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Should Environmental Considerations Be Factored Into Dietary Guidelines?

This article is more than 8 years old.

How many servings of fruits, vegetables, grains and protein should we consume a day? What foods will keep us healthy and fit? The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, a group of nutrition experts appointed by the federal government, has a series of recommendations to help answer questions like those.

The committee is working on revisions to those guidelines, due out next year. And for the first time, it's considering the environmental implications of your food choices. For example, beef might be a good source of protein, but raising cows leaves a much bigger carbon footprint then growing grains and vegetables.

All of which leads to the politics of food. Tucked into the congressional spending bill passed last weekend was a directive that said federal dietary guidelines should not take into account environmental concerns. The reason: lawmakers say members of the committee might be experts in nutrition, but they're not experts in climate science.


Michel Nischan, two-time James Beard Award-winning chef and president/CEO of Wholesome Wave, a nonprofit aiming to increase access to fresh, locally grown food. He tweets @michelnischan.

Peter Ballerstedt, forage agronomist with the Healthy Nation Coalition and forage product manager at Barenbrug USA, a plant breeding and seed production company. He tweets @GrassBased.


WBUR: Congress To Nutritionists: Don't Talk About The Environment

  • "A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation's dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices."

Time Magazine: Dietary Guidelines Are Not So Sustainable, Study Says

  • "If Americans change their diets to meet the current federal dietary guidelines, greenhouse gas emissions could increase, a new study reports."

This segment aired on December 17, 2014.


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