Environmentally sustainable diets are a Win-Win for the planet and health say dietitians

Environmentally sustainable diets are a Win-Win for the planet and health say dietitians

20 November 2018

The British Dietetic Association wants to play its part in helping people wake up to the impact of their diets on the environment.

UK dietitians are gearing up to take on a list of new recommendations from the BDA based on the latest evidence. One Blue Dot, launched today, is a new project from the BDA to show how nutrition experts can help people make essential changes for the planet – and the nation’s health.

Clinicians will be able to use the BDA toolkit to include environmental considerations in healthy eating advice, and to inform conversations with patients who are keen to make the shift, taking into account any medical issues.

Dietitians know all too well how poor eating habits affect health. Current low intakes of fibre, fruit and vegetables, and essential micronutrients compete with the overconsumption of energy, saturated fats, and sugars to undermine the health of the UK.

But as a raft of recent reports have highlighted, what we eat also has an impact on the planet. The current food system contributes up to 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, contributing significantly to global warming. When looked at through a wider lens, farming is the leading cause of biodiversity loss, the majority of fisheries are fully exploited, and we continue to needlessly waste billions of pounds worth of food every year.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made strong recommendations around dietary change just a few weeks ago, saying that urgent changes are needed if climate change targets are to be achieved.1

At the moment, we need almost two earths to cover the resources we consume and the waste we produce. Essentially, this means that at some point the earth will be unable to provide for our current population. The demand for food is increasing with our growing population that is expected to increase from 7 billion today to over 9 billion by 2050. To produce more food using our current production methods, to meet this demand, is unsustainable. This would require more arable land, more fresh water, and more non-renewable energy, which are finite resources.

Dietitian and working group member Ursula Arens says “Eating healthy is for you; environmentally sustainable eating is for your children and their children”.

The One Blue Dot nine point plan includes:

  1. Reductions in red and processed meat to 70g per person per day (also recommended by the World Cancer Research Fund).
  2. Prioritising plant proteins such as beans, nuts, soya and tofu.
  3. Consuming fish from sustainable sources.
  4. Moderating dairy consumption and using fortified alternatives where needed.
  5. Focussing on wholegrain starchy foods.
  6. Opting for seasonal, locally sourced vegetables/fruit. Avoiding air freighted, prepacked, and prepared vegetables/fruit.
  7. Reducing overconsumption of high fat, sugar, salt foods.
  8. Making tap water and unsweetened tea/coffee the choice for healthy hydration.
  9. Reducing food waste, especially of perishable fruit and veg by choosing tinned/frozen alongside seasonal fresh produce.

Full details can be found in the BDA’s ‘Eating patterns for health and environmental impact’ reference guide, which forms part of the One Blue Dot toolkit, supported by project partner Alpro.

An extensive review of nutritional considerations has been conducted by BDA experts who have drilled down to macronutrient level to show that eating well can be compatible with eating for a healthy planet.

BDA Honorary Chairman Caroline Bovey said “One Blue Dot helps BDA members and their clients to act now to make the essential dietary changes needed to ensure the future security of the planet. There is mounting pressure from leading environmental experts and organisations, as well as growing public interest and support, and the BDA is proud to add its voice to the raft of solutions which will be required.”

  1. de Coninck H, Revi A. Global Warming of 1.5oC. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels and related GHGe, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Chapter 4: Strengthening and implementing the global response Coordinating Lead Authors: (India) [Internet]. 2018 [cited 10/15/2018]. Available from: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/


Notes to the Editor:

  • The British Dietetic Association (BDA), founded in 1936, is the professional association and trade union for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 9,000 members.
  • Dietitians are highly qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. They are statutorily regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), alongside other Allied Health Professions.
  • Dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices. They work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government and global industry to local communities and individuals.
  • www.bda.uk.com
  • @BDA_Dietitians
  • One Blue Dot resources are available at www.bda.uk.com/onebluedot

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