We all know health and sustainability are a challenge. It’s far easier to rest, relax, throw things away and buy new ones. Luckily, as complex a challenge as a sustainable diet sounds, with a little effort you could be saving money, feeling better and modelling better and healthier behavior for your kids and family. Let’s explore what a sustainable diet actually looks like, and a few easy ways to make it happen for yourself!
What’s a sustainable diet?
Thinking about a sustainable diet, and what it looks like, means we need to know how our food choices affect the rest of the earth. Did you know that the agriculture we need to feed the world is responsible for 80% of global deforestation? Or that 70% of freshwater use is dedicated to agriculture? We can see here that cutting down on trips to the grocery store to buy agricultural products that have been planted, watered, fertilized, shipped, refrigerated, stored and then finally stocked, will certainly help the environment. Now that you are aware of how your choices affect the environment, follow these easy steps to boost your health with a new sustainable diet.
Ways to make it happen:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
We all know fruits and veggies are great for your health, but did you know that growing them means a lower environmental impact? Sadly, if you buy produce from far away, the cost of refrigeration, shipping and transport will negate the sustainability of the product. Try buying your fruits or veggies at local farmers markets, or you can even grow your own with very little space and effort.
- Eat locally, when in season
When you eat locally (like at that farmers market we just discussed), you get fresher foods grown naturally during their natural growing seasons. You also cut down on shipping, storage, refrigeration, and all those chemicals and dyes used to keep the food looking fresh on its long journey to your grocery store.
- Choose whole grains
Whole grains are also easier to grow than refined ones, and require far less processing. Whole grain cereals are great for our hearts, and reduce the risk of getting diabetes or being morbidly obese. Try a whole bread meal or whole grain pasta. Or consider brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa or barley for some extra healthy grains.
- Swap animal protein for plant-based ones
Most animal proteins require a great deal of space, food, shipping, refrigeration and storage. Change up your habits by replacing your animal-based proteins with plant-based proteins like beans, pulses and grains. We suggest limiting your meat consumption to 1 or 2 nights per week, and choosing more sustainable meats like chicken, over beef, to further reduce our eco-footprint.
- Avoid unnecessary packaging
Have you ever wondered why oranges are sold on a plastic tray covered by plastic cling wrap, when they come with a ready-made protecting peel? It’s important to shy away from foods that come with too much packaging, especially plastics. You can further reduce your use of packaging materials by reusing your shopping bags or using cloth shopping bags in the future.
- Drink tap water
Water quality in Europe and the Americas is pretty high. Most citizens of these countries drink tap water as easily as others drink bottled water. If you live in a place with great water quality, reuse your plastic bottles by filling them with tap water, or using a metal or plastic water bottle. There is simply no excuse for using bottled water, when tap water is perfectly delicious, hydrating, and is free!
Finally, take all your leftovers, rinds, peels and grounds, and compost them in your yard. A compost bin is a great source of fertilizer for your garden, and also gives you a chance to see where your waste goes, and how it’s used by the earth. For smaller spaces, consider an odour-blocking composting bucket set up, easily hidden under a counter or on a balcony, and also a great source of fertilizer for next year’s basil or tomato plants!
Benefits for your overall health and the planet
One major benefit is found right away when you change your diet. After a major healthy diet change, people normally experience SIBO symptoms, or flu like symptoms that last a few days, indicating that toxins and chemicals are slowly working their way out of your body. Don’t give up! These symptoms will quickly dissipate and you will feel better than before!
We are all linked in inexplicable ways. For example, middle or high-income countries tend to eat more meat and animal-based foods than poorer countries. Overfishing is threatening our fishing stocks, and all the marine life that relies on the balance of the ocean to thrive. Making better and more eco-friendly decisions about your life and habits today, means a better tomorrow for our children and our earth.