New Danish Dietary Guidelines Tied to C02 Emissions
The latest Danish dietary guidelines suggest swapping meat for legumes. | Priscilla du Preez / Unsplash.

New Danish Dietary Guidelines Tied to C02 Emissions

Denmark's government is the latest to emphasize plant-based foods for the sake of the environment.

New Danish dietary guidelines advise citizens to cut back on meat and eat more plant-based foods. The idea is to help people eat healthier, but also in a way that is kinder to the planet.

Denmark’s guidelines are a key part of the government’s plans to reduce its climate footprint by 70 percent by 2030. They suggest that eating more legumes such as beans and lentils in place of fish and other animal products will significantly reduce the average person’s C02 production.

This marks the first time that the dietary guidelines have been directly tied to emissions.

“The official dietary guidelines have been giving good advice on how we can eat healthily for decades,” said the Danish Minister of Food, Agriculture, and Fisheries, Rasmus Prehn, who presented the new guidelines.

“It is important now to take the next step and help Danes eat in a more climate-friendly way too,” he continued. “There is no raised finger, but a simple guide. Because fortunately, what is healthy for the climate is usually also healthy for us. It is therefore important that dietary guidelines take into account the health of the planet.”

The suggested intake of meat has been reduced from 500g to 350g per week. But the guidelines also recommend at least 100g of legumes — such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans — per day. As per the guidelines, eating plant-based, varied food in moderation will help support improved personal and planetary health simultaneously.

New Danish Dietary Guidelines Tied to C02 Emissions
The typical Danish diet includes red meat, fish, and dairy products. | iStock.

Vegan food and climate change

Six out of 10 Danish citizens say they want to eat in a way that is more sustainable. But the typical national diet currently includes plenty of red meat and dairy products, and the average intake of legumes is close to zero.

Animal agriculture is a leading contributor to climate change, while the consumption of red meat and dairy products, in particular, emits significant levels of emissions.

According to the press release, the average Dane’s diet currently emits just over eight kilos of C02 per day. But the Technical University of Denmark believes that cutting back on meat in favor of climate-friendly, plant-based foods could reduce this by up to 35 percent.

In full, the guidelines are to eat plant-rich, varied, and not too much. To eat more vegetables and fruits, eat less meat in favor of legumes and fish, eat whole grains, choose vegetable oils and low-fat dairy products. And eat less sweet, salty, and fatty foods. Finally, it advises people to drink more water.

Denmark is not alone in promoting plant-based foods for health and environmental reasons. In 2019, Canada’s nutritional guidelines almost entirely cut out dairy and heavily emphasized vegan protein.