What the food pyramid and MyPlate did for better nutrition—providing an iconic, at-a-glance guide to what to eat—experts have now done with sustainable eating. Enter the Double Health and Climate Pyramid, created by researchers at the Barilla Foundation, a European think tank focused on food and the environment.
The new tool combines a health and sustainability pyramid side by side: on the left are nutrition guidelines based on scientific literature linking diet to various health outcomes, particularly cardiovascular disease. On the right is an inverted climate pyramid ranking foods based on their environmental impact using data from Su-Eatable Life, a European Union-funded project that examined factors like carbon emissions and water usage. The simple, clever graphic shows that a healthy, sustainable diet might not be so complicated. For the most part, the food groups on both sides of the pyramid line up with each other, demonstrating that what’s good for our bodies is good for the planet, too, says Marta Antonelli, Ph.D., the foundation’s head of research.
Walter Willett, M.D., a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and co-chair of the EAT-Lancet Commission, whose mission is determining how we can have a healthy, sustainable food system, considers the Double Pyramid a major advance. He hopes it will motivate people to shift to a plant-forward diet.
“We are currently on track to increase global temperature by almost 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which will make much of the world uninhabitable and devastate food production systems,” Willett says. “We need to do everything possible to avoid this disaster, and although eliminating the use of fossil fuels is most important, even if we do that, we still won’t have a sustainable future unless we change our diets.”