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Eat well and emissions will fall

New dietary guidelines suggest people should eat less dairy and red and processed meat, but more pulses and fruit and veg.

The Eatwell Guide, which replaces the Eatwell Plate, reflects recent nutritional recommendations, including those on sugar, fibre and starchy carbohydrates from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition report on Carbohydrates and Health in 2015.

The advice suggests carbohydrates and fruit and vegetables should make up 38% and 40% of daily consumption respectively. Beans, pulses and meat should form 12% of food intake, but people should “eat less red and processed meat”. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt should make up no more than 8%, as should dairy.

Dairy industry representatives said they were “baffled” by the decision to reduce the dairy food group from 15% to 8%. Dairy UK said it was “not consulted”, though Public Health England maintained that industry and agricultural sectors were part of an external reference group.

“The guide is based on robust scientific evidence,” said PHE chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone.

The guidelines have been based on purely nutritional research in order to promote a healthy, balanced diet. However, an analysis by the Carbon Trust showed that the new guide has “an appreciably lower environmental impact than the current UK diet”.

For an equivalent provision of energy, the Eatwell Guide has a 32% lower environmental footprint than the current national diet, the analysis suggests.

A number of differences contribute to the lower carbon footprint, including the reduced amounts of dairy, meat, rice, pasta, pizza and sweet foods.

Campaign group Eating Better welcomed the changes, but urged PHE to push the “less meat” message harder. There is also “no attempt to promote more sustainable farming methods”, said a spokeswoman.