I’ve been eating like Food Matters – the title of The Food Matters Cookbook‘s predecessor – for more than three years. During that period I’ve met scores of people – and heard about hundreds of others – who’ve either come to similar diets on their own (it’s not that complicated, after all) or read Food Matters and been inspired by it to change their diets.
The result of my own and just about everyone else’s experiences (as well as most of the research studies that have been published in recent years), have confirmed the conclusion I reached in the first place: If you swap the basic proportions in your diet—increasing unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains—you’ll wind up losing weight and improving your overall health while also improving more difficult-to-measure situations like global warming, the environment in general, and animal welfare.
By some calculations, at least 80 percent of the calories most Americans eat come from food that is either animal based or highly processed. That leaves less than 20 percent that come from what we used to call natural or whole foods –meaning fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. We consume 200 pounds of meat per year (that’s about 8 ounces a day, twice the global average), 237 pounds of dairy, and 32 pounds of eggs. That’s more than 469 pounds of animal products per capita, over a pound a day.
Think of a seesaw, the heavy side loaded down with animal products and junk, the light side with the food that’s actually good for us. Eating and cooking like food matters means that we flip this seesaw in the other direction, loading the heavy side with plant foods while minimizing meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and processed foods. That’s the personal health part.
But the answer is the same when it comes to sustainability. The pattern of our current consumption requires taxes the earth’s resources way beyond what’s available. More than twenty years ago, we reached a point known as “ecological overshoot,” and now the stress we’re putting on the planet—to feed our consumption and absorb our waste—requires 1.3 planet Earths to accommodate it. In other words, our planet needs a year and four months to regenerate the resources we’re gobbling up each year. (We’re going to need two planets’ worth of resources quite soon, and if the entire world lived the average American lifestyle we would need four planet Earths.) We’re at a breaking point, and the only viable solution is to reduce demand for the foods that take the most resources to raise.
What you are eating is just as important as what you’re not. When you reduce the amount of animal products and processed food in your diet you wind up eating a lot more plants, and these are precisely the ingredients that will improve both your health and the health of the planet. All you have to do is change the proportion of some foods you eat in favor of others. It’s that simple.
A week from today my new book, The Food Matters Cookbook, will be released in stores. It’s a collection of 500 recipes that “flip the seesaw”, tipping it away from meat and dairy and towards fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Some of the recipes are familiar classics that have re-imagined and re-proportioned to fit the Food Matters ideal, while others are likely dishes that you’ve never tried before.
Because I just can’t wait for the book to launch, I’m posting a week’s worth of sneak-peak Food Matters Cookbook recipes, one a day, starting last Thursday (the book officially launches tomorrow, but the recipes will run through the 23rd). Be the first ones to test them out and let me know what you think via retweets or comments on the blog. If you like them, you can pre-order the book today, or pick up a copy in stores on Tuesday. Then start cooking like food matters.