Dietary guidelines are issued every five years to help Americans make healthy eating choices, but the new version due to be released may be slightly different. It will not only encourage people to eat what's healthier -- it will also tell them what's good for the environment.
A panel advising the Department of Agriculture is set to recommend that Americans be advised of foods that are both good for their own health and the environment's. The advisory panel has discussed the idea of sustainability in public meetings, indicating that it may push for an environmental agenda in its recommendations anticipated early this year.
A draft recommendation that was circulated in December last year says that a sustainable diet will not only help ensure food access for the current population but for the future generations as well.
The draft says that a dietary pattern with more plant-based and less animal-based food is better at promoting health and leaves a smaller impact on the environment compared with the average diet in the U.S right now.
This means that once the new dietary guidelines are released, they may encourage people all the more to choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and other plant-based food and opt for meat less.
The cattle industry, in particular, is being associated with the unwanted effects of wide-scale food production on the environment.
A study published in the journal PNAS in 2014 found that producing beef for consumption in the U.S. had more harmful effects on the environment compared with other meat industries, such as those that produce chicken and pork. The study pointed out that producing beef calls for more land and water, produces more heat-trapping gases per calorie, and involves more water-polluting nitrogen.
The American Meat Institute is not amenable with the proposal. The agency has already issued a statement describing attempts to remove lean meats out of healthy diet as stunning and arbitrary.
There are also objections from the Congress. Environmentalists, however, support the idea of incorporating environmental agenda in the dietary guidelines.
"We need to make sure our diets are in alignment with our natural resources and the need to reduce climate change," Kari Hamerschlag from the advocacy group Friends of the Earth told the Associated Press.
Once the panel has made it recommendations, the Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments will come up with the final dietary guidelines, which can be anticipated about one year from now.