Do you want to overhaul your diet but don’t know where to start? Here’s three simple ways to introduce sustainable eating into your daily life
We make decisions about what we eat at least three times a day. That’s a lot of opportunities for small changes to have a big impact. Sustainable eating is a concept that going to take centre stage in 2019. The United Nations estimates that by 2050 the world’s population will have reached nearly TEN billion people. According to the World Health Organisation, currently over 1.9 billion adults are overweight. Over 650 million of whom are obese. While on the other hand, more than two billion people suffer from nutritional deficiencies. One of the greatest challenges the world faces today is to figure out how to re-engineer our food systems. More specifically, how to deliver enough nutritious food for a rapidly growing global population. All the while minimising the environmental impact of doing so. Because we know that right now, the way we’re eating isn’t working. Isn’t working for our health or that of the environment.
What can we do?
Certain foods carry a greater carbon footprint than others. There is a broad consensus among experts that meat and dairy are the greatest contributors of human-derived greenhouse gas emissions. While fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods are the lowest. Current food production is estimated to contribute 20-30% of human GHGEs. It is also the leading cause of biodiversity loss, deforestation, water and land use. The much-publicised recently published Lancet Commission report EAT outlined an optimal Planetary Health dietary pattern. This was designed to meet nutritional and environmental needs via a sustainable food system for the future. How? Well, that’s the million dollar question. While experts around the world figure that out, we can help ourselves. Here are some very simple changes we can all make to how we eat which will benefit ourselves and the environment. None of which involve unnecessary exclusion of any food groups or extreme lifestyle changes.
Here are three super simple examples, and some tasty recipe ideas to get us started.
Meat in Moderation, Not Deprivation
A great place to start eating more sustainably is to add some meat-free meals into your week. A great example is adopting a weekly Meat-Free Monday. It is one of the simplest and most impactful things we do to help the environment, particularly in the case of red and processed red meat. Many classic meat-based recipes can be made vegetarian easily and deliciously. For example, why not try a vegetarian chilli, or a Spanish chickpea and almond stew this week?
Power Up with Plants
National guidelines for Ireland recommend we consume 24-35g of dietary fibre every day, but shockingly, almost 80% of Irish adults aren’t meet this target. By adding more plant-based foods to your diet, you will increase the diversity of your food intake, moving closer to your daily fibre target. You will benefit from the wide range of micro-nutrients plant-based foods provide. Simple ways to start are eating five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, choosing wholemeal or multigrain breads, brown rice and pasta, having oats at breakfast, and best of all, trying great plant protein sources like lentils, peas, beans, raw nuts and seeds too.
Five A Day – Everyday
Just 27% of the Irish population are meeting their recommended daily intake of five servings of fruits and vegetables (Department of Health, 2017). Aiming to hit your 5 A Day every day is a fantastic place to start eating a healthier diet. Fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, full of natural sugars, fibre and lots of micro-nutrients. For the best effect on the environment, we should aim to buy seasonal produce where possible. Ideally go for loose fruit and vegetables, minimising the plastic packaging. Approximately one third of all food produced ends up being food waste, so it’s essential to ensure we buy only the volume we need and use up these foods while fresh.
Ciara Kelly is a medical doctor who’s passionate about incorporating nutrition and fitness into her daily life. She believes that through empowerment, everyone can find balance and the lifestyle for them. For more information, visit irishbalanceblog.wordpress.com