Are more environmentally sustainable diets with less meat and dairy nutritionally adequate?

S.M. Seves, Janneke Verkaik-Kloosterman, Sander Biesbroek, Elisabeth H.M. Temme*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Our current food consumption patterns, and in particular our meat and dairy intakes, cause high environmental pressure. The present modelling study investigates the impact of diets with less or no meat and dairy foods on nutrient intakes and assesses nutritional adequacy by comparing these diets with dietary reference intakes. Design Environmental impact and nutrient intakes were assessed for the observed consumption pattern (reference) and two replacement scenarios. For the replacement scenarios, 30 % or 100 % of meat and dairy consumption (in grams) was replaced with plant-based alternatives and nutrient intakes, greenhouse gas emissions and land use were calculated. Setting The Netherlands. Subjects Dutch adults (n 2102) aged 19-69 years. Results Replacing 30 % of meat and dairy with plant-based alternatives did not substantially alter percentages below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for all studied nutrients. In the 100 % replacement scenario, SFA intake decreased on average by ~35 % and Na intake by ~8 %. Median Ca intakes were below the Adequate Intake. Estimated habitual fibre, Fe and vitamin D intakes were higher; however, non-haem Fe had lower bioavailability. For Zn, thiamin and vitamin B12, 10-31 % and for vitamin A, 60 % of adults had intakes below the EAR. Conclusions Diets with all meat and dairy replaced with plant-based foods lowered environmental impacts by >40 %. Estimated intakes of Zn, thiamin, vitamins A and B12, and probably Ca, were below recommendations. Replacing 30 % was beneficial for SFA, Na, fibre and vitamin D intakes, neutral for other nutrients, while reducing environmental impacts by 14 %.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2050-2062
Number of pages13
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Land use
  • Meat and dairy
  • Micronutrients
  • Sustainable diet


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