New Diet Guidelines to Benefit People and the Planet: More Greens for All, Less Meat for Some

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The report said the largest share of daily calories, 35 percent, should come from whole grains, including rice, wheat and corn, and starchy tubers like potatoes and cassava. The recommendations included unsaturated fats, milk, cheese and nuts, and lots of green vegetables. Overall, the guidelines called for a doubling of global consumption of fruits, nuts, vegetables and legumes, and cutting the consumption of red meat in half.

The meat reduction recommendation received immediate pushback. Even before the release of the Lancet report, the Animal Agriculture Alliance, an industry group, issued a statement extolling the benefits of meat and dairy. It said cutting animal protein could “risk worsening malnutrition, increasing food waste, and distracting from the highest priorities for addressing greenhouse gas emissions.” The group echoed the Lancet report’s recommendation to reduce food waste.

Likewise, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, in a statement, called beef “nourishing and sustainable.”

The Lancet report also made clear that individual consumer choices would not be enough to avert what the authors called “catastrophic damage to the planet.” It urged governments to encourage healthy food choices and ensure access to nutritious food. It also suggested that global agriculture policy emphasize not just producing more food, but more “nutritious plant-based foods,” though it acknowledged that, in some places, animal farming can begood for the ecosystem.

It recommended policies to curb deforestation and to protect at least 10 percent of marine areas from fishing. To tackle food waste, it suggested help for farmers in poor- and middle-income countries to better store their crops and get them to market while still fresh. In rich countries, it encouraged better shopping habits and improved “use by” labels.

“The evidence says we can do it,” said Tim Lang, a professor of food policy at the City University of London and a co-author of the report. “There’s an immense diversity of what people can eat. It’s not prescriptive.”

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