The EAT-Lancet diet, also known as the planetary health diet, is a dietary framework developed by the EAT-Lancet Commission to address 2 specific goals — promoting human health and reducing the environmental impact of food production.
The EAT-Lancet Commission is dedicated to creating a dietary framework to help improve health and nutritional status throughout the world, while also maintaining and improving our ecosystems and planetary health.
The planetary health diet recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission is mostly plant-based, consisting of a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
The diet includes moderate amounts of dairy, seafood, and poultry while greatly reducing the consumption of red meat, sugar, and processed foods.
The suggested dietary guidelines aim to provide all essential nutrients while staying as environmentally sustainable and ethical as possible.
The EAT-Lancet diet is designed to be nutritionally adequate, however individual variations and considerations should be taken into account to tailor the diet to meet personal nutritional requirements. Seek the care of a nutrition professional to ensure your nutritional needs are being met.
The diet is designed to strike a balance between individual optimal nutrition and long-term sustainability of the planet and its ecosystems. To learn more about this environmentally and health conscious diet keep reading.
The EAT-Lancet report
A history making report, Food in the Anthropocene: The EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems, was published in January 2019. It presented the concept of a “planetary health diet” aimed at addressing the interconnected challenges of human health and environmental sustainability. The report's recommendations sparked significant interest and debate worldwide, as it proposed a radical shift in dietary patterns to ensure both the well-being of individuals and the planet.
What is the EAT-Lancet Commission?
The EAT-Lancet Commission is a collaboration between the EAT Foundation and The Lancet, two prominent international institutions focused on addressing global challenges related to food systems, human health, and environmental sustainability.
The commission is composed of international experts on nutrition, health, and sustainability. Through their extensive research, these experts recognized the urgency of transforming our food systems due to the mounting burdens of nutrition related diseases/deaths and environmental degradation caused by current agricultural practices.
The EAT-Lancet Commission designed the diet to be nutritionally adequate based on recommended nutrient intakes established by various organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. National Academies of Sciences.
What are the dietary guidelines?
The principles of the EAT-Lancet diet include:
- Plant-based. The diet emphasizes eating plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are the foundation of the diet and should comprise a significant portion of daily food intake. Plant-based foods are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and phytochemicals, which are beneficial for overall health and disease prevention.
- Reduced red meat and sugar. The EAT-Lancet diet recommends reducing red meat (such as beef and pork) and added sugar consumption. This is due to the environmental impact of meat production and the health risks associated with excessive meat and sugar consumption.
- Moderate animal-source foods. The diet includes moderate amounts of animal-source foods, such as dairy, seafood, and poultry. These foods can provide important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and high-quality proteins.
- Nutritional adequacy. The EAT-Lancet diet aims to provide all essential nutrients required for optimal health. The recommended intake of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is taken into consideration to ensure nutritional adequacy.
- Environmental sustainability. EAT-Lancet strives to reduce the environmental impact of food production by promoting sustainable agricultural practices. The diet also focuses on minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, biodiversity loss, and land degradation.
A typical EAT-Lancet plate
Here is an example of the EAT-Lancet plate:
You can see the discernible difference between this plate and the food pyramid you might be used to seeing. There is a greater emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins and much less emphasis on animal products like meat and dairy. Based on extensive global research, in both human nutrition and environmental sustainability, this is the diet that is believed to balance health, safety, and longevity of both people and our planet.
Goals of the EAT-Lancet diet
The planetary diet seeks to improve public health outcomes by reducing the risk of chronic diseases associated with poor dietary habits, such as:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Inflammatory diseases
The diet also aims to minimize the environmental footprint of food production, including greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and ecological biodiversity loss.
The EAT-Lancet diet takes into account the ethical concerns associated with the intensive animal farming industry, including animal welfare and the use of antibiotics in livestock. By reducing the demand for animal products, it aligns with ethical considerations related to animal rights and sustainability.
By adopting the planetary health diet, the EAT-Lancet Commission suggests that we can achieve several sustainable development goals, including those related to:
- Health and well-being
- Sustainable agriculture
- Climate action
- Biodiversity conservation
The report purports that embracing such dietary changes could help feed the projected global population of nearly 10 billion by 2050 while respecting planetary needs to sustain a population that large.
Not a “one size fits all” diet
Critics of the EAT-Lancet report have raised concerns about the feasibility and cultural acceptability of the proposed diet. They argue that regional variations in food availability and cultural preferences may make it challenging for individuals and communities to adopt the diet universally. Critics also question the scientific evidence and the potential unintended consequences of reducing certain food groups, such as animal-source foods, which can provide important nutrients like protein, iron, and vitamin B12.
The EAT-Lancet Commission acknowledges the need for contextual adaptations of the planetary health diet to accommodate different cultures, traditions, and local food systems. It emphasizes that the proposed dietary guidelines are global reference points, and implementation should consider regional and individual variations. Customization based on local food availability, cultural practices, and nutritional requirements is crucial for achieving both sustainability and population health objectives.
These dietary guidelines are presented as reference points and can be adapted as needed. This is a flexible framework that can be customized to suit cultural preferences, local food availability, and individual nutritional requirements.
Considering individual variations
It’s important to keep in mind that although the EAT-Lancet diet is backed by scientific research and aims to be nutritionally adequate, it is essential to consider individual variations and specific nutritional needs. Factors such as age, sex, activity level, and underlying health conditions can influence nutrient requirements. Some individuals, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women or those with certain medical conditions, may have additional nutrient needs that may require special attention and adjustment.
It is always best to consult your healthcare provider or registered dietitian before making significant changes to your diet. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances and ensure that your nutritional needs are being met.
Since the publication of the EAT-Lancet report, its recommendations have influenced policy discussions, research initiatives, and public discourse on food systems and sustainability. Governments, international organizations, and communities have engaged in efforts to align their policies and practices with the principles put forth by the EAT-Lancet Commission. Continued research, policy development, and collaboration are crucial for translating the vision of the EAT-Lancet report into actionable and appropriate strategies towards a healthier and more sustainable food future.
If you think the EAT-Lancet diet could be right for you, consulting with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance for adopting a sustainable and healthy diet for years to come.
- The Lancet. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems.
- EAT. The planetary health diet.
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. EAT-Lancet healthy reference diet score and diabetes incidence in a cohort of Mexican women.
- Lancet Planet Health. Estimated micronutrient shortfalls of the EAT-Lancet planetary health diet.
- Environmental Research Letters. Adherence to EAT-Lancet dietary recommendations for health and sustainability in the Gambia.
- Current Cardiology Reports. Plant-based nutrition: an essential component of cardiovascular disease prevention and management.
- Stroke. Adherence to the EAT-Lancet diet and risk of stroke and stroke subtypes: a cohort study.
- Lancet Planet Health. The EAT-Lancet reference diet and cognitive function across the life course.