What’s the Best Diet Plan for You and the Planet?

What we eat is important for more than just our figures. It’s also important for the planet, and future generations. And, it turns out plant-based diets are the best environmentally healthy diet plan. Read on to find out why.

People tend to consider a diet plan in the context of weight loss: “You’ve lost weight! Are you on a diet?” Of course, I’m on a diet. A diet just means the kinds of food you regularly eat.

You might have a diet plan for specific health reasons. Some diet plans are about lowering your cholesterol, and apart from transitioning to low fat cooking techniques, the actual food we plan to eat in our diets can be the key to a healthier and longer life. Considering the “healthy” of the planet is about caring for us also.

Latest Eating Trends and that Diet Plan

Historically, a person’s diet depended on food grown and available locally. Since then our choices have dramatically increased.

Today, globalization and advances in agriculture provide us with many dietary options. But, more often, it is the popular trends that influence our eating habits. With this, the popularity of certain diets changes with the season.

So, how do the latest trends in diet plans rate in terms of caring for our planet?

Cookbook sales give us one indication of the latest trends.

Nutritionists give another indication of the latest trends in diet plans based on their clientele.

Top 5 Special Diet Plans That are Best Sellers

Diet Plan Trends Seen by Nutritionists

The Nutritionist, Kate Freeman, viewed the following as recent trends:

  • Vegan is the new Paleo
  • Gluten-free is here to stay
  • Low-carb diets are gaining popularity
  • Ketogenic diets are making a come back big time
  • Clean eating is out
  • Dairy free is on a gradual upper
  • Quitting sugar is not so sweet
  • Low FODMAPS is trendy for beating the bloat

What’s Good for the Planet

Let’s look at major environmental issues relating to human food consumption (no special order):

  1. Climate Change (carbon footprint)
  2. Water Use (water footprint)
  3. Chemical Residues
  4. Food Wastage
  5. Single Use Plastic Debris
  6. Genetic Modification of Foods
  7. Antibiotic Over-Use in Food Industry Causing Antibiotic Resistant Strains

Regardless of the diet plan, consumers can choose ‘organic‘ or ‘free range’ (#3 and #7).

Also, preparing and using food consciously (#4), and avoiding plastic packaging (#5) helps.

You can help fight wastage of food and there are numerous everyday ways to save the wild we know (#3-5).

Nevertheless, choosing organic or free range may not always be attainable.

One way to overcome this is to grow your own chemically-free produce or source it from local markets, which tend to be less expensive.

Among other tips to avoid food wastage: Use a grocery list based on your weekly meal plan. This cuts down wastage and benefits your budget also.


The Diet Plan Comparison

Because of the complexity of the issue, I will not attempt to cover the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods here in any detail.

Similarly, the use of antibiotics in eggs, chickens, beef, and similar industries won’t be covered. This is also complex because countries differ in antibiotic use standards and associated labeling.

I will leave it to you to investigate how to navigate these in your own country.

The way to do it, in Australia, is to choose ‘organic’ or ‘free range’.

Below, I look at the potential carbon and water footprints for nine of the above diet plan trends (no special order).

1. Vegan (Thug Kitchen)

The vegan diet excludes all animal products, including poultry, honey, milk, cheese, gelatin, fish, and eggs.

It relies on meatless protein sources, such as lentils, tofu, and dried beans.

Including vitamin B12 supplements are advocated with plant-based diets.

Surprisingly, vegan is not as eco-friendly as going vegetarian, which tops the list.

Among reasons, is the waste of productive land for other food production if the entire population were to go vegan.

Basically, not all agricultural land is suitable for vegan all-year round.

The future land availability for sustainable food production is a genuine global issue.

It is something worth considering in addition to the carbon and water footprints.

Vegan as an Environmentally Healthy Diet Plan

Carbon footprint: Low.

