What we eat effects more than our health, it also has significant impact on the environment. This is where sustainable eating is important. Find out how you can eat more sustainably, to help tackle important environmental issues, such as climate change.
What is Sustainable Eating?
Sustainable eating involves making changes to your diet, or following a certain way of eating, to reduce the environmental impact of your food choices. For some this is already engrained in your food choices, but for many this is a new area to consider. Sustainable eating must also focus on your health, and be healthy for you and the planet.
The Impact of Food Production on the Environment
In the UK, food production contributes as much as 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore global warming. The foods that contribute to this most are red meat (such as beef and lamb) and the dairy industry (milk, cheese etc).
Food production also uses significant amounts of water and leads to deforestation, pollution and changes to the ecosystem (such as overfishing).
To eat sustainably we must consider the environmental impact of the entire supply chain that brings foods from ‘farm to fork’. This includes farming, harvest, processing, packaging, transport, distribution, food waste and recycling. As you can see, there are many areas to consider!
How To Eat Sustainably
There are three key changes you can make to your diet:
- Consume LESS meat and dairy.
- Throw away LESS food.
- Buy MORE locally sourced and seasonal food.
Simple Sustainable Swaps
- Go plant based, or reduce the amount of meat you eat, especially red meat. Avoid processed meat (e.g. bacon, sausages). Try swapping meat for beans, chickpeas, lentils or soya products. A good swap is to use lentils in spaghetti Bolognese instead of, or in place of 50% of, the beef mince.
- If you are not ready to go full plant based, try ‘Meat Free Monday’. This is an opportunity to try new vegetarian or vegan recipes. Check out our recipes for inspiration.
- Swap dairy for a plant based milk, such as soya or oat. You don’t have to ditch dairy completely, mix it up and try new plant based milk and yogurts. A good place to start is using oat milk to make porridge (delicious!).
- Plan food shopping carefully to avoid wastage. Use ‘going off’ vegetables to make soup or batch cook roasted veggies to freeze. Freeze leftovers for another time.
- Check the label when buying food to see where it was produced, reflect on how far they have been flown (remember it isn’t normal to have fruits such as berries available all year round!). Freeze fruits and vegetables when they are in season.
- Choose foods with least packaging, reuse plastic bags. Recycle food waste.
- Find a local fruit and vegetable box, which will deliver seasonal produce from local sources. This will also be good for your gut health as it will increase the variety of plant foods you eat (check out our post on this).
- Choose sustainably farmed fish, and focus on oily fish once per week (such as salmon).
A Note on Soya
While most soya is grown far from the UK, such as American, South American and Asia, the majority of Soya imported to the UK is actually used for animal feed. It is much more environmentally friendly to eat soya directly, rather than rely on animal protein sources (which are fed lots of soya feed). At Liberto we choose to source organic, non genetically modified soya beans from a from a high quality, grade A certified, producer in China. We make our pasta locally to source to avoid additional transportation stages. If you have any questions on this please drop us a comment below!
- Overall, sustainable eating is very healthy for us nutritionally. Swapping red meat and dairy for plant alternatives will increase fibre intake and reduce saturated fat intake. Eating seasonally can increase the variety in our diet.
- Make sure plant based milk alternatives are fortified with calcium and other micronutrients – check our guide to choosing the best plant based milk alternatives here.
- If you have low iron levels (anaemia), or are a women of child bearing age check out some information to ensure you are getting enough iron in your diet.
- Vegans need to supplement vitamin B12, check out the British Dietetic Association’s (BDA) advice on this here.
Take Home Message
Remember, sustainable eating needs to be sustainable for you financially and socially, if we all made small sustainable changes it would have massive benefits for the environment. Start with some small swaps and build on these, the BDA have some great sustainable eating ‘hacks’ here.
Happy plant based cooking! Love Liberto!
Key Reference and further reading: British Dietetic Association ‘One Blue Dot’ Campaign.