What does it mean to eat a sustainable diet? The information out there is so confusing, and with the current cost-of-living crisis we're all experiencing, it's no wonder sustainability has taken a back foot.
Luckily City, University of London have published a report titled Our Food in the Anthropocene: The Eat-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems, which you can access here. Below you can read the ten conclusions from the report.
1. Unhealthy and unsustainably produced food poses a global risk for people and planet. Nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack sufficient food, and many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and morbidity. Simultaneously, global food production is the single largest human pressure on Earth, threatening local ecosystems and the stability of the entire Earth system.
2. Present dietary trends and projected population growth to nearly 10 billion by 2050 will exacerbate these conditions. The global burden of non-communicable diseases is set to worsen, and the impacts of food production on greenhouse gas emissions, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, biodiversity loss, and water and land use will erode the stability of the Earth system.
3. A transformation to healthy diets from sustainable food systems is a prerequisite for attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Agreement. Scientific targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production are needed to guide a Great Food Transformation.
4. Healthy diets have an appropriate caloric intake. They consist largely of a diversity of plant foods, low amounts of animal source foods, contain unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and limited amounts of refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars.
5. Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts, including a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of unhealthy foods such as red meat and sugar, and a greater than 100% increase in the consumption of healthy foods such as nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes. However, the changes needed differ significantly by region.
6. Dietary changes from current diets towards healthy diets are likely to result in significant health benefits, averting approximately 7.4 to 10.8 million premature deaths annually, a reduction of between 18% to 28%.
7. With food production currently causing major global environmental risks, sustainable food production needs to operate within the safe operating space for food systems. This means that producing food for nearly 10 billion people should: use no additional land; safeguard existing biodiversity; reduce consumptive water use and manage water responsibly; drastically reduce nitrogen and phosphorus pollution; produce zero carbon dioxide emissions and cause no further increase in methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
8. Transformation to sustainable food production by 2050 will require at least: a 75% closing of yield gaps; a global redistribution of nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser use; recycling of phosphorus; radical improvements in fertiliser and water use efficiency; rapid implementation of agricultural mitigation options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adoption of land management practices that shift agriculture from carbon source to sink, and a fundamental shift in production priorities. 7
9. The scientific targets for healthy diets from sustainable food systems that we have described are intertwined across all UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, this includes eradicating hunger and universal access to high-quality primary health care that integrates family planning and education on healthy diets with the SDGs on freshwater, climate, land, oceans and biodiversity and is achieved through a strong commitment to global partnerships and action.
10. Achieving healthy diets from sustainable food systems for everyone on the planet will require substantial shifts towards healthy dietary patterns, considerable reductions in food losses and waste, and major improvements in food production practices. This universal goal is within reach but will require the adoption of scientific targets by all sectors to stimulate a broad spectrum of actions from individuals and organisations working in all sectors and at all scales.