What do we mean by that? Global shifts to unhealthy diets that are high in calories, heavily processed and high in animal-sourced foods have led to an epidemic of overweight and obesity, which in turn has driven the escalating prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, cancers and other diseases. But the unprecedented negative impact of our food choices doesn’t stop with human health. Our diets are inextricably linked to environmental sustainability as well.
A comprehensive report — Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems — published by the medical journal The Lancet in conjunction with the advocacy group EAT Forum explains it all. The authors, 37 scientists from around the world, describe how global food production and dietary patterns have substantially changed over the last 50 years, resulting in unhealthy humans, an unstable climate and an unsustainable global environmental system.
The report details the impacts of our choices on the planet, affecting climate change, biodiversity loss, land-system use, freshwater use, and nitrogen and phosphorus flows. But the authors offer a five-point strategy to reverse course.
- Seek international and national commitments to shift toward healthy diets – described as mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils; some seafood and poultry; and little or no red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables
- Shift agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food
- Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output
- Develop and foster strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans
- Halve food losses and waste, in line with global sustainable development goals
Think about what your organization can do to amplify the message and support these goals. Does your company cafeteria provide healthy food choices and take steps to reduce waste? Can you help address the problem of “food deserts” in communities where your employees live? Could your well-being program do more to support healthy diets?
Use the report from the EAT-Lancet commission for inspiration and guidance. The goals are ambitious, but the rewards — the health and longevity of people and the planet — are imperative.