Is Britain lagging behind when it comes to sustainable diets?

A growing number of countries are thinking green when it comes to their dietary guidelines, and Britain needs to follow their lead.

As world leaders prepare for vitally important climate change negotiations in Paris at the end of the year, it’s good to see countries increasingly recognising the huge impact that our eating habits have for the health of the planet.

Sweden is the latest country to take account of the environment in its new dietary guidelines. The advice to “eat greener, not too much and be active” includes recommendations to eat less meat and dairy, to eat seasonally and to choose sustainable seafood. The Swedish food agency joins official bodies in the Netherlands, Nordic countries, France and Germany that have incorporated sustainability into their nutrition guidelines. And it’s now stretching further than that.

This year the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in its Scientific Report recommended the inclusion of environmental criteria within the 2015 US dietary guidelines. The committee said a diet higher in plant-based foods – such as vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds – and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health-promoting and has less environmental impact than the current US diet.

In the UK we’ve been slower to adopt the win-wins for health and the environment into official guidance. Eating Better has written to Jane Ellison, the public health minister, asking for the UK’s official dietary advice – the Eatwell Plate – to be updated in line with the Principles of Healthy & Sustainable Eating Patterns produced under the auspices of DEFRA.

In contrast with the media’s obsession with diet fads, the Eatwell Plate provides authoritative official advice on good nutrition. Eatwell is not just advice for the public. It’s used by health and nutrition professionals, teachers and educators, caterers designing menus, food manufacturers developing new products, and policy-makers developing and evaluating local and national food policy. It’s therefore vital that the advice reflects the latest scientific evidence for nutrition and sustainability. Using this advice, food companies will be better able to help us all do our bit for the environment through the food we eat, the meals served in our schools and hospitals and the choices available in supermarkets and restaurants.

 

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