Shifting to a Plant-Based Diet: New Online Course Reveals How Policy Impacts Our Food Choices

Posted on Friday June 10, 2022
Andrea Glenn
Andrea Glenn

For many people, the appeal of adopting a plant-based diet comes from its various health and environmental benefits; however, enjoying those benefits isn’t always attainable or easy for everyone, and it’s likely not their fault. Regardless of personal intention, implementing and maintaining a healthy diet can come with challenges outside of ourselves.  

As Andrea Glenn, Policy Implications of Plant-Based Diets course instructor explains, there are various social, economic, environmental and political factors that play a role in our food system. These factors may even act as barriers to people wanting to adopt a plant-based diet.  

“Lobbying by powerful food companies and the animal agriculture industry can block reforms to changes in our food system that could benefit our health and the environment,” Glenn says. “It is important to understand that this occurs so that we, as individuals and as a society as a whole, can affect change in order to implement policies that will get more people to adopt a diet that is both healthier for them personally, but also better for their communities and the planet.” 

This means understanding these policies can help lead the way for more people to experience the advantages of a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets offer a multitude of benefits, notably playing a role in chronic disease prevention such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Glenn notes that the environmental benefits are also evident, with plant-based diets “having smaller ecological footprints than diets heavier in animal products.” An added benefit for animal lovers is that it contributes positively to animal welfare because of its emphasis on plant-based protein. 

For anyone interested in learning more about plant-based diets, Glenn offers some insight. “It is important for anyone who wishes to promote a plant-based diet to understand the complex factors around something as fundamental as what we eat,” she says. For example, Glenn explains how food policy and politics play a key role in food availability, production and marketing, all which contribute to our relationship with food.  

In her course, she hopes to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to critique nutrition information in the media. She also covers several public health approaches and food regulations in Canada that are related to plant-based diets, as well as discussing some future approaches that could be implemented.  

“To support these diets on a population level, we need effective policies that make these diets the easier choice,” says Glenn.  

For those wanting to make a positive change and help better support their environment, Glenn wants you to know that you can get involved in food advocacy and public policy through community involvement and governmental activities, or simply through your own fork.  

Policy Implications of Plant-Based Diets starts July 4, 2022.  

 

Andrea Glenn is a registered dietitian and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto.