Sustainable eating – how do we eat healthier and more environmentally-friendly?
Did you know that around 30% of harmful CO2 emissions come from the food industry alone? Considering all the ecological disasters that happened due to climate change in recent years, there is a clear need for a change in our eating habits.
Sustainable eating habits don’t follow strict rules – instead, each of us can choose the best ways for them to live healthier and greener lives. However, there are some lifestyle changes which could have a huge impact – let’s have a look at some of them.
What counts as sustainable eating?
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) defines a sustainable diet as a diet that protects the environment, but also the people. Several recent studies associate a sustainable diet with the highest possible consumption of local and seasonal plant-based products.
If you want to live as healthy and eco-friendly as possible, your diet must take into account the following aspects:
The impact on the environment
In a sustainable diet, we need to avoid the products that have a major impact on the atmosphere and environment.
Not only that, but the food industry globally contributes to two thirds of water consumption, and is also the main cause of deforestation.
A study led by UCLA compared the daily CO2 emissions associated with following a standard American diet with the ones associated with the Mediterranean diet:
According to the study, the Mediterranean diet can have an environmental impact up to 4 times lower compared to a standard American diet. The American diet is defined in the study as a relatively complete diet that does not limit sugar, salt or fat intake.
It seems like there’s a very simple solution – we should give up animal products in favor of plant-based food. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Nowadays, even plant product farms can have a major impact on the environment. We are talking about farms where artificial fertilizers and toxic pesticides are used – these destroy local ecosystems and can have harmful effects on human health as well.
The impact on people
Another important thing to consider in sustainable food is the effect it has on local communities of people.
The food industry unfortunately faces many ethical issues related to the working conditions of the workers. These problems can be minimized by sourcing food from local sources instead of products from large corporations.
Impact on health
A truly sustainable diet also takes into account the individual health of each of us.
An unhealthy diet is one of the leading global causes of cardiovascular disease, and may also increase the risk of cancer or diabetes. These problems end up putting enormous pressure on the health system. They may even decrease the rate of those who can be treated, thereby increasing the country’s death rate.
Those who lead an unhealthy life, lacking in necessary nutrients or physical exercise may also face low productivity and mental health issues.
4 tips for a sustainable diet
So, how can we ensure that our food protects both our health and the environment we live in?
Opt for plant-based foods instead of animal foods
It is true that a plant-based diet is associated with a low carbon footprint. Not only that, but eating meat, especially red or processed meat (e.g. sausages, cold meats, burgers), is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Instead, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts like the one promoted by the Mediterranean diet lowers these risks and can help strengthen your heart and immune system. That doesn’t mean you have to completely give up all meat – but limiting your consumption can bring great benefits to your life.
Buy local and seasonal produce
In order to protect our environment, it is not always enough to switch to plant-based products. Imported and out-of-season fruits and vegetables, for example, require a lot more resources in the production and transportation process.
If you choose to buy products from the local market instead of the supermarket, you can help save a lot of energy and resources. You will also support the local economy and help your community.
Reduce food waste by planning meals
Studies show that 20% of food purchased by people in the European Union ends up being thrown away. If you use the Dahna app to plan your everyday meals, you will also be able to generate a shopping list with everything you need. This way, you make sure you don’t waste money, food or precious resources – you can buy exactly what you need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Reduces plastic consumption
To maximize the impact of your eating habits on the planet, try to avoid products packed in unnecessary plastic, paper or other packaging as much as possible. Also, always bring a shopping bag with you instead of buying a new one.