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Healthy for people and planet – The Planetary Health Diet

The food we consume, the way it is produced and the amount that is wasted or lost has a significant impact on both human health and environmental sustainability. Food production is responsible for around 30% of global CO2 emissions and 70% of global freshwater consumption and is the main cause of biodiversity loss. Over 2 billion people are overweight and diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are among the leading causes of death worldwide. At the same time, over 820 million people suffer from hunger or malnutrition every day – while 40% of the food produced worldwide is wasted. The global food system is inefficient and unfair.

Can we feed a future population of 10 billion people with a healthy diet within planetary boundaries?

The EAT-Lancet Commission addressed this question and brought together 37 leading scientists from around the world to find an answer to two key global challenges: The rising prevalence of diet-related diseases and the detrimental impact of our diet on the environment.

The EAT-Lancet Commission claims that yes, a healthy diet can help save the planet and our environment. However, this requires a change in the global food system and a fundamental change in our agriculture, food production and diet. Appropriate food management is crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The EAT-Lancet Commission proposed a solution to this in its 2019 report on the Planetary Health Diet.

The Planetary Health Diet

The EAT-Lancet Commission offers clear guidelines for a sustainable diet in its “Planetary Health Diet”. This diet has been developed and offers a menu to both promote human health and take into account the earth’s limited resources. Experts estimate that by switching to this diet, up to eleven million premature deaths from diet-related diseases could be avoided.

A photo of plant-based foods: Vegetables, nuts, grains and mushrooms

The Planetary Health Diet is based on several principles that take into account both individual health and environmental sustainability. Here are the most important principles of the Planetary Health Diet:

Plant-based diet: The majority of your diet should consist of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. These foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and offer a variety of health benefits.

Reduce animal products: Animal products have a high ecological footprint and are associated with environmental problems such as greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water consumption.

Sustainable food production: Food should be produced in an environmentally friendly way, taking into account factors such as soil protection, water resources, biodiversity conservation and reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Avoiding food waste: Food waste contributes to environmental pollution and the loss of natural resources. The EAT-Lancet Commission calls for a 50 percent reduction in food waste.

Conscious consumption: Finally, the Planetary Health Diet emphasizes the importance of conscious consumption and a balanced diet. This includes choosing foods that take into account both individual health and environmental impact, as well as avoiding overly processed foods, sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods.


What does such a meal plan look like?

The website has developed a meal plan (based on an energy intake of 2,500 kilocalories) based on the nutritional recommendations of the EAT-Lancet Commission, which could look like this:

meal plan, Source:

The following points should be considered when putting together your own menu:

  • Regional and seasonal fruit and vegetables are preferable
  • Ready-made products often contain saturated fats and a lot of sugar and should therefore not be consumed very regularly
  • Buy organic food as far as possible
  • Reduce animal products
Photo of bowls with pulses, nuts and vegetables

Five strategies for a global food transition

Overall, the researchers have developed five immediately implementable strategies for achieving a sustainable food transition.

1. Promotion of healthy eating

Promoting healthy eating requires improved availability of healthy food, stricter food safety standards and policies that support sustainable purchasing options. It is important to limit advertising of unhealthy foods and run nutrition campaigns, while ensuring affordable prices for good food. The environmental costs of food production should be factored into prices, while social protection must ensure that no one is excluded.

2. Increasing quality rather than quantity in food production

Agriculture should move away from a pure yield orientation and instead produce a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Rather than promoting a few crops, a significant proportion of which are used for animal feed, global agricultural policy should incentivize farms that produce nutritious, plant-based foods. In addition, the Commission proposes to develop programs that support diverse production systems and promote research projects that improve nutritional quality and sustainability.

3. Intensify agriculture sustainably

The current global food system requires a new agricultural revolution based on sustainable intensification and driven by sustainability and system innovation. This would include a reduction of at least 75% of yield variability on current farmland, radical improvements in the efficiency of fertilizer and water use, recycling of phosphorus, redistribution of the global use of nitrogen and phosphorus, implementation of climate mitigation measures including changes in cropping and feeding practices, and promotion of biodiversity within agricultural systems.

Young plants in the field are inspected by one hand

4. Strict regulations for the use of land and sea

It is important to strictly regulate the use of land and sea in order to preserve natural ecosystems and at the same time secure the food supply. The EAT-Lancet Commission proposes measures such as protecting intact natural land areas, banning deforestation and making degraded land fertile again. In addition, 10 percent of the sea area should be closed to fishing, while aquaculture should grow slowly.

5. Halve food waste

As described above, it is crucial for the global food system that food losses during production and food waste during consumption are significantly reduced. Both technological solutions along the entire food supply chain and the implementation of public policies are necessary to achieve the goal of a 50% overall reduction in global food losses and waste in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This includes measures such as improving post-harvest infrastructure, food transportation and processing as well as promoting collaboration along the supply chain, training and equipping producers and educating consumers.


The Planetary Health Diet offers a way to improve health and the environment by focusing on a plant-based diet. However, its implementation requires political support and individual change. Overall, the Planetary Health Diet is a promising approach for a more sustainable future.

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