9 STEPS TO MASTER SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH EVERYDAY WELLNESS
As a Registered Dietitian, it’s essential that I guide people to healthy lifestyle choices to enhance their wellbeing. Now, it’s even more important that these choices are made with awareness of our precious planet!
What is a sustainable diet?
The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations defines sustainable nutrition as eating a nutritious, healthy diet that has a low environmental impact. This way of eating also contributes to food security and is a way of life for present and future generations. The good news is that a healthy diet is often an ecologically healthy diet! Keep reading for tips to achieve sustainable dieting through wellness practice.
Why should we eat more sustainably?
Sustainability is much more than a trendy buzzword! Over the last decade, there has been growing evidence supporting sustainable diets’ role in food-security for our growing population and the environmental impact of animal-sourced foods. The food system, especially the meat and dairy industry, contributes to 20-30% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of all human water use. With the world’s population rapidly rising, food demand is going to increase, which will naturally increase greenhouse gas emissions and with it, global warming! Choosing to eat sustainably will improve our environmental footprint which gives us the power to slow climate change that will ultimately lead to sea levels rising, flooding, melting of the arctic regions and heat-related illness and death.
How can I eat more sustainably?
Choosing to adopt this way of living doesn’t mean drastically switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet; it just means becoming more conscious of your lifestyle and dietary choices. Small steps can lead to greater behaviour change over time, so I recommend you pick a few of the following and stick to them. Then in a couple of months, introduce some more, and so on! Below are a few steps to eat more sustainably:
1. Plan your meals and shop accordingly
Food waste is a huge issue all over the globe and is obviously not eating sustainably. Planning the meals you intend to cook ahead of time and shopping accordingly can ensure you don’t have huge amounts of food left over. This method also saves you money week by week and can lead to a healthy dietary pattern if you plan to cook balanced meals, preventing you from dining or ordering out.
2. Shop locally and seasonally
It’s no surprise that our ability to be able to buy food that’s out of season food all year round requires a lot of transportation, and therefore emission of fuel gases. Shopping locally and eating seasonally can therefore ensure the food we eat has a low carbon footprint. It also is a way of supporting local farmers and businesses.
3. Eat more plant-based proteins to reduce meat consumption
As mentioned above, eating sustainably doesn’t require you to cut out animal products completely. Just making reductions in your week can make a big difference to the environment and your health. Reducing red meat consumption is recommended by the World Cancer Research fund, so why not start with a ‘meat free Monday’ and then make changes such as enjoying a plant protein every lunch time such as beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds. You get the gist - just enjoy adding more plant-based proteins into your week and your meat intake will naturally follow!
4. Use reusable shopping bags
Choosing to use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones will no doubt help support the issues of landfill and destruction of our ecosystem. Ensuring you always have a few in your car will make sure you’re never without!
5. Eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day
Apart from the health benefits of consuming plants such as fruit and vegetables, these also have the least environmental impact when compared to foods such as meat and dairy. Remember that plant-based foods are full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and phytonutrients. These anti-inflammatory compounds help fight against disease! Aim to include them at all meals – including snacks!
6. Introduce more plant-based milks
Dairy foods such as yogurt and milk are great sources of protein, calcium, B12, vitamin D and iodine and should be included in our diets if you aren’t vegan or vegetarian. That said, it’s a good idea to start introducing more plant-based milks into your diet to cut down on dairy intake that we know to be taxing on the environment. Opt for a non-organic ‘fortified’ plant-based milk - this will ensure all the nutrients above are added to the milk so you don’t miss out on the health benefits (organic versions aren’t fortified).
7. Hydrate with water
Hydration is essential to life and the overall functioning of your body, but did you know that the soft drink industry (including fruit juices), is the third biggest contributor to carbon emissions after the meat and dairy industry? Try to hydrate throughout the day with water to ensure sustainable drinking!
8. Only eat sustainably caught fish
Our oceans need to be a factor when making sustainable food choices. Exploiting our oceans with overfishing has massively damaged the marine ecosystem – it’s therefore essential that you only choose to eat fish that has been caught from sustainable sources (always check the packaging or ask your fishmonger).
9. Introduce bugs
Eating insects, a.k.a. entomophagy, dates back to the 8th century BC in Greece and is now a traditional part of 2 billion people’s diet worldwide. Crickets especially are a great source of protein and fibre, and if you don’t want to eat them whole you can even buy cricket powder. Insects require significantly less greenhouse gases and water to rear than meat and dairy so why not try them out as a protein source?
These steps, however many you choose, will help you become more sustainable with your lifestyle choices. Remember that small steps lead to big changes... in every sense of the word. At The DNA Dietitian, any health goal you choose can be supported with sustainability in mind, transforming your body, health and environmental footprint!
Rachel is the founder of The DNA Dietitian. She often helps clients at her Harley Street Clinic or via online video call to enhance mental performance through food and lifestyle. Get to know her more in her ICBRKR Extraordinaires interview, and quote ICBRKR for 15% off your first consultation!