Healthy, sustainable Eating

January 13th, 2018 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

A double pyramid to help you eat healthily and sustainably

An Eco-Friendly Diet that’s healthy? What’s that?

After this week’s earlier blog on good decisions and the placebo effect, especially regarding healthy food choices ( ) I started thinking about meat (and other protein) eating and I started researching on the ecological sustainability of high-protein diets and the recommendations of the UN and medical associations.

While doing my little research, I came across the “double pyramid”, which shows the effects of what we eat (diet) on the environment and comparing it to the updated suggested dietary pyramid used by the UN and medical authorities.

I assume we all want to be healthy and for the world to be a better place, and one of the ways we can help these goals is to care about what we buy in general, and specifically, what we eat. I personally think we need to eat a more sustainable, but yet a healthy diet, and it’s a viable choice, both environmentally and financially.

So, here’s what our eating footprints look like, depending on our general diet: Vegans (though I could never claim to be one) have the lowest carbon and water footprints. Just saying. This is followed by vegetarians and then omnivores. I am an omnivore, but I readily will give up eating meat or other animal/fish proteins for days on end. This excludes our own home-grown eggs from our (free range, very happy) chickens, and Swiss milk products. I do live in Switzerland and come from Minnesota, after all.

Having said that meat eaters have the highest carbon and water footprints, it can also be said that most dietary recommendation pyramids now say we should not eat so much meat, especially red meat, anyway. And if you cut your meat eating down to twice a week, you already halve your footprint levels. That’s not too bad, considering it is healthier, anyway.

I did note that coffee and chocolate are not listed on the pyramids, and find that not so helpful for my personal lifestyle.

Coffee and Chocolate

After a quick google, I found that black (UGH!) coffee has 21g carbon footprint per cup and the latte (MMMmmm!) 340g- gasp and sigh. The water footprint is high, one article said 20 049 m3 per ton of harvested coffee just for the growth, and that does not include roasting containers and any other preparation. But maybe we should be buying at least a FairTrade version.

Deforestation aids to adding to chocolate’s carbon footprint, so we should really only buy sustainable fair trade brands. In Switzerland, the UTZ seal is important (for both chocolate and coffee). Regarding chocolate, one article says “Cadbury estimates that 169g (6 ounces) of carbon dioxide equivalent are emitted into the atmosphere for each 49g (1.7 ounce) Dairy Milk chocolate bar. This calculation includes emissions from the production of raw ingredients such as cocoa, cocoa butter, milk and sugar, and from packaging and distribution, but not from land-use change.”

Maybe a diet after Christmas would be in order for me, but first we have to eat all the chocolate in our house, and there is quite a bit left. Anybody want to come help?

A sustainable Diet

Now, let’s go back to the suggestions. Here’s the low-down on my interpretation of the double pyramids:

What to eat a lot of:

Local and seasonal fruit (and dried version) and vegetables, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, legumes, olive oil (- which for me is local), nuts, and milk products and eggs. For those who don’t have good olive oil, try something else that’s local and healthy.

What to eat a little bit of:

Fish and seafood (see the wwf list for what is healthy and not over-fished), local chicken and other poultry. They put cookies here, interestingly enough, too. I like cookies.

What to eat once or twice a week, maximum (SORRY!)- and the list is rather the same, surprisingly:

Sweets, “bad” fats, and red meat

That’s it! Al we have to do is the good old rice, vegetables and beans thing, which I have known and done since college days. I bet we all know this. Luckily I bought a new (to me) Moosewood cookbook recently to jazz up my vegetarian cooking.

Tonight we will be eating chili and rice. What about you? So, let’s eat healthily and sustainably for a better world and a better life!

I raise my carrot to you and to our better health!

Patricia Jehle





1 comment

  1. Chris Kenber says:

    With the start of each year I vouch to eat more healthily. Although it doesn’t always happen to the extent I would like, I am certainly more healthy than I was a few years ago

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