Denmark Recommends Carbon-Friendly Foods In New Dietary Guidelines

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Denmark’s updated dietary guidelines includes recommendations on consuming more carbon-friendly foods like vegetables, fruits and legumes as part of the country’s climate action plan. The new official dietary guidelines also suggest lowering intake of meat and dairy products, which are carbon-intensive to produce. 

Published by the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration in January this year, Denmark’s new set of guidelines has now introduced the carbon footprint of foods into its dietary recommendations. Among some of the suggestions include eating a varied plant-rich diet, consuming more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes, eating less meat and dairy, as well as reducing foods high in sugar, salt and fat

More specifically, the new advice says that meat intake should be limited to 350 grams of meat per week, a cut from the 500 grams per week in the previous 2013 edition. Instead, Danes should swap meat out for plant protein-rich legumes like beans and lentils, upping their intake of these foods to 100 grams daily

It is…timely that the guidelines are now taking a step further and helping the Danes who also want to eat more climate-friendly.

Rasmus Prehn, Denmark Minister of Food, Agriculture & Fisheries
Eat more veggies, fruit, whole grains and legumes, says Denmark’s new food guidelines. (Source: Getty)

It’s all a part of Denmark’s plan to cut 70% of its carbon emissions by the end of the decade, a commitment that is now legally binding thanks to the country’s recently passed policy that makes climate action unlawful

“For decades, the official dietary guidelines have given good advice on how we can eat healthy. It is therefore timely that the guidelines are now taking a step further and helping the Danes who also want to eat more climate-friendly,” commented Rasmus Prehn, the Danish minister of food, agriculture and fisheries. 

Prehn added that eating climate-friendly foods also coincidentally means eating more nutritious foods, a finding that scientists have substantiated in previous studies, such as a 2019 Oxford paper that outlined the strong correlation between sustainable and healthy foods. 

“There are no accusing fingers pointed but rather a simple guide that embraces both considerations — because fortunately, what is healthy for the climate, is typically also healthy for us. So, it is obvious that the dietary guidelines take the health of the planet into account,” said Prehn. 

Denmark is one of the first countries in the world to introduce sustainable dietary guidelines, despite the clear link between what we eat and the impact it has on the planet. A slew of scientific reports in recent years have detailed the urgent need for a shift to plant-centric diets, especially from rich countries whose meat and dairy-laden habits are fuelling rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation and pollution. 

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen’s administration put forward binding legislation to commit Denmark to slash its carbon emissions by 70% in 2030 compared to 1990 levels. (Source: AFP / Getty)

fortunately, what is healthy for the climate, is typically also healthy for us. So, it is obvious that the dietary guidelines take the health of the planet into account.

Rasmus Prehn, Denmark Minister of Food, Agriculture & Fisheries

A food footprint report conducted by Oslo-based nonprofit EAT found that if G20 states, among them the world’s largest economies, simply switched to a flexitarian diet that kept meat and dairy intake to a minimum, as much as 40% of the total global carbon budget for food could be freed up. Swapping out meat for plant protein could  

Another paper warns that without a drastic reduction in meat and dairy consumption, there’s little chance of meeting the Paris agreement goals, even if fossil fuels were eradicated immediately. 

Most recently, experts at the UNEP and international think tank Chatham House outlined in a report that the adoption of a predominantly plant-based food system is the only way we can avoid mass biodiversity loss, and the irreversible consequences that come with it. 

But while Denmark is leading on the issue, it’s by no means alone, with New Zealand’s Ministry of Health having made carbon-friendly eating recommendations back in 2019. Among some of the suggestions made in its sustainability report, the authorities strongly promoted plant-based diets and encouraged food businesses like restaurants, cafés and grocery shops to make vegan food choices more widely available. 


Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.

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