According to a 2015 scientific report 1 , consuming lentils, tofu, and dried beans contribute relatively low greenhouse gas emissions of any protein food per weight of consumed food (Figure 1).

This compares to lamb and beef, which are among the highest.

Water footprint: Low.

According to a 2012 study report2, water use for vegetables is about ⅕ of that for beef (Figure 2).

Tips to Reduce Ecological Footprint Further

Buy organic; buy local; grow your own–to reduce footprint from transport and chemical use.

Adding potatoes is more water efficient, only consuming 50 gallons per pound, than adding rice (consumes 403 gallons per pound) to your meal.

NY Times #1 best seller cookbookThug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck

2. Gluten Free

A gluten-free diet cuts out products made from wheat and other grains containing the protein, gluten.

It is critical for Coeliacs.

Similarly, a gluten-free diet is important for controlling symptoms in sufferers of IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (see FODMAPs Diet).

The choice of meat in the diet plan is open to the consumer.

In other words, any diet plan can be gluten free with gluten products excluded.

Gluten Free in Terms of Environmentally Healthy

Carbon footprint: With meat, it rates high (Figure 1). Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.

Water footprint: With meat, it rates high (Figure 2). Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.

For a simple cookbook: You can’t go past the 4 Ingredients Gluten-Free: More Than 400 New and Exciting Recipes All Made with 4 or Fewer Ingredients and All Gluten-Free!— Check it out here. Mine is well bookmarked. It includes vegetarian meals, also.

3. The Low-Carb Diet

The Atkins Diet has been around for decades. It cuts out bread, rice, pasta, and potato, and has passionate high fat (low carb) followers.

The Ketogenic Diet has also been around for some time.

Of course, they are both still popular, with revisions appearing only recently.

Eco-Atkins diet

The Atkins gets a makeover — acknowledging the benefits of a plant-based diet.

The Eco-Atkins diet is basically a vegetarian or vegan version of the low carb diet, with these proportions:

  • 31% of daily calories (kilojoules) to come from plant proteins,
  • 43% from plant fats, and
  • and 26% percent from carbs.

There’s a lot of nuts, seeds, and beans.

Just recently, it’s been heralded as the new plant-based diet craze.

A Ketogenic Diet

This is about the body burning fat (ketones) rather than sugar for fuel.

Generally, it involves very low-carb, high-fat (not just high-protein) intake.

The Low Carb Diet Ecological Footprints

Carbon footprint: Eco-Atkins–low. Ketogenic–high, based on a large amount of meat as the main source of protein and fat.

Water footprint: Eco-Atkins–medium to low. Depending on type, nuts have a high water use. Ketogenic–high, based on a significant amount of meat constituting the diet.

Tip to Reduce Footprints

Choose nuts that are sustainably grown and that support the environment, e.g., these brazil nuts and these macadamia nuts.

Current best sellers:

4. The Whole30

This 30-day diet plan focuses on cutting out sugar (even artificial), alcohol, grains, legumes, beans, and dairy which are considered “all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups”.

Moreover, it advocates whole foods over packet ingredients.

The result is a diet of meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, fruit, nuts, and vegetables.

The Whole30 Environmental Footprint

Carbon footprint: High, with meat the main protein (Figure 1).

Water footprint: High, with meat the main protein. Nuts are also generally high on the list for water use (Figure 2).

Tip to Reduce Footprints

Consider sources of the meat, eggs, or seafood. Choose ‘organic certified’, free-range or grass-fed over lot feed or caged. Choose nuts that are sustainably grown and support the environment, e.g., these brazil nuts and these macadamia nuts.

5. Paleovedic Diet

The Paleo Diet itself peaked in 2013.

According to nutritionist, Kate Freeman, it just didn’t deliver on what people wanted in the long run – lose weight for the long haul.

Enter the Paleovedic Diet, which combines the Paleo diet with Ayurveda (5000-year-old Indian system of medicine).

This three-week program (with a meal plan and recipes) is the brainchild of Akil Palanisamy MD.

