According to the nutrition recommendations, people should eat less red meat and fewer meat products and more vegetables, berries, fruit, nuts, seeds, wholegrain products and legumes. In Finland, the recommended upper limit for meat consumption is 500 grammes a week, but Finns eat 40 per cent more than this recommendation, on average. Men exceed the recommendation by as much as 75 per cent.
Eating less meat is also good the environment: beef, mutton, venison and dairy products are the worst alternatives in terms of the climate, because the greenhouse gases and emissions of animal husbandry are worldwide greater than those of traffic. Animal husbandry is also one of the greatest consumers of water in the world: to produce one kilo of beef requires more than 15,000 litres of water, on average.
Pork or chicken are not better, because cultivating the feed for these animals is unsustainable and requires a large amount of land. Part of this animal feed is soy, and the expanding cultivation of soy is leading to the destruction of valuable rainforests in South America. For instance, to produce just one kilo of pork you need four kilos of grain. If the agricultural land currently used to produce animal-based foods were used, instead, to produce vegetables for human consumption, more food would be available for the people of the world and the habitats of endangered species could expand.
The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations encourage people to replace some of their meat consumption with fish. In terms of the environment, the best alternative is to prefer fish species from nearby waters, for instance, pike, perch, whitefish and Baltic herring in Finland. This is also good for the environment, because more than 70 per cent of the fish we eat is imported from abroad, where many fish species already now are endangered. At the same time, many species of fish in our local waters are under-utilized. In addition to fish, tofu, soy mince, mushrooms or nuts make good substitutes for meat.
Preferring environmentally friendly choices does not necessarily mean abandoning your favourite food. For instance, reducing your meat consumption to a more reasonable 500 grammes a week still means you can eat around five meals containing meat every week. A diet containing more vegetables benefits, not only the environment, but also your health.
More tips for environmentally friendly eating are offered in WWF's food guide and fish guide.
The latest Nordic Nutrition Recommendations were published in October 2013, and over one hundred specialists took part in preparing them. The Nutrition Recommendations don't concentrate only on the amount of fat or carbohydrates we take in; they also pay attention to the overall diet, the quality of foodstuffs and their importance as a source of nutrients.