We already know that meat-heavy diets aren’t good for our health and there is overwhelming evidence now to suggest that following a vegetarian diet – or at least a flexitarian diet – is incredibly beneficial to our health and wellbeing. But what about the health of our planet?
A study in the journal Nature last year found that with the continued consumption of Western-style diets which are high in red meats and processed foods, combined with the rate of population growth we are currently seeing, could result in the environmental pressures of the food system increasing by a staggering 90% by 2050.
By that same point, in 2050, there will be an estimated 10 billion people on the planet, all of whom will need to eat.
In an article published in The Lancet back in January, the authors observed: “Providing a growing global population with healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge,” which is an intelligent and eloquent way of saying: things are getting really, really bad guys – and the future looks even bleaker.
What is the climate diet?
So, how does altering our diets as just one individual help to combat the effects of global climate change?
Well, this is where the climate diet or ‘Climatarian Diet’ comes in.
As explained by non-profit organisation ‘Less Meat Less Heat’, who aim is to reduce the consumption of meat products that are most damaging to the climate, “A Climatarian diet involves choosing what you eat based on the carbon footprint of different foods. You can use your power as a consumer to drive down the production of the types of meat which have the biggest impact on our climate.”
To follow a climate diet, you would need to limit your consumption of red meat to just one serving per week and also try to minimise your intake of cheese – say it isn’t so we hear you cry- but it has to be done because cheese has the biggest carbon footprint of all dairy products. (sorry)
In addition to cutting back on dairy and meat, the same article in The Lancet suggested that to follow a climate-friendly diet, roughly a third of your daily calories should come from carbs like rice and potatoes and wheat and roughly a quarter from legumes. Only about 20 per cent of your daily calorie intake should come from healthy fats – and not those derived from animal protein.
Any calories left over should be taken up by fresh fruit and veg – but these will need to have been sourced as locally and seasonally as possible so as to reduce the carbon footprint of your weekly shop.
Will the climate diet actually work?
The short answer is, hopefully, yes. An increasing number of experts are speaking up and out about a need for change and the benefits that diets of this type will have on both our bodies and our planet.
“Research consistently shows that drastically reducing animal food intake and mostly eating plant foods is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your impact on the planet over your lifetime, in terms of energy required, land used, greenhouse gas emissions, water used and pollutants produced,” Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian nutritionist and plant-based food and sustainability expert in Los Angeles told CNN.
While the climate diet may sound like too many changes from your current weekly eating routines, Jonathan Harrington writes in his book about the climate diet that as well as saving the planet, a Climatarian diet could also help you cut the cost of your weekly shop and do what any traditional diet promises too – help you lose weight.
“It has never been easier for families to cut back on their use of fossil fuels and protect the climate all while saving money,” Harrington writes.