The world’s menu needs a drastic overhaul. At least 820 million people going hungry worldwide and close to two billion eating too much of the wrong food have made unhealthy diets a bigger cause of death and disease than unsafe sex, drugs, alcohol and tobacco use combined. As human diets are inextricably linked to health and environmental sustainability, the EAT-Lancet Commission has put together the first scientific evidence on a diet plan that meets the nutritional requirements of a 10 billion and growing population by 2050 while staying within a sustainable food production system that does not harm the planet.
Compared with currently popular diets, the global adoption of the new recommendations requires the world to halve its consumption of red meat and sugar and increase nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes intake at least two-fold. As countries in North America eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, and countries in South Asia, including India, eat less than half the amount, these food targets will need to be applied locally. All countries are eating more starchy vegetables such as potatoes and cassava than recommended, with intake ranging from between 1.5 times above the recommendation in South Asia and by 7.5 times in sub-Saharan Africa.
Along with a transformation in eating habits, the immediate challenge is to develop sustainable food systems by improving food production and reducing food waste. India is the second-largest grower of fruits and vegetables globally. It produces 97 million metric tonnes of fruits and 179.69 metric tonnes of vegetables, but around 40% of vegetables produced are wasted. Reviving traditional diets and promoting local produce and improving the cold chain, including storage, transport and processing are essential for the optimal use of produce. Agriculture must be refocused to produce varied nutrient-rich crops. Introducing policies to encourage people to choose healthy food, including improving availability through improved logistics and storage, moving from high volumes of crops to producing varied nutrient-rich crops, localising produce, and halving food waste are key issues that need to be addressed to make both sustainable nutrition possible and reduce hunger and obesity.