The Healthy and Sustainable Diet We Should All Be Eating

Medscape Staff

December 02, 2021

How can we meet the dual concerns of ensuring that people around the world get the nutrients they need and that we build a more sustainable industrialized food system? Scientists around the world are working to answer this question.

What to know:

  • According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, as the population continues to rise and more people follow Western diets, the production of meat, dairy, and eggs will need to increase by 44% by 2050 — which poses an environmental problem because the current food system already emits about one-quarter of the world's greenhouse emissions.

  • The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, and Health released a report in 2019 advocating for a diet that factors in both health and the environment. This "flexitarian" diet consists of eating plants on most days with a small amount of meat or fish per week.

  • However, some have questioned whether the diet is nutritious enough for people outside of wealthy nations, and Marco Springmann, PhD, a food scientist who is part of the EAT-Lancet modeling team has said it is not a one-size-fits-all recommendation.

  • Others have raised concerns about the cost of the diet, which estimates suggest cost 1.6 times more than a basic nutritious meal.

  • Patricia Eustachio Colombo, PhD, a nutrition scientist in Sweden, is working with a team to trial a more sustainable diet in primary schools, using an algorithm that suggests ways to make lunches more nutritious and climate-friendly, such as by reducing the amount of meat. When changes were made, most kids didn't notice the change, according to Colombo.

This is a summary of the article "What humanity should eat to stay healthy and save the planet" published by Nature on December 1. The full article can be found on

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