BY MAGGIE PEEKE, RD
You might have heard the term “Planetary Plate” before and it definitely seems straightforward, but maybe you’re not familiar with the details of it and if put up the task, you might not be able to build a planetary plate at your next meal. But fear not, we have you covered.
Before we dive into how to create the perfect planetary plate, lets first define what a planetary plate is in today’s world. A planetary plate encompasses the idea that you’re eating by following what experts call a “planetary health diet”. This means you’re eating with the health of the planet in mind. It is not only respected by environmentalists, but by health professionals too, like registered dietitians (RDs), because it means that you’re eating more healthy foods (i.e: fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins, nuts and seeds) (1).
It is evident that our daily food choices not only impact our health, but also the health of the planet, and there is staggering research that shows the impact of food production on our natural resources. For example, production of animal-based foods almost always has higher greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based foods, according to the World Resources Institute. In fact, in 2009, production of animal-based foods accounted for over three-quarters of global agricultural land use (1). Seeing these facts can be a bit daunting, but that’s why the planetary plate came to be. In 2019, a group known as the EAT-Lancet Commission, consisting of 37 scientists from 16 countries, came together to create the planetary health diet (3). It focuses on a plant-based diet, but it strives to accommodate various eating habits and dietary preferences worldwide. By making this diet shift, optimal nutrition is achieved and sustainable food production is attained.
So, let’s put this into practice. To create a planetary plate, there really are only a few steps. If you’re new to this concept, give it a try once or twice this week and reflect on how it has changed your perception of the food itself and the food systems that we operate within.
Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables
This should come as no surprise, fruits and vegetables are loaded with good nutrition. From antioxidants to fiber, there is a lot to gain both for your health and the health of the planet as production of fruits and vegetables requires less natural resources and emits less greenhouse gas compared to animal based foods.
Fill a quarter of your plate with half plant-proteins and half unsaturated plant fats
This ties back to the notion that plant-based foods take less of a toll on natural resources yet can provide all of the protein required in a day. Foods like tofu, tempeh and legumes are all great sources of protein and easy to add to your plate this week. Additionally, nuts and seeds are good sources and actually are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, which should make up the other portion of your plate. Other great sources of unsaturated fats include olives/olive oil, avocados and chia seeds, which have been shown to decrease our levels of LDL and therefore help to decrease our risk of cardiovascular disease (3).
For the remaining quarter aim for two-thirds whole grains and one-third animal proteins
The animal protein portion really is optional and is there to cater to those who eat meat as part of their regular diet, but remember, the idea is to cut back on animal products. So, while there is room for animal products on your plate, try to remove it once in a while and see what you think.
This diet may be a drastic change for some or it may look like any ordinary meal to others, but it is important to realize that it is meant to cater to various cultures worldwide and ultimately help improve our planet’s health as well as our overall health as humans on this planet. However, this change in dietary habits will require many people to decrease their red meat and sugar consumption by 50%, while doubling consumption of fruits, legumes, nuts and vegetables.1 Whether this is a new concept for you or it’s been something you’ve been wanting to try, the planetary health diet and eating a planetary plate will provide a win-win situation for all. And now that you have the knowledge and tools to start, why not give it a try tonight? Or, if you’re feeling a little lost and unsure on how you personally fall on this topic, take this short quiz and find out how your diet impacts the environment. The results might surprise you.
meet the Author MAGGIE PEEKE, RD