We’re becoming obsessed with hitting our RDA of fruits and vegetables, plus topping up our health with superfoods, supplements and such. But have you ever thought where those blueberries topping your porridge have come from or how your crushed avocado actually made it onto your sourdough toast?
If the answer is no, you’re not the only the one; most of us are more focused on getting the items on our shopping list and what we’re going to do with the food than how it’s affecting the planet.
But let’s think for a while about what is involved in getting food on our plate. Some of the systems concerned are the growing of food, feeding of animals, food production, transportation, and cooking.
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to be able to drive to the supermarket, where there is an abundance of food. There are countries in the world where people have to walk for days to find food and water.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), one in nine people in the world are suffering from chronic malnutrition. With an expected increase of the world’s population to more than 9 billion by 2050, it is no surprise that there is the burning question how all the world’s inhabitants will be able to feed themselves.
Lack of nutrition negatively affects physical, mental, and emotional development. But it is not just the lack of food that is a problem. Too much of the wrong food leads to obesity and related complications such as diabetes and heart disease.
The increasing world population is not the only challenge for our food system. Food is also at the core of many environmental concerns – it’s a major contributor to climate change and responsible for 60% global biodiversity loss.
When we talk about a sustainable diet, we must consider a variety of components such as health and wellbeing, environment, biodiversity and climate, fair trade, local and seasonal food, nutritional needs, food security and accessibility.
There are no easy answers and the fact that there are so many parties involved doesn’t make it any easier. It doesn’t just concern consumers and retailers, it also affects distributors, manufacturers, farmers, governments, environmental groups and more.
In this age of economic growth, increasing wealth, climate change and diet changes, it will become more and more important to comprehend all the components and processes that are part of a sustainable diet.
The challenge the world is facing, is monumental. But we, as consumers, can do our bit. Here are some ideas:
- Eat a balanced, varied diet with foods from all food groups (protein-rich foods – animal or plant-based, vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, carbohydrates). Make vegetables and fruit a bigger part of your diet. Buy local, seasonal foods where possible.
- Eat less meat, especially red meat.
- Beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water to produce than pork or chicken.
- The meat consumption in Europe in 2015 was 83.3kg per person, which is 407% of the Recommended Daily Allowance.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the meat industry accounts for almost 20% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- Globally, about 30 percent of potentially habitable land is used just for animal farming.
- The food currently fed to livestock could feed 3.5 billion people.
- Reduce food waste – According to the Waste and Resources Programme (WRAP) the total amount of household food and drink waste (HHFW) generated in the UK in 2015 was3 million tonnes. The amount of avoidable (i.e. the food that could have been eaten) HHFW in 2015 was 4.4 million tonnes, worth around £13 billion!
- Shop smart and use a shopping list based on your meal plans
- Freeze or use leftovers (great for next day’s lunch)
- Make less food or try to estimate portion sizes more accurately
- Use smaller plates
- Mindful eating makes you eat less, as you eat slower and you will be full quicker
- Tidy up your food cupboard, fridge, and freezer so you know what’s there
- Order less food when eating out or ask for a doggy bag
- Store food properly so it won’t go off so quickly
- Buy loose food items instead of prepacked food
- Don’t fall for ‘bargains’ in the supermarket that make you buy more than you need
- Get a compost bin or use the food bin supplied by the local authorities
You can contact Monique Parker mBANT mCNHC at www.nutritionforyou.co.uk