Like Ayurveda, it is based on three doshas. Palanisamy claims that studies are starting to show doshas have a genetic connection.

Thus, there are reasons to modify or swap foods according to your dosha. Makes sense!

For one thing, like in Ayurvedic medicine, it focuses on nutrient-rich herbs, spices, and detoxifying fruits and vegetables.

This is about maximizing intake of phytonutrients (vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants). So this is good.

Paleovedic Diet Plan Eco-Friendliness

Carbon footprint: High to medium, since the main protein source is meat. Could be lowered with a higher proportion of vegetables. According to the Reducetarian Solution (April 2017), “cutting 10% or more of the meat from one’s diet can transform the lives of the reader, animals, and the planet.”

Water footprint: High to medium, since meat remains a major component. Could be lowered with a higher proportion of vegetables.

Current bestseller:

The Paleovedic Diet: A Complete Program to Burn Fat, Increase Energy, and Reverse Disease. Try Ayurveda itself: The Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook: A Seasonal Guide to Eating and Living Well Paperback – December 1, 2015

Tip for Reducing Ecological Footprint

Consider sources of the meat, eggs, or seafood. Choose ‘organic certified’, free-range or grass-fed over lot feed or caged. Choose nuts that are sustainably grown and support the environment, e.g., these brazil nuts and these macadamia nuts.

6. Vegetarian

This tops the list as the most eco-friendly diet plan.

Vegetarian includes three basic types:

  • Traditional – fruit, veg, grains, and beans
  • Lacto-vegetarian (dairy)
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian (dairy and eggs)

In one example, John McDougall MD, who recently published his ‘Healthiest Diet on the Planet’, promotes starch.

Yep, contrary to most dietary beliefs, he advocates a 70-90% starch, 10-20% non-starch veg, and 5-10% fruit based diet.

Indeed, this is zero meat. Though, McDougall says this is not an all or nothing recommendation. “Do the best you can!” he states! Sounds good to me.

He argues that research shows ancient populations were starch eaters.

Furthermore, starchy foods, such as potatoes and sweet potatoes, supposedly contain all our dietary needs.

He recommends including vitamin B12 supplements, as is advocated for all plant-based diets.

Basically, McDougall claims we are starchivores by nature — that starch is the wonder food for our brains.

By all means, consuming potatoes is better for the planet, being more water efficient, only 50 gallons per pound, than rice (403 gallons per pound).

Vegetarian as an Environmentally Healthy Diet Plan

Carbon footprint: Low. Cheese rates high on emissions (Figure 1) after Lamb and Beef, but is still only about ⅓ of that of lamb and half that of beef.

Water footprint: Low, but watch cheese, according to a 2011 study 2 changing to a vegetarian diet will reduce your water footprint by as much as 58% (based on the average current per capita food intake in the US).

Tip to Further Reduce Ecological Footprint

Buy organic; buy local; grow your own — to reduce footprint from transport and chemical use.

Suggested reading:

7. Dr. Gundry’s Diet

Gundry identifies “some unexpected foods which may be causing many of your weight and health problems”.

The Dr Gundry diet plan promotes intake of polyphenols, as found in dark blue or purple fruits, like pomegranates, blueberries, and mulberries.

In addition, being suspected of triggering sensitivities, all lectin containing foods are to be avoided.

That is, bread, pasta, all grains, potatoes, rice, corn, peppers, tomatoes, beans, lentils, and nuts are out.

For this diet, the protein sources are meat (grass fed) and dairy, since beans and lentils are ruled out.

Curiously, a “killer fruit” list includes tropical fruits of mango, pineapples, and bananas to be avoided.

Since I live in the tropics where these fruits are locally grown, I’ve emailed Dr Grundy to find out more about this.

Here, most backyards have a banana tree and roadside stalls sell local mangoes and pineapples.

