Transforming the 'eatwell plate'
Campaigners ask for more sustainable guidance
Unless you are a nutritionist or working within the food industry, you probably won’t have given the eatwell plate a second thought (if you've even seen it at all).
Yet this simple image has a small but important role to play in determining what UK society considers to be a ‘healthy diet’.
The eatwell plate acts as authoritative guidance for businesses, educators and public institutions on what food they should be cooking up and serving and is, in theory, one of the main sources of information on healthy eating for consumers.
More than just human health
However, since the eatwell plate’s launch in 2007, there is growing recognition and scientific evidence that diets not only have an impact on human health, but have significant impacts on the environment, animal welfare and workers’ rights (no new concept to Ethical Consumer readers!)
For instance the links between industrial agriculture, declining biodiversity and environmental degradation is widely documented (a summary of the issues can be found in the Square Meal Report).
Futhermore, the need for a zero carbon diet and reduced meat and dairy consumption have been raised for years as key actions necessary for addressing climate change and issues associated with food security.
And yet, despite the growing body of evidence, little progress has been made in terms of shifting society’s food culture towards a more sustainable one.
The LiveWell Plate
In an attempt to merge concepts of sustainable eating and healthy eating guidance, a number of organisations, including DEFRA, have explored the overlaps between nutritional guidance and environmental guidance.
The outcome of these endeavours: The LiveWell Plate.
Although far from finalised, the LiveWell Plate proposes a compromise; a diet emphasising reduced meat consumption but without eliminating it completely.
The LiveWell Plate, as devised by WWF, advocates:
- 1) Eating more plants – enjoy vegetables and whole grains!
- 2) Eating a variety of foods – have a colourful plate!
- 3) Waste less food – one third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted.
- 4) Moderate your meat consumption, both red and white – enjoy other sources of proteins such as peas, beans and nuts.
- 5) Buy food that meets a credible certified standard – consider MSC, free-range and Fairtrade.
- 6) Eat fewer foods high in fat, salt and sugar - keep foods such as cakes, sweets and chocolate as well as cured meat, fries and crisps to an occasional treat. Choose water, avoid sugary drinks and remember that juices only count as one of your 5-a-day however much you drink.
Pressure to get the LiveWell plate, or equivalent, adopted and integrated into nutritional guidance is now one focus of sustainable eating campaigns. (Especially now that Public Health England is reviewing the eatwell plate following a review on sugars and carbohydrates by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.)
Eating Better, a broad alliance of organisations, is pushing for the eatwell plate to be revised.
As stated on Eating Better's website:
‘The UK is already flagging behind other countries that are demonstrating leadership towards sustainable diets. Official bodies in the Netherlands, Sweden, Nordic Countries, France and Germany have produced their own nutrition guidelines incorporating sustainability advice for their citizens and stakeholders. Most recently the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in its Scientific Report recommends the inclusion of environmental criteria within the 2015 US dietary guidelines.’
In light of the above, top of Eating Better’s policy asks of our new government is: ‘for official guidance to be updated to provide audiences and stakeholders... with integrated advice on healthy, sustainable eating patterns’.
This new model can only be beneficial for our health and the environment and we hope that whichever party wins the election on Thursday they will look at adopting this guidance.
For more information visit the Eating Better website.