For decades, the model of healthy eating that was recommended depended upon a “plate” model in which the plate was comprised of 50% carbohydrates, 25% plants (fruits and vegetables) and 25% protein (meat, fish, and poultry). Times though, they are a changing, and the newer model of healthy eating takes into account not just what’s best for the eater, but also for the overall health of our planet.
A more flexible plate
Today’s updated plate model comes with two variations, depending on the activity level of the eater. This makes good sense, since a very active person who is training for a marathon certainly needs a higher carbohydrate intake than one who is more sedentary and spends much of their day sitting.
Regardless of activity level, plants take up a much bigger portion of the plate, with 50% for the less active person, and slightly less than half for the very active person, who has a larger portion of carbs accordingly. The other big change is in the protein group, which now not only encompasses meat, fish, and poultry, but also includes plant-based proteins such as beans and legumes.
Eating for the planet
Adding more vegetables to the plate is without a doubt of benefit to the eater – research has shown that plant-based and plant-forward diets provide optimal nutrition, with reduced rates of cardiovascular disease (1) and some cancers (2).
However, in an age where the overall health of the planet has become a critical decision factor when it comes to food, the eco-minded eater needs to not only consider adding more plants to their diet, but also take into account which plants are best. Replacing watery vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, with sturdier, more fiber-rich vegetables such as cabbages, carrots, and celery root that require less water to grow and keep for longer under normal storage conditions is the planet-friendly approach.
It goes without saying that we should choose to eat less meat, favoring plant-based protein such as beans, peas, and lentils more often, but we should also be mindful of the kind of meat we buy when we do opt for animal protein. Locally-raised grass-fed beef tends to be more expensive, but when purchased less often the difference in price becomes negligible.
When it comes to the carbohydrates on our plate, again, we need to consider more than just nutrition. Crops such as rice use a tremendous amount of water to grow, so we should be opting for potatoes or oats, which are grown locally and require less water ahead of rice. Bulgur and other forms of wheat are also favored above rice, as is pasta, couscous, and other grains.
And of course, reducing food waste is another critical issue when it comes to building your ideal plate. We need to consume what’s on our plate (or in our fridge) to minimize waste, so opting for smaller portions and grocery shopping more often is ideal.
Food without borders
Thinking about how we eat is not just a personal issue; our decisions affect the entire planet, and future generations yet to come.
Earlier this year, the EAT Foundation published a report (3) suggesting the need for international standards for both food production and healthy diets, with the aim of creating something all people can relate to and adapt to. From a sustainability point of view, for both people and the planet, this thinking needs to move beyond borders.
The report states:
This Commission recommends a shift towards increased consumption of plant-based foods – including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains – while in many settings substantially limiting animal source foods.
This concerted commitment can be achieved by making healthy foods more available, accessible and affordable in place of unhealthier alternatives, improving information and food marketing, investing in public health information and sustainability education, implementing food-based dietary guidelines, and using health care services to deliver dietary advice and interventions.
We at Foodiq couldn’t agree more! We are happy to discuss plant-based product opportunities together with you, and how we can choose ingredients that are both sustainable and tasty to meet your needs.