Danish official dietary guidelines include C02 emissions for first time

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Getty/Tatiana Volgutova
Getty/Tatiana Volgutova

Related tags: Denmark, Climate change, Meat, legumes

Denmark’s new official dietary guidelines offer Danes advice on how to eat healthier and also more climate-friendly.

The advice, replacing those introduced in 2013, encourages Danes to, among other things, eat more legumes, more vegetables and less meat.

The new official dietary guidelines are part of the government's plan to reduce its climate footprint by 70% by 2030.

The recommended amount of meat has been reduced from 500g to 350g a week, according to the new guidelines. They also include a recommendation for a daily intake of 100 g of legumes such as beans, chickpeas and lentils.

The official dietary advice - good for health and climate

  • Eat plant-rich, varied and not too much 
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits 
  • Eat less meat - choose legumes and fish 
  • Eat whole grains 
  • Choose vegetable oils and low-fat dairy products 
  • Eat less of the sweet, salty and fatty 
  • Quench your thirst with water
  • The need for vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients is covered in the new dietary guidelines. 

“For decades the official dietary guidelines have given good advice on how we can eat healthy​,” said the Danish Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Rasmus Prehn. “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.”

A spokesperson from The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration added: It is a political goal to reduce the CO2 emissions in Denmark. At the same time, studies show that the Danes actually want to live more climate-friendly, but lack knowledge, e.g. about which foods are the most climate-friendly.”

“The existing knowledge also show that eating healthy can go well hand in hand with eating climate-friendly. Therefore, it makes good sense to combine these two aspects in the official dietary guidelines.”

An average Danish diet has a climate footprint around 4-5 kg ​​CO2 per person per day, according to the Technical University of Denmark.

Other studies show even higher levels. According to the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark we can cut approx. 20-35% of the CO2 footprint from our diet by eating a more plant-rich diet, reduce the meat consumption, and at the same time choose from the most climate-friendly foods.”

The Danish diet is often lauded for its high fish content such as herring and mackerel. But the spokesperson claimed Danes eat too much meat and too few legumes.

Studies show that Danes on average eat more than 1 kg meat per week. That’s around the European average, but three times the amount suggested in the new Danish dietary guidelines (350 g per week). In addition, the average intake of legumes is close to zero, while the guidelines suggest an intake of 100 g per day.

“Some Danes may be close to eating according to the new guidelines. Many others are far from. In general, it will be a big task getting all Danes to eat far less meat and instead more legumes like beans and lentils,”​ continued the spokesperson.

“If we succeed in getting the Danes to eat a more plant-rich diet, cut down in the meat, and at the same time choose from the most climate-friendly foods, we can cut approximately 20-35% of the CO2 footprint from our diet, which we believe is a big step in the right direction.”

In order to achieve dietary changes according to the new dietary guidelines, i.e. getting the Danes to cut down on the meat and instead eat more legumes, vegetables and wholegrains, the spokesperson said cooperation would be needed between health NGOs, the food industry, retailers, canteens and food professionals.

“It will be necessary to achieve both more knowledge, motivation as well as behavioral changes, combined with structural changes, that make the healthy and more climate friendly choices more accessible,” ​we were told.

The spokesperson added the country had learned lessons from its experience in upping wholegrain intake among Danes.

“In Denmark we have good experiences with our efforts to increase the Danes' intake of whole grains. Together with a wide range of partners in the Danish Whole Grain Partnership, we have succeeded in getting the Danes to eat far more whole grains than they did just 10 years ago. This gives us good reason to believe that we can also achieve a positive effect on other parameters in the diet.”

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