Menu for Tomorrow: Healthy and sustainable diets

Menu for Tomorrow

Sustainably produced and healthy food in the Netherlands: now and later

By 2050 we will have to provide 9 to 10 billion people with healthy and sustainably produced food. The food system, from production to consumption and waste treatment, makes a big contribution (20–30%) to global greenhouse gas emissions and a big claim on scarce natural resources.

Healthy and sustainable diets
For the Dutch environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu Blonk Consultants investigated what such a healthy and sustainable diet would be for the Netherlands. The result is the Menu for Tomorrow, which provides a considerable reduction of greenhouse gases emissions and a smaller claim on scarce natural resources.

Menu for Tomorrow: a varied diet
With the Menu for Tomorrow in 2030 it will still be possible to enjoy a varied diet. The Menu is better for animal welfare and keeps the Dutch within their share of global carrying capacity based on the Fair Share principle. Within the Menu for Tomorrow certain products will increase and decrease. Furthermore, several product groups will stay equal, for instance eggs.

Changes within product groups

The proportions of different products within product groups also change. For example, within the product group drinks the amount of tap water increases while the amounts of wine, soft drinks (including ‘light’ drinks) and apple juice decrease. The most striking changes are in the vegetables product group. Field vegetables (including some types of cabbage, carrots, leeks, onions and beetroot) increase at the expense of greenhouse vegetables (including tomatoes, sweet peppers, courgettes and cucumbers) and vegetables from far away (including French beans). This is because the last two sorts of vegetables require the use of much more fossil energy for their cultivation (natural gas) and transport (diesel, kerosene) and therefore produce higher greenhouse gas emissions.
Increase of products: advantages for climate and health
The product groups vegetables, pulses, nuts & seeds, fish, and soy products & vegetarian products take up a greater proportion of the diet in the Menu for Tomorrow than in the 2010 diet. The increase in fish comes entirely from sustainable fisheries.

Reduction of products: high environmental impact, saturated fat and added salt
These increases are matched by reductions in the product groups meat, cheese, drinks, and milk & milk products. These are all product groups that make a considerable contribution to the total greenhouse gas emissions of the current diet.

Principles and background

The scenarios were based on the following principles:
  • Fair Share: Each person in the world has the right to an equal share of the global ‘environmental headroom’ (the Fair Share principle).
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: We must limit greenhouse gas emissions to a level at which global warming does not exceed 2°C.
  • Area of land use: The total area of land used for food production must not exceed the area used today to prevent any natural areas being converted to agriculture for food production.
  • Sustainable fisheries: Fish consumed in the Netherlands must come from sustainable fisheries.
  • Animal welfare: Animal products must be produced in livestock husbandry systems that take much greater account of animal welfare.
  • Productivity and food waste: future improvements in productivity and reductions in food waste are taken into account.

Optimeal®: balance between nutritional value and environmental impact

The optimisation program Optimeal® was used to compile a diet that meets all nutritional standards and remains within the Fair Share environmental limits, while making as few changes as possible from the current diet. Optimeal® assesses the balance between nutritional value and environmental impact: products with a relatively favourable balance are allocated an increased share in the diet, while the shares of those with a relatively unfavourable balance are reduced. To keep the nutritional value of the menu within the nutritional standards, the new diet again contains less of certain products and more of others.


Look ahead: 2050

In the look ahead to 2050 the Dutch share of global carrying capacity is reduced further by the rising global population and stricter climate change requirements. As a result, the shifts apparent in the 2030 scenario become more pronounced: almost no meat, less cheese and other dairy products, and less alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink, except for tap water.

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