The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition in Parma, Italy has proposed a “double pyramid” to help guide food choices in an increasingly interconnected world where the impacts of culture, tradition, and family on food consumption patterns are waning.
One pyramid is driven by the nutrient content of foods relative to human needs, and reflects the contemporary USDA food pyramid. The second pyramid reflects life-cycle environmental impacts in terms of land, water, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Barilla Center concludes that:
“…those foods with higher recommended consumption levels, are also those with lower environmental impact. Contrarily, those foods with lower recommended consumption levels are also those with higher environmental impacts.” (Page 8).
Foods that should be consumed the most for nutritional and environmental reasons include fruits and vegetables, bread, pasta, and rice, legumes, and olive oil. Those that should be consumed less because of low nutritional value and high environmental impacts include sweets, red meat, cheese, and white meat.
The free, 150-page report by the Barilla Center entitled “Double Pyramid: healthy food for people,
sustainable food for the planet” is beautifully laid out and contains full details on the methodology and data sources used to construct the two pyramids.