Tommy’s Superfoods is immensely interested in sustainability – what we can do to help reduce food waste, both for the planet and also to feed the world’s hungry populations. One issue that regularly comes up in discussions on sustainable eating are plant-based diets and trends such as “Meatless Monday.” In this post, we set out to answer the question, is a plant-based diet the best way to feed the most people on our planet?
Our Growing World Population
Planet Earth is home to over seven billion people, and researchers predict that number will increase to 9.7 billion by 2050.
The amount of resources (such as food, water, and land) needed to support our growing population mean that, as a society, we need to get to work now developing better distribution systems and environmental policies. Preparing for a sizable increase in population now will help to prevent waste and ensure all humans have access to life-sustaining necessities.
From cutting down trees in rainforests to contaminating rivers and oceans, our planet’s natural habitats are disappearing and being significantly damaged at an alarming rate. If researchers are correct, and our population increases by 2 billion in the next 35 years – which, for many of us, will be within our lifetime – we’re going to need to make some significant changes in how we feed ourselves and care for the planet.
The Current Western Diet
The current Western diet is centered on meat, dairy, and eggs. These are three food groups that are resource intensive when it comes to using land, water, and energy.
In addition to needing land, water, and energy to grow feed for livestock, these resources are also required (in even greater quantities) to shelter and raise livestock. Even more energy is required to transport livestock to slaughter, to process the various end products (cuts of meat, packaged eggs, bottled milk) and then to transport the finished food products to distribution centers and ultimately your grocery store shelves.
Many well-known writers, medical professionals, and politicians have come out in support of embracing a plant-based diet as a way to stay healthy, reduce environmental impact, and reduce food insecurity for impoverished and vulnerable populations. “If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” said David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
But the questions remain, “Is it possible to grow enough plant-based food to feed nine billion people?” “Will following a plant-based diet help reduce our environmental impact?”
Taking a look at the resources required to support the Western-style diet is quite eye-opening:
Looking at these figures makes it clear: eating less meat is better for the planet and will allow us to produce greater quantities of fruits and vegetables with less resources.
When we make a choice to incorporate more plant-based foods into our daily diets, we not only reduce our carbon footprint regarding land, energy and water but we also help to ensure that crops are available to help feed people, rather than livestock.
Plant-based Diet Alternatives to a Traditional “Western” Diet
The following diets are nutritionally-sound alternatives to the heavily meat-based Western diet and worthy of further exploration as ways to reduce our environmental impact.
A Mediterranean Diet is abundant in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and olive oil. It features fish and poultry—lean sources of protein—over red meat.
A Pescatarian Diet is a form of vegetarianism that includes fish, but no other forms of meat.
A Vegetarian Diet is full of grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit along with dairy products and eggs, but no meat or fish.
A Vegan Diet consists of plant-derived foods only, no animal products including meat, eggs or dairy.
By embracing these dietary alternatives, we can not only reduce our risk of developing diabetes, high-blood pressure, heart disease, and certain forms of cancer, but we can also help to ensure that planet Earth will remain able to sustain population growth.
For those of us living in the United States, supermarkets, grocery stores, and online food retailers carry an increasing amount of plant-based options. It has never been easier to adopt a plant-based diet that keeps the well-being of the planet in mind. Read more about starting a vegetarian diet here.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that each of us has the power to control our lifestyle and dietary choices. We can commit to consuming a wide selection of whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, and lentils, as well as choose delicious prepared foods that align with our ethical, environmental, and health commitments.
Here at Tommy’s Superfoods, we love vegetables and are all about making them the center of your plate. Veggies aren’t just a side dish anymore! That’s why we’re committed to making the most delicious and nutritious flash-frozen vegetables you’ll ever try. Want a quick and easy way to center your diet around super tasty veggies? Pick up a bag or two of our seasoned vegetable medleys the next time you’re at the store – there’s one for every night of the week!