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Tuesday, 19 April 2022

How to eat sustainably

Global warming, food shortages, environmental responsibility – oh my!

What do all of these things have in common? The answer is sustainable eating.

Our eating habits have a large impact on the environment, which is where sustainable eating comes into play. It’s about making a conscious choice about what we put onto our plates for the health of our bodies and the planet.

So, what does it all mean?

We’ve put together a list of some commonly used terms in the sustainable eating realm - this way, you can understand what it all means before taking a step in any direction.

  • Sustainable eating: Eating in a way that has a low environmental impact, contributes to food security for future generations and is nutritionally adequate. (Goulding et al., 2020)
  • Reducetarian: Someone who chooses to reduce the number of animal products they consume - the keyword here is ‘reduce’, not eliminate. (Reducetarian FAQs, n.d.)
  • Climatarian: People who tailor their diets according to what is least harmful to the environment, commonly cutting out foods with a high carbon footprint. (Climatarian: Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary, 2022)
  • Vegan: Any food prepared without ingredients produced by or derived from animals - this includes eggs, honey, whey, gelatin, and more. (What Is a Vegan? A Straightforward Definition, 2014)
  • Plant-based: This diet focuses heavily on plant foods, incorporating not only fruit and veg but nuts, seeds, whole grains etc. Not to be confused with vegan or vegetarian, plant-based means choosing to eat primarily from the plant-food category. (McManus, 2018)
  • Flexitarian: Flexible plus vegetarian equals flexitarian! This diet reduces meat and animal products during the week but does not entirely eliminate them, it’s all about personal preference. (Plant-Based Diets: What's the Fuss?, 2020)

Ok, this is a lot to digest – but don’t let it scare you off! Small changes can make a big difference, some of which you can find below.

Buy ‘imperfect’ produce: Brown spot on an apple? Odd-shaped potato? Choosing ‘imperfect’ produce saves food from landfills AND usually comes at a discount.

Cutting back on meat: It’s no secret that meat production takes a toll on the environment - Meat Free Mondays, half and half cooking*, or cutting back to one serving of meat per week are great ways to lessen the environmental burden of the meat production industry.

*Half and half cooking means replacing half of your main meat ingredient with vegetables, e.g. instead of using 100% mincemeat in your lasagne, use half mince and half lentils.

Buy in-season, certified organic: Why? They have more antioxidants and use fewer chemicals. Start with foods that you typically eat with the skin (apples, strawberries, cucumbers etc.) and go from there.

Buy genuine free-range eggs: The image many of us have of what free-range means is vastly different from reality. Legislation currently allows 10,000 hens per hectare of land, despite many animal welfare and consumer groups leaning towards 1,500 as the preferred standard. Do your research to understand where your eggs are really coming from!

Join a community garden: This is one that doesn’t have a downside. Joining your local community garden is environmentally friendly, great for community spirit, and means access to organic produce.

Buy in bulk: Bulk-buying means less packaging, less waste, and is often cheaper as well. Check out a farmers market, order a food delivery box, or buy by weight at your local supermarket.

Rotate your milk: It’s widely known that the dairy industry produces large amounts of greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change. Dairy-free, alternative, or plant-based milk - milk by any other name still tastes as sweet (or something like that). With so many varieties*, brands, tastes, and price points out there, why not try swapping your cow's milk for an alternative variety?

*Make sure to read the labels of alternative milk varieties, as many contain additives and sugar.

Feel good without costing the earth

Following a sustainable lifestyle can seem overwhelming from afar, but you don’t have to overhaul your life to make a difference! Start small and build your way up. Whether it’s swapping your dairy milk for oat, taking part in Meat Free Mondays, or setting up a veggie patch in your garden, every little bit counts.

Sustainable eating is investing in the future of our earth and its future generations – now, imagine being able to say that you were a part of that? Pretty cool, right?

Interested in Nutrition?

Discover more about how the food we eat affects the environment through Food and the Environment: from farm to fork, one of our Nutrition Short Course offerings.

References

Climatarian: definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (2022, January 19). Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/climatarian

Goulding, T., Lindberg, R., & Russell, C. G. (2020). Nutrition Journal. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-020-00606-z

McManus, K. D. (2018, September 26). What is a plant-based diet and why should you try it? Harvard Health. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/what-is-a-plant-based-diet-and-why-should-you-try-it-2018092614760

Plant-based diets: What's the fuss? (2020, June 16). Nutrition Australia. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://nutritionaustralia.org/division/nsw/plant-based-diets-whats-the-fuss/

Reducetarian FAQs. (n.d.). Reducetarian Foundation. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.reducetarian.org/faq

What is a Vegan? A Straightforward Definition. (2014, March 02). Vegan.com. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://vegan.com/info/what/

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