The facts are now mounting that our food choices not only impact our health but are also fast depleting the planet’s resources.
Taking into account every stage from production, distribution and delivery through to waste, we see the sizeable impact our food choices have on the environment. What we eat:
- Contributes 20-30% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
- Is the leading cause of deforestation, biodiversity loss and soil and water pollution
- Accounts for 70% of all human water use
- Is responsible for global inequality: current food production is adequate to meet the needs of the global population of 7 billion, however, 2 billion exceed their needs whilst 800 million suffer hunger
Additionally, 30–50% of all food produced is spoiled or wasted.
If we’re going to save our planet, we need to change the way we eat.
Choosing a sustainable diet
For the first time, the UK government’s most recent Eatwell Guide acknowledged the importance of eating to help sustain the planet, as well as for health.
It was modelled to ensure that all macro and micronutrient needs of people aged 5 and over are met, while the nation’s carbon footprint is reduced by almost one third.
- Supporting our planet
The Eatwell Guide recommends that 80% of food we consume should be of plant origin: the focus is on reducing meat – especially beef – and dairy, which have the most impact on the world’s resources.
– Livestock production is by far the most significant contributor to GHG emissions (methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide) contributing to 14.5% of all GHG emissions.
– Cattle consume 40% of all grains produced. Over one third of arable land is dedicated to growing grains solely for animal feed production.
– Livestock is the main cause for deforestation, biodiversity loss, degradation and water pollution.
- Improving our health
The benefits come not only to the planet but also our health. As we discussed in our blog on the popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets, it is well established that diets higher in plant foods and lower in meat products result in a lower intake of both energy (calories) and saturated fat, while increasing fibre intake.
Those with a plant-based diet suffer significantly less from diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
The barriers to change
With only 1% of the population adhering to the previous (and less plant-based) Eatwell plate, how can we now expect people to adopt a more environmentally-friendly diet?
The British Dietetic Association is committed to bringing sustainable diets to the top of the dietetic agenda. They’ve put together a new toolkit providing both scientific knowledge and the practical tools to empower dietitians and consumers to adopt a diet focussed on sustainability.
The advice follows extensive research into the science of sustainable eating and top barriers and motivators. These were identified as:
- Lack of practical knowledge and resources
- Perceptions that sustainable healthy eating requires more time, more money and taste has to be compromised.
- What’s on offer from retailers, restaurants, take-aways, etc. – with an imbalance toward unhealthy, plant-based foods versus health and affordable plant foods?
- Language needing to be tailored to the audience depending on culture, age group, socio-economic and education status
- Clarity over messaging, for example on fish and processed foods
- The misconception of sustainable only associated with vegetarian/vegan diets, and of them being nutritionally inadequate
Sound familiar? Have you been able to overcome the barriers and use successful motivators to increase your own sustainable eating, or that of a client?
Be first to benefit from the BDA’s Sustainable Diet toolkit
We are giving an exclusive preview of the toolkit along with an overview of the latest science on the upcoming FREE CPD NutriWebinar on Sustainable Diets, 14 November 8 to 9pm.
The toolkit will be formally launched at Food Matters Live on 20 November. Find out more and register now