A diet which is healthy for people and sustainable for the Planet

Double Pyramid

The food pyramid becomes the double food and environmental pyramid

The double food and environmental pyramid model developed by the BCFN Foundation emerged from research and an evolution of the food pyramid, which forms the basis of the Mediterranean diet.

The double food and environmental pyramid highlights the extremely close links between two aspects of every food: its nutritional value and the environmental impact it has through the stages of its production and consumption. Foods with a lower environmental impact are also recommended by nutritionists for their health benefits, while foods with a high environmental impact should be consumed with moderation because of the effects they can have on our health.

The food pyramid becomes the double food and environmental pyramid

Double pyramid for children

Studies show that a balanced diet during childhood is crucial for correct growth, reducing the likelihood of the child becoming overweight and suffering from associated illnesses.

Double pyramid for children
Double pyramid for children

Only 1% of children between 6 and 10 years have correct eating habits, which comply with the food pyramid. Often children’s diets provide a calorie intake which is higher than they need, with an excessive amount of fat and sugar, at the expense of fruit and vegetables.

The children’s double pyramid recommends a plant-based diet: consisting of cereals (especially wholegrain, which are full of fibre and protective elements), and fruit and vegetables. Further up the pyramid are legumes, milk and dairy, eggs, meat and fish. Intake of food with high fat and sugar content should be limited.

Double pyramid for adults

The food pyramid fits nicely alongside the environmental pyramid, encouraging us to eat fruit and vegetables, rising upwards to cereals, legumes, extra-virgin olive oil and dairy products. Towards the top of the pyramid is cheese, white meat, fish, eggs and biscuits. These are foods which we need to try to consume less: they provide important nutrients, but we need to keep the amount we eat under control to prevent them from having negative effects on our health and the environment.

Double pyramid for adults

For adults, the double pyramid shows that the Mediterranean diet allows us to eat in a sustainable way, following the recommendations of nutritionists and avoiding negative environmental and economic impacts.

Double pyramid for adults

Food in the Double Pyramid

With the differences highlighted for children and adults, the double pyramid assesses various foods first and foremost based on their nutritional value and therefore the impact they have on our health.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables

Are low in calories and supply the body with water, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Extra-virgin olive oil

Extra-virgin olive oil

Contains triglycerides (rich in monounsaturated fatty acids), essential fatty acids, vitamin E, polyphenols and phytosterols, with protective elements for our bodies.



Cheese

Cheese contains protein and fat, and hardly any carbohydrates. It is particularly interesting to note that its calcium content, in a form which can be easily absorbed by the body, can play a significant part in helping us to meet our calcium intake requirement.

Cereals

Cereals

Is a wide ranging category encompassing many different foods. Pasta is rich in starch, with a moderate protein content and a significant level of fat. Rice contains a high level of starch, a low amount of protein and an even lower level of fat. Potatoes are rich in starch and carbohydrates, contain very little fat and protein, and are one of our main sources of potassium and phosphorous. Bread is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, supplying the body with a sufficient amount of carbohydrates. Legumes are the plant-based food with the highest protein content, and also provide a high level of fibre. They are an alternative to meat because they provide very high quality protein, rich in essential amino-acids which are easy to digest, and are an excellent source of B vitamins (especially B1, niacin and B12) and minerals such as iron, calcium and zinc.

Eggs

Eggs

Contain protein with a biological value so high that for many years the protein composition of eggs has been used as a benchmark to assess the quality of protein in other foods.

Milk and yoghurt

Milk and yoghurt

Milk contains high levels of vitamin A, B vitamins (B1, B2, B12), and pantothenic acid, and is one of the main sources of calcium. Compared to milk, yoghurt has a high nutritional value and is easier to digest for those who are lactose-intolerant thanks to its lactase bacteria content.

Meat

Meat

Especially if it is lean, meat is an important food because it is a source of high quality protein. The fat content varies: it can range from almost zero to nearly 30%, depending on the type of meat. They are mainly saturated and monounsaturated fats, with just a few polyunsaturated fats. Priority should be given to white meats, while red meats should be eaten in moderation, as shown by the various versions of the food pyramids developed by several national and international institutions, which all place them at the tip of the pyramid.

Fish

Fish

Contains protein with a high biological value and variable levels of fat, which can reach up to 10% of the overall weight. The fat found in fish contains polyunsaturated fatty acids. It is also important to note that the family of fatty acids known as omega-3 is especially beneficial for preventing cardiovascular illnesses.

Sweets

Sweets

Contain high levels of fats and simple sugars, so should be consumed very occasionally and are placed at the tip of the pyramid for both children and adults.

Biscuits

Biscuits

Are made up of various ingredients with nutrients and energy values which range extremely widely. In general, they contain high levels of simple sugars, while the level of fat is hugely variable, normally somewhere between 9% and 25%.

Food and Environmental Sustainability

As the double pyramid shows, the environmental impact of our food varies depending on what we put on our plate.

To examine this idea further, the BCFN Foundation analysed the impact of the weekly diets, which are balanced from a nutritional viewpoint and with the same calorie content.

Sustainable Menu: includes both meat (with a preference for white meat) and fish, focusing on achieving the right balance between plant and animal protein.

Vegetarian Menu: excludes meat and fish, protein sources are plant-based (legumes) and animal-origin protein is provided by cheese, other dairy foods and eggs.

Meat-based Menu: : includes a higher consumption of protein from animal origins.

Food and Environmental Sustainability
Food and Environmental Sustainability

The BCFN Foundation’s sustainable menu and the vegetarian menu both have a lower environmental impact compared to the meat-based menu. In practice, if over the course of a year a person avoids eating meat two days a week, they would save 310kg of CO2 per year. And if all Italians stopped eating meat for one day a week, we would achieve an overall saving of 198,000 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of almost 105,000 families or 1.5 billion kilometres of car journeys. In short, one less meat dish a week would be as beneficial as 3.5 million fewer cars on the road for one year.

Help us to spread the double pyramid

The double food and environmental pyramid has two great benefits: one on hand, it provides an excellent overview of the key information acquired by the medical sector, studies on food and research into the impact of our choices on the planet, and on the other hand, it is a powerful educational tool thanks to its simple and intuitive graphics.

You can also help to spread the double food and environmental pyramid and share the recommendations for a healthy and sustainable diet. Download, use and share the infographics below. If you wish to reproduce them, please complete the form to request authorisation by indicating how you will be using them.

Food and Environmental Sustainability

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