How to Eat Sustainably
5 research-based sustainable eating tips to lower your carbon footprint
Written by Naomi Kereliuk, Acadia University Student in the Nutrition and Dietetics program and reviewed by our Health Stand Nutrition Dietitian Team
The choices we make regarding food can have significant consequences for the environment. Practices associated with unsustainable food production and farming result in the release of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. Practicing sustainable eating can help preserve the health of our planet and support the production of healthy food for generations to come.
Sustainable eating has been described by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as:
“…diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.”
While there are many aspects we could cover on sustainable eating tips, keep reading this blog post, to get 5 key suggestions to adopt sustainable eating habits. These tips will help to make small but impactful choices that collectively reduce the environmental impact of our food consumption.
1. Eliminate food waste
There are many ways you can prevent food waste in your eating patterns. Reducing food waste leads to less garbage, can save you money, helps reduce the volume of surplus food generated, and reduces GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions from food waste in landfills.
Try these tips!
- Instead of throwing away bruised or wilted fruits and vegetables, use them in soups, sauces, and smoothies.
- Freeze leftover meals to take as lunches or heat up later for a quick and easy dinner.
- Choose balanced portion sizes to minimize food waste and promote mindful eating habits. To learn more about portion sizes, Health Stand’s Dietitians can help you through their nutrition counseling services.
Get more food waste tips here from CEO and Dietitian, Andrea Holwegner.
2. Eat more plants
Did you know beef production emits 20 times more GHG emissions than common plant proteins like beans? If you’re a heavy meat eater, be mindful of your meat intake as this can be an effective way to lower your individual carbon footprint. While there are no bad foods, choose less highly processed red meats overall. Research suggests that moving towards more plant-based options is optimal for human health and the environment.
- Explore plant-based proteins to meet protein requirements and ensure sufficient intake, opt for legumes, nuts, seeds, or meat alternatives such as tofu and soy.
- Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils are extremely nutrient dense, have a low carbon footprint, and can be stored for up to a year to avoid waste. Legumes can also be prepared in many ways to accommodate cultural and dietary preferences.
- Did you know that eating some types of insects can be a healthy and sustainable option that you can incorporate into your diet? Learn more about other plant-based proteins here!
3. Eat with the seasons
Did you know that the longer a fruit or vegetable takes to get from field to table, the more nutrient loss can occur? Purchasing local and eating with the seasons is a very effective way to reduce GHG emissions, save money, support local farmers, and eat delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables.
- Frozen and canned foods retain their nutrients well, and in certain cases, freezing can even increase the levels of certain nutrients. As a result, these foods remain excellent options for year-round consumption, including during seasonal changes.
- Whenever possible support local farmers and manufacturers that are focused on ways to preserve and create strong and nourishing soil. This it is not a simple debate about choosing organic versus conventionally grown food but rather understanding the best practices in farming for soil health and human health.
- Did you know that vegetable stems, peels, and leafy tops that are normally discarded can be used for salad toppers, broths, or blended into sauces?
4. Understand where your food comes from
Did you know that food, from production to consumption, is responsible for approximately one-third of global GHG emissions? When it comes to sustainable eating, it’s important to consider how your food is sourced, processed, packaged, transported, and prepared. These factors influence the sustainability of the food you buy and eat, and being mindful of them can guide your purchasing and eating habits.
- Inform yourself about sustainably sourced food. Many current fishing practices are causing overfishing, which is exploiting many fish populations. When choosing seafood, read about seafood eco-certifications such as Marine Stewardship Council labels to ensure you are purchasing sustainably sourced seafood.
- Choose less processed foods. Highly processed foods require more processing steps that can be very resource intensive and contribute more GHG emissions.
5. Cook more
Making your own food can allow you to waste less, source local and healthy ingredients, and use less energy.
- To minimize the consumption of take-out food, which frequently comes in single-use plastic or disposable containers that contribute to landfill waste, prioritize cooking meals at home and opt for on-the-go meals prepared in reusable containers.
- Use cooking methods that preserve the nutritional value of foods and reduce water use such as steaming.
- Use composting and recycling systems within your home.
- When dining out, show your support for local restaurants that specialize in preparing fresh, homemade meals.
Sustainable eating plays a vital role in ensuring a healthy and thriving future for both ourselves and the planet. When learning to eat sustainably, it is important to consider human health, environmental impacts, social values, economy, culture, affordability, nutrition, and safety. By implementing some of these small but impactful sustainable eating practices, such as reducing food waste, incorporating more plant-based options, eating with the seasons, understanding the origins of our food, and cooking meals at home, we can collectively make a positive impact on the environment by minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting overall well-being.
Looking for more information on eating sustainably? Our Dietitians can help!
If you have concerns about maintaining proper nutrition while transitioning to sustainable eating, seek guidance from one of our Registered Dietitians to ensure your sustainable eating plan is nutritionally balanced and tailored to your specific needs. We provide virtual and in-person nutrition counselling for your convenience.
Learn actionable tips to prevent food waste here in CEO, Andrea Holwegner’s blog post and feature on Global News.
Brought to you by our friendly Registered Dietitian team at Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. For more balanced living advice check out our RESOURCE MEGA BANK of nutrition articles, videos, healthy recipes, newsletters and meal planning kits here: www.healthstandnutrition.com/personal-nutrition/resource-mega-bank/