Many people are talking about sustainability these days, highlighting the importance of adopting eco-friendly practices that contribute to a healthier environment. And while most people associate green habits with recycling clothes or using reusable shopping bags, your food choices can also impact the environment.
Raising animals and growing crops for food production generates a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, so it’s no wonder why climate experts believe that everyone from individuals to industries, and especially the government, must introduce systems that focus more on sustainability – and this also includes sustainable eating.
Understanding sustainable eating and its health benefits
Simply put, sustainable eating means choosing foods that benefit the environment while also meeting your nutrition needs. The way food is grown directly impacts the planet – after all, water, food, soil, air, and your health – they are all connected. According to researchers, reducing beef consumption resulted in a decrease of 50% in greenhouse gas emissions.
However, it is worth noting that individual choices play only a minor role in combating the effects of climate change – agricultural practices also impact ecosystems, from the chemical and fertilizers used in the process and the transportation of food to water use and food packaging. In fact, a 2022 study showed that food transportation was responsible for around 1/5 of food systems emissions. Moreover, 70% of freshwater is utilized in agriculture. From an ecological perspective, these unsustainable practices can have severe consequences for the planet unless action is taken to reverse them.
Tips for eating more sustainably
As with any dietary change, adopting a sustainable diet may be easier if you approach the process gradually. Aiming to make a major change all at once can be challenging, even leading you to return to your old diet if you feel like you can’t keep up with the new dietary habits. So, it’s better to make small yet achievable changes, and there are some simple ways to do so, which we will discuss below.
Eat plant-based proteins instead of animal-based ones
Animal proteins require more resources to produce, including energy, land, and water. But this isn’t the case for plant-based protein, making it a great option if you want to embrace sustainable eating. Besides, eating a plant-based diet also benefits your health, providing you with a great source of vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.
Here are some ideas on how to adopt a plant-based diet:
- Include chickpeas and beans in your salads and soups – they are brimming with minerals and vitamins, offering a lot of health benefits;
- Add seeds and nuts to your oatmeal, or eat them as an afternoon snack. Whether walnuts, almonds, or cashews, make sure to buy your nuts from a reputable nuts supplier that follows high sustainable standards when producing them,
- Choose lentils instead of ground beef for recipes like lasagna, spaghetti Bolognese, or cabbage rolls. Lentils are a great source of fiber, helping lower cholesterol and protecting you against illnesses like colon cancer and diabetes, making them a great addition to your diet.
- Add soy beverage to your fruit smoothies instead of milk.
Choose sustainably sourced foods
Sustainable sourcing refers to choosing ingredients (whether meat or agricultural produce) that are farmed with sustainable considerations in mind. This means that besides the economic aspect, farmers also consider the social and environmental impact of their activities. Farming methods can involve burning forests to ensure the soil is fertile for the next season’s harvest. Unfortunately, this can cause long-term to the planet.
However, more companies are now committed to providing sustainably sourced foods to their customers, tackling the challenges in agricultural processes, and creating real impact. For instance, chocolate, although really delicious, is one of the most harmful foods to the environment, and that’s due to the poor agricultural practices involved in its production. Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to give up on eating chocolate altogether. Instead, you want to look for a cocoa manufacturer that strives to create a more positive future for cocoa by making it more sustainable.
Consider growing your own food
There’s no better way to know exactly how your food is produced than by growing it yourself. And what’s great about gardening is that you can still do it even if you have a smaller space – for instance, you can create an indoor herb garden. Consider experimenting with several recipes made of local herbs and food, as there are plenty that you can try!
By growing your own food, you can reduce transportation emissions and avoid using pesticides or chemicals that are also damaging to the environment. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the veggies and fruits you buy from the store are fresh, but this is no longer a concern when growing them in your garden – besides, they will likely be tastier and more nutritious!
Decrease food waste
According to the FDA, food waste makes up 30-40% of the entire food supply, making it essential to cut back on it.
This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Planning your meals for each day of the week and incorporating foods that are already in your pantry and fridge, ensuring you will only purchase what is really necessary;
- Use frozen foods as frequently as you can, as this allows you to use only the amount you need for a single recipe. Let’s say you want to make a stir-fry; in this case, you can use only use as much frozen broccoli as necessary for the recipe instead of only using half of it and throwing out the rest;
- Cook new meals with leftovers – for instance, you can turn roasted vegetables and glazed trout into seafood chowder. But this is just an idea – there are endless recipes you can try!
Eating more sustainably can seem overwhelming at first, but if you start small, you will succeed in making these changes in your diet, reaping tremendous benefits for your health and the planet.