How Eating Less Can Help Save Our Food System

CC BY 2.0. Jeremy Bronson

Rather than fretting about the small details of North America's broken food system, one writer suggests that focusing more on small portions would be a better option.

The foodie elite of North America spends a lot of time debating the finer details of our food system. There are passionate discussions about the carbon sequestration of grass-fed systems, the amount of animal suffering on so-called “humane” farms, and so on, but it appears that we’re overlooking a big piece of the puzzle.

James McWilliams, a professor from Texas State University, thinks that a single shift in perspective could make a big difference. In an article called “The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less,” he argues that if only Americans and Canadians would eat less and reduce their average daily caloric intake from 3,000 to 2,000 calories, then we could resolve a number of serious issues with our food system.

For example, obesity levels would decrease and overall personal health would improve. McWilliams cites a famous study in which primates who were fed a diet restricted by 30 percent for 25 years lived longer and were healthier.

Fewer animals would suffer. There are 10 billion animals slaughtered annually in the U.S. for consumption, despite the fact that 75 percent of Americans say we should “eliminate all forms of animal cruelty and suffering.” Since many of the extra calories we now eat are animal products, reducing that amount would have the direct impact of saving lives.

It makes sense, too, that by reducing the number of higher-quality calories consumed by upper- and middle-class eaters, there could be more and better food available for poorer people. Currently, much of the obesity epidemic can be blamed on the “underlying fear of scarcity [that] makes it nearly impossible not to eat heaps of cheap and easily accessible junk.”

Shifting the debate away from narrow paradigms such as GMO vs. non-GMO, organic vs. non-organic, and meat-eater vs. vegan toward “how much food do I actually need?” is not nearly as glamorous or exciting as shopping at Whole Foods, and it ultimately requires a reduction in the number of servings of the food that often gives great pleasure, but McWilliams presents a compelling argument for why and how it can change our food system for the better.

Now you can chew on that, instead of taking seconds.