OK, lets talk about this hot topic. Now that the media hype of “veganuary” is almost over and most have given up on some New Year’s resolutions perhaps we can talk for a moment about some real sustainable changes to our food environment and lifestyle that can actually become a reality for most of us.
Sustainability in relation to food is a multi faceted issue – it encompasses elements such as environment, politics, economics, health and nutrition.
Sustainable diets, more specifically, are those which have a low environmental impact and can contribute to food security for the future. They are low impact, respectful, culturally acceptable and nutritionally balanced all the while making the best of our natural resources.
Why is this becoming more and more important?
Well, according to the UN’s Department of Economics and Social Affairs (2017) there will be close to 10 billion people on the planet by 2050 and today there are more than 3 million people malnourished and many of the current 7 billion inhabitants are eating diets of low quality.
This topic became a global talking point this month when the Lancet Commission published a report called EAT. The commission (a group of 37 scientists from 16 countries working in the fields of human health, nutrition, economics, agriculture, political sciences, and environmental sustainability) set out two global targets in order to create a “safe operating space” for food systems.
Target 1 is relating to healthy diets and target 2 is for sustainable food production.
In the Heathy Diets section it is recommended we follow a Planetary Health Diet – this involves eating more vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils, include moderate to low amounts of seafood, low quantities to no red meat, processed meats, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables.
Now, although this “ Great Food Transformation” is all very well and good for saving the planet and is possibly the pinnacle of healthy eating will require a multi-level action plan from international and national agencies, government bodies, public and private sectors as well as individuals to make it an immediate reality.
So, let me create some suggestions for how we can try to eat more sustainably today and teach our children to eat more sustainably for their future.
These are small, simple, sustainable changes that can be incorporated into EVERYDAY REAL LIFE (and resolutions that might just last beyond “veganuary”). These simple steps will teach our future generations that our food choices ultimately impact more than just ourselves and in the end what is good for the planet is good for us too.
With fun & deliciousness,
Top Tips for Sustainable Eating
- Eat local where possible. Think of food miles – the further your food has to travel the higher the carbon footprint it has, the greater the impact on greenhouse gases.
- Look for food in its natural state. The more processed the food and the more packaging on the food the more harmful chemicals and carbon emissions it created.
- Eat less meat. There is no need to cut out meat entirely from our diet but just eat less. Our Irish livestock are grass fed in most cases and research shows that grass-fed beef has measurably more anti-oxidants and fewer inflammatory fatty acids than grain fed beef. Grass fed beef has much less environmental impact that some of our global grain fed counterparts. Lets be proud of that, celebrate and enjoy small, high quality portions of our fabulous Irish meat and dairy. This can mean having one meal a day with no meat, perhaps breakfast could be wholegrain cereal and fruit, lunch could be a wrap or homemade brown bread with hummus and veggies. For dinner try to use half meat and half pulses in the recipe. E.g chicken curry. – use half the chicken and a tin of chickpeas, for shepherds pie use half the mince and half lentils. Always make sure your meat is Bord Bia quality assured and as local as possible. Talk to your butcher and find out where it comes from and ask for more local sources.
- Eat local fish. We are an island – we have fish, really good fish, some of the best in the world. Lets eat it. Think of places like Ballycotton, Dunmore East, Howth, Clogherhead, Killings and Casteltownbere in Cork. Talk to the fishmonger and see what is local and in season.
- Eat more protein packed grains, nuts, seeds, pulses and vegetables. Get creative and become familiar with ingredients like quinoa, lentils, chia seeds, butter beans, chickpeas etc. They are all so reasonably priced and you get a lot of bang for your buck. Head to the recipe section of our site to get some great ideas the kids will love.
- No more bottled water – stop buying single use disposable plastic packaging and invest in a reusable water bottle that can be refilled throughout the day.
- Only free-range, local eggs. Talk with your feet and wallet on this one. Do not buy battery eggs. They are normally labelled as just “fresh” eggs. At a bare minimum get free-range but do a little research and see just how free-range is your supply in the local supermarket. Take a few minutes and find a really good Irish brand of egg or better yet get some really local ones from the local farmers market. Research shows that real free-range eggs have more vitamin A and Omega 3 fatty acids than eggs produced any other way.
- Eat less processed high fat, salt and sugar foods. Common sense, yes but so often forgotten. By all means eat them occasionally. Remember they are a sometimes food not an everyday food.
- Waste less food. When we throw away food we are throwing away natural resources and money. The average household wastes around 30% of the food it buys – that’s like taking €100 out of the bank and putting €30 straight into the bin! Get creative with simple leftover ideas.
- Eat Mindfully. Simply put this means becoming aware, taking time and focusing on what you eat. Begin to think about and appreciate where your food came from and how it is nourishing your body. Tune in to hunger signals – begin to recognise when you are really hunger and really full.
United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2017). World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, Key Findings and Advance Tables. Working Paper No. ESA/P/WP/248
EAT. Summary Report of the EAT-Lancet Commission. 2019.
Livewell Report Summary, WWF