By Marianne Comfort, member of the Mercy Justice Team
Many countries issue nutrition guidelines to encourage residents to eat a healthy diet. Recently, some of those guidelines began to take sustainability into account.
In the U.S. for example, the iconic food pyramid promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1992 through 2005 recommended two to three daily servings of dairy and two to three servings of other protein. The shift to My Plate provided a different visualization but recommended similar portions of dairy and protein. It was critiqued for being influenced by the food industry and agriculture lobbyists.
Harvard University then came out with its Healthy Eating Plate that recommends water over dairy beverages; whole grains over other starches and “healthy proteins” like fish, poultry, beans; and nuts over red meat and processed meat.
Meanwhile, national guidelines elsewhere are starting to include sustainability practices. A study published in December 2022 found that of 83 countries assessed, 37 included environmental sustainability considerations; that was up from just four countries in 2016. Sweden was the first, recommending that people avoid bottled water and eat locally produced food. Denmark recommends “eat less meat, choose legumes and fish.”
An earlier study by Oxford University in 2020 found that nutritional guidance in China, the United Kingdom and the U.S. were all “incompatible with the climate change, land use, freshwater, and nitrogen targets.”
Create your own healthy and environmentally sustainable nutrition guidance based on the Healthy Eating Plate and what you’ve learned from our Mercy Tips to Care for Earth. That may include eating less meat, reducing plastic in your kitchen, buying more local foods or being mindful of palm oil in products. Any of these changes could be healthy for both you and the planet.