January is nearly here! We will soon be hearing about New Year’s resolutions, lifestyle changes and Veganuary. It feels like the perfect time to talk about sustainable eating and how we can switch to a more sustainable diet. Eating sustainably is not just good for the planet, but also makes wonders for our general health and wellbeing. So if you’re thinking ‘New Year, new me’, then our guide to sustainable eating is perfect for you!
Our food choices have a significant impact on our health, general wellbeing and the environment. What we eat and how we eat has resulted in great loss in wildlife, from deforestation to over-exploitation of oceans. On the other hand, diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are also on the rise. By switching to a healthier and sustainable diet, we will be investing in both our and the planet’s future. So, whether you’re trying out to be fully plant-based for January, or aiming to make a long-term change to your eating habits, read on for easy tips to eat more sustainably.
What is sustainable eating, and what’s considered a sustainable diet?
Sustainable eating is an important part of a sustainable lifestyle, but what do we mean by it? In agriculture and food production, sustainability refers to the farming techniques and practices that have minimal impact on the environment. It covers a wide array of topics, from promoting soil health and reducing water usage to supporting biodiversity. Therefore, sustainable eating is all about making conscious food choices and paying attention to its health and environmental consequences. It’s about asking questions on how the food is produced, and where it comes from.
Sustainable eating practices usually refers to plant-based and whole-food diets, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains and nuts. This means limiting the amount of animal-based foods, with the main emphasis on reducing red and processed meat. Cutting the amount of refined grains and sugars is also important for a fully sustainable and healthy diet. But this doesn’t mean that you should be restrictive and go cold turkey. If you want to be able to maintain a sustainable diet and sustainable eating habits, then it’s important to be okay with occasional cheat meals. By following a few easy tips, you will be making a big difference to your health and the environment.
Sustainable eating tips
If you’re asking, ‘how do I eat more sustainably?’, then follow our tips for switching to a more sustainable diet. But before we start, please bear in mind that you don’t have to change all your eating habits overnight. Switching to a more sustainable diet takes time and patience, so be kind to yourself and celebrate your small wins. You’ve got this!
1- Consume more plant-based food
Fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, nuts and seeds – these are different types of plant-based food that will do wonders for your body. Plus, they have relatively small amounts of greenhouse gas and carbon footprint, making them a more sustainable option for the environment. And as we always say, what’s good for the earth is definitely good for you!
2- Pay attention to food variety
According to WWF, a total of 12 plants and five animal species makes up 75% of the world’s food supply. This is neither good for the environment nor good for us. Having diversity in what we eat is super important to support biodiversity, and also to make sure that we’re getting all the vitamins and minerals we need. If we’re eating the same vegetables and beans every day, then that’s no good. Try to change it up a bit by trying different foods but also different types of the same thing. For example, there are 33 different types of tomatoes with different tastes and nutritional values.
We also know that when we overconsume certain foods, they start to cause more harm than good, such as avocado. Overconsumption ultimately leads to deforestation and a lack of biodiversity, as farmers and producers try to use as much farmland as possible to grow that one food product.
3- Be mindful of portion size
Paying attention to your portion size and keeping it small leads to less food waste and protects your waistline. If you have more than you can consume, try to freeze them while they are fresh, rather than sending them to waste. If possible, buy loose produce and select the amount you actually need to avoid unnecessary waste and overconsumption.
4- Use food waste apps and try composting
Even if we try our best, there will be times when we end up with more food than we can eat. When that happens, try to use food waste apps to share your food with others. There are so many great apps such as Olio and Too Good To Go. Don’t forget, sharing is caring! And try your hand at composting if you haven’t already. Check out our guide on indoor composting for everything you need to know.
5- Stay away from highly processed foods
Let’s make one thing clear – highly processed foods, especially processed meat, are not good for your health or for the planet. Processing food requires valuable energy and various chemicals, and usually contains high levels of salt and sugar. Plus, their packaging, which is often plastic, creates more waste than we need!
6- Reduce red meat
Try to reduce your red meat consumption and swap it with plant protein. Think beans, lentils, peas and legumes. Plant-based protein contains more fibre and low saturated fat content, which is way healthier than meat counterparts. But again, this is by no means to tell you to stop eating meat. Instead, try to limit your meat intake to 1-2 times a week, introduce meat-free days or limit your meat-based meals just for dinners. Also, opting for more sustainable meat options such as poultry and fish will reduce your carbon footprint.
7- Improve your vegetarian cooking skills
I’ve heard many people complaining about how bland and less exciting vegetarian meals are. And I don’t blame those people, if you’re not familiar with vegetarian cooking, then it can seem quite boring and same-old-same. So get yourself some good vegetarian cookbooks and start experimenting with herbs, spices, whole grains and a whole range of vegetables. You will be surprised by how exciting and satisfying vegetarian meals can be! I will even go as far as saying, they are way more delicious and fulfilling than meat-based meals.
8- Give plant-based milk a chance
If you want to have a more sustainable diet, then switch your dairy milk to sustainable milk alternatives, such as oat milk. On average, it takes about 628 litres of water to produce a litre of cow’s milk, as opposed to 48 litres of water for oat milk and 28 litres for soy milk. They also have far fewer greenhouse emissions than cow’s milk. And I can guarantee you a more creamy and delicious latte and tea with oat milk!
9- Start your own vegetable and fruit garden
We have a perfect hobby for you to start this year – gardening! Whether you have an outdoor garden or not, growing your own food is possible. Even if it’s a few pots of various herbs, tomatoes and cucumbers, growing your own food gives you the best locally grown organic produce. Plus there’s no carbon emission as there isn’t any transport involved!
10- Eat organic
Organic farming and eating organic produce is the way to go. By avoiding harmful pesticides and fertilisers, organic farming practices promote better soil health, welfare for animals and wildlife. It also means fewer chemicals for our bodies. It is true that buying organic produce means spending a bit more on our grocery shopping, but it’s a good investment in our health. Darin Olien, a superfood guru and an author, has a great quote on this – ‘Would we rather give our money to the farmer or the pharmacist, the grocer or the doctor? […] Organic blackberries cost double the normal kind? How does that compare to the price of chemotherapy?’
11- Support your local organic farms
Following from tip 10, the best way to eat organic is to get to know your local organic farms. Don’t undo all the good you are doing by buying organic fine beans that fly all the way from Nigeria. Instead, order a local, organic vegetable and fruit box. You can easily find the nearest organic vegetable box to you using The Soil Association’s website. Some farms also offer a great selection of organic meat in addition to their vegetable and fruit boxes. Go organic, go local!
12- Eat seasonally
Eating sustainably is all about paying attention to where food comes from. So if you want to commit to sustainable eating, you need to start eating seasonally. Actively choosing foods that are in season in the country you live in means supporting sustainability and natural growing practices. If you stick to tip 11, you will be getting seasonal produce and ticking three boxes at the same time. ‘The Modern Cook’s Year’ is a fantastic recipe book by Anna Jones, that will help you cook seasonally.
If you’ve found this article useful and inspiring, make sure to check out our post on a carbon-neutral diet as well. And why not let us know your sustainable eating experience below.