Every Meal Matters: Eating Our Way to a Healthier Planet

A place setting with the world on the plate. If the dire predictions surrounding the UN climate talks in Glasgow this week have you itching to do something, consider your dinner choice tonight.

What you choose to eat is one of the easiest, and least expensive ways you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Food and the food system that delivers it are responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions (source: Nature Food). To give one eye-popping example that comes to us from Jamais Cascio in the Cheeseburger footprint, consumption of cheeseburgers is responsible for similar carbon output to all the SUV’s in the United States.

PHA supports many other changes to the food system, like devoting more production to nutritious crops and building more infrastructure to support produce. But while we wait for those changes, individuals can make a difference one meal at a time.

Consider the burger.

Between 3.6 and 6.1 Kilograms of carbon is produced by raising the cow, feeding it, and turning it into a cheeseburger (click here to see the rest of the math).

Meanwhile, fruits, beans, vegetables, and nuts have low carbon footprints. They are also health bombs – high in fiber and nutrients, but low in saturated fat with zero added sugar. As the EAT Lancet report noted, a more than doubling of vegetables, legumes, fruits, and nuts is key to both human and planetary health.

It’s a happy coincidence that five of the foods best for the planet are not only great for our health, but also tend to cost less. That’s because the protein base of planet-friendly foods (beans and peas) is also less expensive than most animal-sourced protein.

So when you are listening to the news, if India’s pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 feels far away. Or if you are skeptical that Brazil will really end deforestation by 2028 as they and we hope… consider subbing in a great recipe for spiced chickpeas with rice and greens (here are some great recipes) for that steak next time.

Choosing spicy chickpeas and rice over a steak dinner is a threefer:

  • It will be responsible for less CO2 than the steak,
  • It will have less saturated fat and sodium than the steak,
  • And it will cost far less than the steak.

Every meal matters and by reconsidering what you eat, you can make a difference for the planet now.

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