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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.
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.
Dutch adults (n 2102) aged 19–69 years.
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.
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 %.
Food has a considerable environmental impact. Diets with less meat and dairy reduce environmental impact but may pose nutritional challenges for children. The current modelling study investigates the impact of diets with less or no meat and dairy products on nutrient intakes.
Energy and nutrient intakes were assessed for observed consumption patterns (reference) and two replacement scenarios with data from the Dutch National Food Consumption Survey – Young Children (2005–2006). In the replacement scenarios, 30 % or 100 % of the consumed dairy and meat (in grams) was replaced by plant-derived foods with similar use.
Children (n 1279) aged 2–6 years.
Partial and full replacement of meat and dairy foods by plant-derived foods reduced SFA intake by 9 % and 26 %, respectively, while fibre intake was 8 % and 29 % higher. With partial replacement, micronutrient intakes were similar, except for lower vitamin B12 intake. After full meat and dairy replacement, mean intakes of Ca, Zn and thiamin decreased by 5–13 %, and vitamin B12 intake by 49 %, while total intake of Fe was higher but of lower bioavailability. With full replacement, the proportion of girls aged 4–6 years with intakes below recommendations was 15 % for thiamin, 10 % for vitamin B12 and 6 % for Zn.
Partial replacement of meat and dairy by plant-derived foods is beneficial for children’s health by lowering SFA intake, increasing fibre content and maintaining similar micronutrient intakes. When full replacements are made, attention is recommended to ensure adequate thiamin, vitamin B12 and Zn intakes.
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