Plant-forward eating: a diet for a better future
Average read time: 4 minutes
Lately the term ‘plant forward’ has popped up in Internet articles and conversations about nutrition. But what does a plant-forward eating style entail? How does it differ from a plant-based diet, or from being a vegan or vegetarian?
Plant forward is a style of cooking and eating that highlights and celebrates plant-based foods but is not necessarily limited to them. Unlike veganism or vegetarianism, meat and other animal proteins can be included in this way of eating, but they’re not the main component of meals. Instead, a wide variety of plant-based foods play a new starring role on the plate: these include fruit and vegetables, beans and other pulses, whole grains, soy foods, nuts, seeds, plant oils, herbs, and spices.
So when you shift to this way of eating, there’s no need to pass on the pork chops or say ‘ciao’ to cheese every time – you can still eat nutritious animal proteins but in moderation. The idea is to resist piling your plate with meat and instead let plant-based foods be the ‘heroes’ of every meal.
Many nutrition and health experts favor the plant-forward concept over, for example, strict veganism, as it’s a way of eating and cooking that is inclusive of a wide variety of dietary preferences. Someone who has been a devoted meat-eater for decades, for instance, might be highly reluctant to give up steak and chops altogether, but willing to eat more plant foods in the knowledge that animal proteins are not off the menu forever.
Why should we adopt a plant-forward lifestyle?
In a nutshell, plant-forward eating is good for you, and good for our precious planet. Our current eating habits are just not sustainable. Globally, we rely on a small range of foods, and this negatively impacts our health and the health of the environment. Difficult though it may be to believe, the fact is that 75 percent of the global food supply comes from only 12 plant and five animal species. In the entire human diet, just three staples (rice, maize, and wheat) make up nearly 60 percent of calories derived from plants.
This dependence on such a tiny range of crops excludes many valuable sources of nutrition. While people may be getting sufficient calories, these narrow diets do not provide enough vitamins and minerals. As a result, an estimated two billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, which is in part due to our limited diets.
Over-reliance on animal-based protein sources puts additional strain on our environment, and current agricultural practices cannot be sustained in the long term. Total agriculture accounts for around a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, of which approximately 60 percent are due to animal agriculture. Producing meat, dairy, and eggs uses more water and land than plant production, and is also among the leading causes of climate change, soil erosion, and a decrease in biodiversity. Intensive farming of animal products also contributes to pollution through liquid waste discharged into rivers and seas.
Is plant-forward eating the solution?
Shifting from a largely animal-based diet to a plant-forward lifestyle is in line with evidence-based national dietary guidelines, as plant foods have fewer calories, more fibre, less saturated fat, and more good fats. This way of eating also promotes dietary diversity and can provide the micronutrients we need. Studies have shown that such eating habits may lead to better health in human populations and put less strain on the environment.
How Unilever contributes towards a more plant-forward world
As one of the world’s biggest companies, Unilever has taken up the responsibility to champion ways to cook and eat that are better for you, and good for the planet. One of the many ways we’re taking on this challenge is to offer practical ideas for making the shift from animal-based diets to plant-forward eating, in a way that is tasty but still sustainable. Our recipe recommendations are a great starting point if you’re ready to make the shift: visit to explore a wide variety of flavourful plant-forward meals!
We’re also encouraging plant-forward eating through our brands. Knorr’s purpose is centred around reinventing food for humanity. One of the ways this purpose has been brought to life is through our , which were selected in partnership with the WWF to help our people diversify their meals and make better food choices – without ever compromising on flavour.