Also, these fruits are a common everyday food source in our Australian diets with no obvious health effects.

So, this makes me wonder and I’m hoping Dr Grundy will reply with a conclusive answer.

Stayed tuned! As yet I have not received a reply.

Dr Grundy’s Diet Plan in Terms of the Environmetal Footprints

Carbon footprint: High, based on meats and cheese contributing the highest greenhouse gas emissions of potential protein sources.

Water footprint: High. Meat has a high footprint (Figure 2). The diet advocates grass-fed beef, which has a lower footprint than lot-fed (or industrial) livestock.

8. The low FODMAPs Diet

This diet is an evidenced-based approach to managing the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It was developed by Monash University, Australia.

FODMAP stands for “Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols”.

The diet includes meat, vegetables, fruit, breads, cereals, and nuts, along with a whole list of FODMAP items to eliminate.

In general, FODMAPs items to eliminate from your diet plan include gluten and lactose.

They also include garlic, beetroot, asparagus, mushroom, pulses and beans, apples, blueberries, and lots more.

The problem items are those that cause bloating. But, not everyone is affected in the same way.

The idea is to eliminate first, and then choose to introduce items if you wish to see which ones can be tolerated.

The low FODMAP diet plan has been found effective in controlling symptoms in sufferers of IBS and other functional gastrointestinal disorders.

Low FODMAP as an Eco-friendly Diet Plan

Carbon footprint: Similar to gluten-free — with meat, it rates high. Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.

Water footprint: Similar to gluten-free — with meat, it rates high. Combined with a vegetarian diet, this is low.

Check out the The Complete Low-FODMAP Diet: A Revolutionary Plan for Managing IBS and Other Digestive Disorders.

Personal Preference in a Diet Plan

Some people like to have a strict diet plan. But you don’t have to do this. Just do the best you can.

It’s all about balance.

You can try and be primarily vegetarian, eat gluten-free, and perhaps exclude nightshade vegetables, onions, and garlic if you suffer from arthritis or IBS.

Partaking of local wild caught fish and free-range chicken…occasionally is okay.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Vegetarian is the most eco-friendly diet
  • It is cheaper to eat vegetarian at home than to eat meat
  • Potatoes are one of the top eco-friendly foods we can consume and are so versatile. And, I like them!
  • Health benefits associated with certain foods can be specific to you
  • Weight control may be your main concern

Also, remember that having interests with purpose and meaning helps with weight loss more than going on a fad ‘diet’.

So, not only is having a diet plan about health but also about caring for our environment

In some quarters, today’s trends show more people are becoming conscious of their diets in terms of their footprint on the Earth.

One thing is clear: What you chose to eat has environmental as well as health impacts.

Thus, it is important to make conscious food choices.

What do you think? What are the things about a diet plan for you? Which of the above have you tried? What did you find?

Other Ideas for Reducing Food Wastage in any Diet Plan

When time-poor, people tend to opt for takeaways (or ‘take-outs’).

Otherwise, they buy food haphazardly, resulting in fresh food being wasted.

With this, convenience is the main driver of people’s behavior, especially in today’s ‘busyness’.

One idea is to have healthy meals delivered to your door.

Importantly, options available can include vegetarian.

Since, many people are unfamiliar with preparing vegetarian meals, getting a delivery of these once (or thrice a week even) helps them and the environment.

In fact, they are expanding and may be near you soon. So, check them out or keep them in mind.

Most important, going meatless one to three days a week is a step towards regeneration for a healthy planet for tomorrow.



 Other Sources

Grace Communications Foundation –

More on water footprint:

Environmentally friendly foods –

Water Footprint:

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Hi, this is Mary-Anne. I am a believer in wellness through wildness. This is about connecting with the nature within and the nature around to keep fit and healthy in body, mind, and spirit. I enjoy researching and writing about natural things that support our wellbeing and then sharing the benefits I discover.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. All content including text, graphics, images and information contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.

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