How to be more environmentally cautious through the food you eat.
The foods we choose to eat have a direct impact on our environment. If we don’t lower our greenhouse gas emissions by around 70-95% then not so far in the future we will see catastrophic consequences such as extreme heat, drought, floods and extreme poverty and world hunger. Our current food habits account for around 18-25% of total greenhouse gasses.
With all this doom and gloom, the good news is that there are things that we can all do to help stop this from happening. One of the ways that we can do this is through changing the foods that we eat and the way that we produce these foods.
Start by making a positive change to a healthy balanced diet
Healthy diets are crucial, for our wellbeing, optimal health and reducing disease risk. Globally, however, an unhealthy diet is currently one of the top risk factors for lifestyle-related diseases. It might also surprise you that things we can control such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating well and not smoking, can reduce your risk of deadly chronic diseases by as much as 80%. Your risk of developing diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer are also largely affected by malnourishment and poor dietary habits, as many as one in three are known to be malnourished globally.
What is meant by ‘Sustainable Diet’?
‘Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy while optimizing natural and human resources.’ – Food and Agriculture Association
How much impact does food have on greenhouse gasses?
Over a quarter of global emissions come from food. More than half of food emissions come from animal products with half of all farmed animal emissions coming from beef and lamb. Being aware of where our food is produced is also important, as the same food can have big differences in environmental impact. For example, beef raised on deforested land is responsible for 12 times more greenhouse gas emissions than cows reared on natural pastures. Even the most climate-friendly meat options still produce more greenhouse gases than vegetarian protein sources, like beans or nuts.
Meat and dairy are not the only foods where the choices you make can make a big difference. Chocolate and coffee originating from deforested rainforest produce relatively high greenhouse gases.
Ways you can help the environment through the food you eat
Red meat - if you eat red meat, try to reduce your intake to no more than 70g/per day or 350g-500g per week (cooked weight).
Plant proteins - increase beans and lentils, soya (beans, mince, nuts, tofu, mycoprotein (Quorn), nuts and seeds.
Fish- increase fish from sustainable sources and follow oily fish recommendations.
Dairy - moderate dairy consumption and use calcium fortified plant-based alternatives where needed.
Potatoes, bread, pasta, rice and other starchy carbohydrate foods - increase recommended wholegrain and tubers such as potatoes
Fruit and vegetables - increase consumption of seasonal and locally produced vegetables and fruit (tinned and frozen). Reduce air freighted, pre-packaged prepared fruit and veg.
Portion control - reduce consumption of animal proteins and moderate your dairy intake. Try to avoid high fat, sugar and salt foods.
Hydration - drink tap water, tea and coffee over soft drinks.
Reduce waste - reduce waste of perishable fruit and vegetables and recycle any food waste