On a global scale the production of animal products, for meat and dairy, has a negative impact on the environment. Major environmental problems related to livestock production are land use change, consequent loss of biodiversity, and the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG).
To reduce the impact on the planet, it is recommended that the current high consumption of meat (especially red meat) and dairy should be reduced.
It is questioned whether a sustainable diet (with less meat and dairy) may pose nutritional challenges for children.
Data of the young Dutch food consumption survey (N = 1279; 2-6 yrs) were used. Two replacement scenarios were calculated: either a 30% or 100% replacement of consumed dairy and meat by plant-derived foods with similar use.
The replacement of meat and dairy foods by plant-based alternatives leads to considerable changes in land use and in nutritional intakes:
- In the 100% scenario: land use was halved and estimated SFA intake decreased by 4 En%. Total Fe intake increased by 2.5 mg/d compared with the baseline situation. Fibre intake significantly increased (+29%). Attention is recommended to ensure adequate vitamin B12 intakes.
- In the 30% scenario: land use was almost 20% lower than baseline. SFA intake decreased by 1.1 En% and total Fe intake increased by 0.7 mg/d compared with the baseline situation. The intake of vitamins and minerals remained adequate.
In conclusion, partly (two days a week) replacing meat and dairy products by plant-based alternatives contributes to a healthy and environmentally friendly diet for children (2-6 years). Thus, healthier and more sustainable diets go hand in hand, also for children.
Reference: Temme EH, Bakker HM, Seves SM et al. How may a shift towards a more sustainable food consumption pattern affect nutrient intakes of Dutch children? Public Health Nutr 2015;18:2468-78.