How Your Post-Thanksgiving Diet Could Help Save the Planet

As you settle into your Thanksgiving dinner, the starting event (at least for Americans) of the holiday season, remember to think about the planet’s carbon footprint.

Food production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for more than a third of global emissions – and a new study has provided fresh insight into how small changes in diet can have a major impact on food-related emissions. And while it does not inspire you to give up the turkey and accessories, it does serve as a good reminder that a break after the holiday with pampering may be just the kind of thanks that Mother Earth may appreciate most, not to mention your own body health.
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Research published in the scientific journal PLOS One found that diets restricting meat, dairy products and processed foods were not only good for health but also for the planet. Previous studies looked only at broad food groups, but this one estimated the greenhouse gas emissions of 3,233 different foods ingested by a cohort of 212 adult volunteers in the UK over three 24-hour periods.

The report showed that people whose intake of saturated fats, carbohydrates and sodium met levels recommended by the World Health Organization had lower greenhouse gas emissions than people who exceeded the recommended levels of these nutrients.

Meat was not surprisingly the biggest health and climate culprit. Meat eaters’ diets had 59% higher emissions compared to vegetarians, and men’s diets contributed overall 41% higher emissions than women’s, mainly due to their higher meat intake.

Read more: To count your carbon footprint one meal at a time

But before you skip the turkey in favor of pie, the report’s authors note that desserts do not get a free pass either. “It is not that confectionery is worse than other dietary components, it is that we eat so much of it that it all has a high effect,” says the report’s lead author Darren Greenwood at the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine in the UK. While other foods, such as vegetables, contribute to a healthy balanced diet, sweets have very little nutritional benefit. So it is an unnecessary impact on the environment. ”

The report’s findings support a focus on plant-based foods, both for personal dietary and nutritional decisions and for public policy. But that does not mean a plate of Brussels sprouts for Christmas dinner. It’s about being more thoughtful in your food choices and aware of how they are consumed, Greenwood says. “We can all do our part by buying local produce grown in season. Maybe this year buy less but better quality food. Do not make more food than you eat and try not to waste leftovers. That way, we enjoy the holidays and pamper ourselves – think of it as a gift for our children for the future. “

They will thank you for it. Finally.

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