Be More Sustainable When Eating: A Guide to Sustainable Diets and Habits

How to Be More Sustainable When Eating

Whether you’re dining out or shopping for groceries, your food choices have a significant impact on the environment. How can you be more sustainable when eating?

The way that humanity grows, transports and consumes food damages the natural world. Take this quiz to learn more about our broken food systems.

What is a Sustainable Diet?

The goal of a sustainable diet is to make sure that the planet has enough food for future generations of humans. This includes a healthy and varied diet, as well as reducing food waste.

In addition, the EAT-Lancet Commission Report explains that a diet should “prioritise both human (societal and cultural, nutritional safety and sufficiency) and planetary health.”

While this seems like a large, far-reaching task, it’s also something that people can do on a personal level. They can start by eating more fruits and vegetables, choosing fish that has been sustainably caught, and avoiding foods with high carbon footprints. They can also try growing their own vegetables or herbs at home, which will reduce the amount of food that ends up in the garbage. And, they can learn how to cook healthier and eat less meat, since meat production creates more greenhouse gases than plant-based options. Lastly, they can avoid over-packaging and use reusable or biodegradable containers.

Do you have a Sustainable Diet?

A sustainable diet is one that can maintain an individual’s health and food supply for future generations, while having low environmental impact. This means a diet that is generally plant-based and limits animal foods, highly processed foods and sugary drinks.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that livestock accounts for 14% of human-induced greenhouse gases. A shift to more plant-based foods reduces this impact, as does avoiding meat at all, and buying from farmers who practice sustainability.

To do this, it is important to buy locally and in season. This reduces the carbon footprint of the food and eats in a manner that supports local businesses. It is also helpful to avoid foods that have a long travel time, especially those that require air travel such as fresh berries and vegetables. Finally, it is critical to minimize food waste. This can be done by cooking and eating foods before they spoil and finding creative ways to use leftovers.

Can you make a Sustainable Diet?

A sustainable diet can help reduce the environmental impact and improve health outcomes. It is not necessary to eliminate meat and animal products entirely, but small changes over time can make a difference. Eating plant-based foods such as beans, lentils, and nuts are often less expensive than a diet rich in red meat, and they require far fewer resources. For example, a person could start by setting aside one day per week to go meatless, such as Meatless Monday, and then slowly increase this amount over time.

Other sustainable eating habits include reducing waste by buying in bulk and avoiding disposable plastic packaging. People can also buy reusable grocery bags and bring their own mugs to restaurants.

Growing home vegetables and herbs is another great way to learn about food sustainability. These gardens reduce the emissions of transportation and allow a person to feel connected with where their food comes from. By using spices and other flavorings, people can make healthy and delicious meals with a variety of cuisines without relying on meat-heavy dishes.

What are some Sustainable Diets?

While a sustainable diet can be whatever you want it to be, it tends to focus on higher intake of whole plant foods and limits consumption of animal products. In addition, it takes into account social and environmental factors including food access, economics, and land management.

One way to be more sustainable is to buy from local farms or farmers markets, which reduces your carbon footprint. Buying from companies that use sustainable practices can also make a difference. It’s also important to minimize your own food waste, as it takes energy and water to produce each calorie of food we throw away.

Workshop speaker Jessica Fanzo described how she and other nutritionists are trying to make the 2012 definition of sustainable diets by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) a reality. She noted that these diets must be protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, and nutritionally adequate, safe, and healthy.

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