What does food have to do with sustainability?
The way our food is produced and our eating habits have an impact on the environment. These effects include:
- creating greenhouse gas
- deforestation (the removal of trees from forests)
- biodiversity loss (reduced numbers of animals, plants and other living things)
- soil and water pollution
What does a ‘sustainable diet’ mean?
A sustainable diet is one that:
- does the least damage to the planet as possible
- means everybody has enough food
- is healthy and safe
- protects the environment including our forests, soil and water
- makes the most of the resources we have
- creates a strong food industry
What behaviours and foods are good for the planet?
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to make your diet more eco-friendly.
- Add meat-free meals to your diet. You can replace meat with foods such as tofu, pulses (chickpeas, lentils, split peas), beans and vegetarian meat alternatives such as soya and mycoprotein.
- ‘Half and half’ meals such as lasagne or chilli made with half the amount of meat and half with an alternative like lentils.
- Eat fish in moderation and make sure when you do that it’s from sustainable sources. You can do this by checking for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo on the packet.
- Avoid single-use plastic where you can. Try using reusable coffee cups and water bottles.
- Try to reduce the amount of food waste you create. Use leftover food to make other meals and freeze any extra portions if you make too much.
- Try to buy your food locally and seasonally if you can.
How can I make sure I’m eating a healthy diet?
Try planning your meals to make sure you’re eating a balanced and varied diet. Aim for a variety of foods from all of the food groups.
Most nutrients are available in plant-based diets. But you may need to make sure you get enough protein if you reduce the amount of meat in your diet. Try including meat alternatives, pulses, quinoa, nuts, seeds, tofu and tempeh. And remember, a sustainable diet doesn’t have to be totally vegan or vegetarian.
If you’re eating less dairy, make sure the alternatives you choose are fortified. Check the label and choose products with added calcium. Some dairy alternatives are also fortified with vitamins B12, B2 and D.
Are there one or two changes I could make to get started?
- Look local. When possible, focus on foods that are available in season where you live. Learn about which foods are in season and plan your meals around these. You could also try using local markets if you can.
- Grow something. It could be herbs in a pot, tomatoes on a patio or a small plot in your yard. Growing things gives you a greater understanding of what it takes to create food. It also gives you a source of food that doesn’t require any transport to get to your plate.
Every year, the British Dietetic Association marks Dietitians Week, which aims to celebrate and showcase the work of dietitians. This year it runs from 7–11 June.