Future-proof and sustainable healthy diets based on current eating patterns in the Netherlands

Earlier this week I attended the Livestock, Environment and People Conference (LEAP), hosted online as all such events have been in 2020. One session I attended was provided by Marcelo Tyszler, PhD on “Future-proof and sustainable healthy diets based on current eating patterns in the Netherlands.”  

Mr. Tyszler looked at the current dietary patterns in the Netherlands, alongside the required environmental targets for 2030 and 2050. His results firstly demonstrated that the Dutch baseline diet includes a high amount of dairy and a low amount of soy drink. This has a high environmental impact. It is a diet which does not meet all nutritional requirements, with too much carbohydrates and saturated fats. The diet is lacking in fibre, iron and some vitamins.  

When this diet is optimised to correct for nutritional inadequacies, more tree nuts, dry beans, lentils & peas, fish and vegetables are added, with same amount of dairy and soy drink. This diet had a reduced environmental impact; however, it still would not be enough to comply with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) +1.5ºC pathway.  

To comply with reduction of greenhouse gases for 2030 and 2050, none of the sustainable healthy diets contain beef. The flexitarians scenario contains the most meat with the consumption of chicken and pork. The Flexitarian, Pescatarian & Vegetarian scenarios contain the same amount of dairy other than a reduction in the consumption of cheese and more soy drink than the current Dutch diet. A vegan diet scenario only meets nutritional requirement for vitamin B12 and calcium through high consumption of fortified soy drink.  

In all, the research demonstrates to comply with the Paris Agreement on climate change, specific policies may be needed to help people shift to diets with lower environmental impacts. Strong product and process innovation will also be needed to meet the 2050 Greenhouse Gases target in terms of healthy and acceptable diets.  Given the current strain on global healthcare systems, it is vital that we address both the nutritional and the environmental impacts of our diets.