Sustainability has become a bit of a buzzword lately, as we are all becoming more and more aware of its importance in protecting the health of our planet. But what does it mean to have a sustainable diet? And what changes can we make to adopt a more sustainable diet? Read below to find out!
Sustainable healthy diets have been described by the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation as “dietary patterns that promote all dimensions of individuals’ health and wellbeing; have low environmental pressure and impact; are accessible, affordable, safe and equitable; and are culturally acceptable”. As you can see, there are a lot of different factors that contribute to sustainable healthy diets, and these involve both our own health and that of our planet.
In the UK and worldwide, as much as 30% of greenhouse gas emissions are linked to food production, which plays a role in global warming. Therefore, changes to our food choices and how we prepare our food are key steps that we can make to combat climate change. Often, we do not need to make drastic changes to our diet and lifestyle. It is the small things that we do on a regular basis that can make a big difference.
One major factor to consider when it comes to sustainability is food waste. Every year in the UK, 10 million tonnes of food that is produced is wasted, with 71% of this waste occurring within the home. However, changes to our actions can achieve areal difference here, as 60% of food waste is avoidable.
There are many small changes that you can make to your lifestyle that can help to reduce the damage done to the environment and improve both your health and the health of our planet. Below are some tips that may help you to reduce food waste and achieve a more sustainable, healthy diet.
- Try to plan out your meals and make a shopping list accordingly. Avoid the temptation of promotional deals in supermarkets such as “3 for 2” or “buy one get one free”, especially for fresh food. Unless this is something that you actually need, it may very well end up as waste.
- Choose fruit and vegetables that are in season where possible. For September, these include blackberries, raspberries, pears, aubergines, broccoli, carrots, courgettes, spinach and tomatoes, to name just a few! Try to avoid excess packaging when buying fruit and vegetables and use a reusable bag for loose ones where possible.
- Sometimes it can be difficult to buy the right amount of fresh fruit or vegetables, especially if shopping for one person. In the UK, 1.2 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables are thrown away each year! This is where frozen or canned versions can be very helpful. For example, frozen vegetables can be stored in your freezer for whenever you need them and are useful additions to many dishes, while frozen berries can make great porridge toppings. If choosing canned fruit, try to avoid those canned in syrup, as this will increase the amount of sugar present.
- If you are buying fish, try to choose those with the Marine Stewardship Council or Aquaculture Stewardship Council symbols, which indicate that they are from sustainable sources.
Food Choice Tips:
- Reducing consumption of red meat and processed meat is recommended to achieve a more sustainable healthy diet. There are ways of reducing your consumption of red meat without cutting it out altogether. For example, if you are cooking a minced meat-based dish, such as Shepherd’s Pie, Chilli con Carne or Spaghetti Bolognese, you could replace half of the meat in the recipe with lentils, chickpeas or beans. This could also help you to increase diversity in your diet and increase your fibre intake.
- Get creative with your leftovers! If you have some extra food leftover from dinner, instead of throwing it out, try to think of some ways that you could use it in your lunch the next day. This may mean adding it to a salad, sandwich or wrap and is a great way of adding some variety to your lunchtime!
- Befriend your freezer! The power of the freezer cannot be underestimated. Leftovers from dinners such as curries or stews can be frozen in portions to use during a busy week, while bread can be frozen and defrosted in portions whenever needed to prevent it from going off.
- If you have vegetables in the bottom of your fridge that are nearing the end of their days and are about to go off, try using them to make a vegetable soup-perfect for the wintery days ahead.
- Don’t forget the importance of simple steps, such as bringing reusable water bottles and coffee cups with you to cut down on single use plastic; separating waste from food packaging into the correct bins; and only boiling the amount of water in the kettle that you need while cooking, to avoid wasting electricity.
It is up to each of us as individuals to make the changes that we can to minimise the damage done to our environment. Remember that every little helps and that the small things you do on a regular basis can make all the difference!