Conversations about sustainable living are on everyone’s mind as many of us begin to personally experience the adverse effects of climate change and its impact on food security. So, we want to empower you to start thinking and eating more sustainably without compromising your nutrition. With a gentle reminder that a healthful diet doesn't need to come at a cost to the planet.
Here are 4 planet-friendly tips you can implement into your nutritional choices:
1. Eating local, seasonal produce
When possible, make an effort to add more seasonal produce to your diet - they are generally readily available at the local farmers market, deli or supermarket, and they also tend to be more nutritious and affordable when they are in season. So, do your research to find out which local producers are using environmentally sustainable farming practices that aren’t harming the planet. But if you’re experiencing cooking fatigue like many of us, consider dining at restaurants that offer farm-to-table food options.
Buying and consuming seasonal produce is also an easy way to add more variety to your diet by eating different kinds of products on offer at different seasons. You can also use this as an opportunity to ask for tips and information about how to best prepare the local produce to help you add new recipe and variety to your meals because cooking can get pretty dull sometimes.
We recommend this purchasing practice since local produce is great for the climate because it decreases the greenhouse gas emissions associated with transportation and importing of products. This is also an effective way of supporting the local economy, especially now that many businesses have been struggling due to COVID restrictions.
Here are some seasonal fruits and vegetables in the UK:
Fruit: Apricots, cherries (coming into season) and kiwi fruit
Vegetables: Asparagus, aubergines (from late May), peppers, spinach, spring onions, watercress, carrots (in season from late May), new potatoes (coming into season), peas (coming into season), rhubarb (end of the season) and rocket (coming into season)
Fruit: Apricots, blueberries (coming into season), cherries, kiwi fruit, raspberries (coming into season), strawberries (coming into season), blackberries (coming into season), melon (coming into season), peaches (coming into season) and tomatoes (coming into season)
Vegetables: Artichokes (coming into season), asparagus, aubergines, broad beans (in season mid-June), carrots, courgettes (coming into season), fennel (coming into season), new potatoes, pak choi (in season end of June), peas, peppers, rocket, spinach (end of the main season), spring onions, turnips (summer season crop in season) and watercress
2. Increase plant-based food options in your diet
Relying on more food sources that are plant-based is regarded as climate-friendly because it encourages sustainable consumption habits that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and land used for factory farming - which are all factors in global warming and environmental degradation. A 2016 study reporting that we could see a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and land use, and 50% less water use if Western diets were to shift to more plant-based dietary patterns. Hence eating more veggies, fruits, nuts and legumes alongside small portions of meat and dairy is recommended as a diet plan that is better for the planet.
You don't need to be vegan to add more plant-based food sources. Research shows that simply including more vegetables, fruit, beans and nuts into your diet can support health, including a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increasing longevity. Eating less animal source foods will be an especially important step, according to the lancet report (2019), thus consuming red meat has a relatively high environmental footprint per serving compared to other food groups.
A plant-based diet has also been shown to be an effective diet for healthy weight management. A meta-analysis conducted in 2015 combined the results from 12 randomised controlled studies and used data from over 1000 subjects to determine the effectiveness of vegetarian diets on weight loss. The research showed that participants on the vegetarian diet groups lost significantly more weight than those following a non-vegetarian diet. What’s more, the weight loss results were slightly more significant for those on a strict vegan diet compared to those on a standard vegetarian diet.
Health benefits of a plant-based diet
- Better weight and overall health management.
- Lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
- It's good for the planet
However, it is not necessary to go completely vegan to be healthy. Simply making small changes that incorporate more plant-based options will make a significant positive health impact. If you are interested in finding out how your genes respond to the different types of fats (animal vs plant-based fats and oils) then look into one of our tests - DNAfit looks at a range of genes to provide insights into how your body responds not only to saturated fats, carbohydrates, and also micronutrients. This helps you understand what healthy nutrition looks like for you so you can use that knowledge to reach your goals faster!
3. Plant your plate at home
This is a win-win situation for your diet and the planet. Planting your own food empowers you to have easy access to fresh, homegrown produce that has been grown using practices that aren't harmful to the soil and no carbon emission that’s usually emitted during transportation of goods. This means that what you grow will be healthy and free from the carbon footprint of shop-bought food.
Growing your own food can also enable you to live more mindfully and make you feel more connected to mother nature so that you’re present.
You can plant herbs that are easy to plant and grow in your home without the need for high maintenance (especially if you don't have a lot of space), and some seasonal produce.
Some of the other benefits include:
- Getting more physical activity and burning up some calories in the process of gardening.
- Being exposed to sunlight helps your skin synthesize vitamin D, especially if you spend time outside in the garden during the day.
- You can save some money in the process as well.
4. Reduce food waste
According to the United Nations, nearly 1/2 of all fruit & vegetables produced globally are wasted each year, with the UK found to generate 13.1 Mt of food waste annually across all the supply chain, leading to the greenhouse gas emissions of 27 Mt of CO2 eq./yr. So, it's important to reduce waste as one of the strategies for eating more sustainably. We all have a role to play in cutting down on all this waste.
How you can reduce your food waste:
- Planning your meals ahead of time and then writing a shopping list before heading to the store is the best way to reduce food waste, this means buying only what you’ll be cooking that week
- Keep track of use-by dates of the food you’ve bought so you can consume them before they expire. Or apply the first in, first out principle - it's about using up what you bought first before new groceries.
- Measuring your portions before cooking is a great tactic that can ensure that you cook only what you’ll be able to finish, so there isn’t any food wastage
- Instead of throwing away overripe produce, freeze it to make smoothies or soups with it
- Or be sure to freeze leftovers to use in other meals later on or give away what you can’t eat (you can use an App like Olio to give away food you know you wouldn't eat to avoid waste)
- Use vegetable and fruit peels and skins such as potato skins, banana peels, green leftovers and broccoli stalks as compost instead of using chemical fertilisers.
Use these insights to contribute in small but meaningful ways to contribute positively to the planet while also feeding your body healthfully and nutritiously.