthiest way to maintain a change in behaviour. You’re doing something incredible, but it may take a few weeks to get used to it. Especially if you’re transitioning from a meat-heavy diet.

2.Be mindful of your plate proportions using the planetary guidelines -—but if you slip up during a holiday or party, no sweat! The Planetary Health Diet isn’t rooted in guilt and pressure. That sort of approach isn’t psychologically healthy, which is why most fad diets fall out of popularity.

3.To help jump start your Planetary Health Diet journey, write out a weekly meal plan that aims to cut your meat intake in half. Then write a shopping list that coincides with it - that way when you head to your local Goodness Me! you won’t be relying on your old shopping habits. 

As you get used to eating this way, you can revisit that original meal plan and see where else you can make healthy changes for both you and the planet. 

For over 40 years, our goal at Goodness Me! has always been to bring you the healthiest products and foods. And as the world continues to change, what it means to be healthy changes along with it.

The Planetary Health Diet is a way that we’re adapting to the tension between sustainability and modern food consumption. One of our founding principles was to unveil the power of food, both culturally and from a healing perspective. We believe that the Planetary Health Diet does that and more.

Whether you’re planning on eating an organic vegan, or conscientious flexitaria diet, you’re contributing to a bigger and brighter future for generations to come. Now that’s what we call good eating!

It’s our promise to help you access foods that fit into whatever lifestyle you choose. If you have a question about the Planetary Health Diet or any other dietary concern, come by one of our locations across Southern Ontario.

 

References:

[i] The Nutrition Source: Plant and the Planet

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/sustainability/plate-and-planet/

[ii] New plant-focused diet would ‘transform’ planet’s future, say scientists

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/16/new-plant-focused-diet-would-transform-planets-future-say-scientists

[iii] WWF: Planet-Based Diet

https://planetbaseddiets.panda.org/

[iv] Food and climate change

https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/food-climate-change/

[v] If the world adopted a plant-based diet we would reduce global agricultural land use from 

4 to 1 billion hectares

https://ourworldindata.org/land-use-diets

[vi] ‘Are a cow’s farts the worst for the planet?’ Children’s climate questions answered

http://theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/cows-farts-children-climate-questions-answered

[vii] The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health

https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/

[viii] The Planetary Health Diet

https://eatforum.org/eat-lancet-commission/the-planetary-health-diet-and-you/

[ix] What does “organic” actually mean?

https://grist.org/food/what-does-organic-actually-mean/

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