It not the same as “Clean” eating, it doesn’t have anything to do with eating like our ancestors in the Paleolithic period, nor is it today’s new fad diet. The Sustainable Diet is a serious food movement that is gaining strength around the world. Universities, like Harvard; non-governmental institutions, like the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and charitable organizations are backing it up. It has to do with the way food is being produced and consumed.
As the FAO puts it: “On the one hand, some current practices of food production are putting the natural environment under stress and contributing to climate change. On the other hand, consumption patterns are often unhealthy and unfair: over-consumption and food waste coexist with undernutrition. A shift to more sustainable food systems and diets is needed to protect people's health and that of the planet while ensuring food and nutrition security and the biodiversity of natural resources.”
Many of us don’t realize how unsustainable today’s massive food production is, placing a huge demand on our natural resources. Here are some shocking numbers:
- Agriculture is responsible for up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions – almost half caused by livestock production alone. Agriculture also accounts for the majority of deforestation, total freshwater withdrawals, and loss of species in marine systems.
- Nearly 60% of the farm landscape is corn and soybean, which are mainly used to produce biofuel, to feed livestock and to make high-fructose corn syrup (used in highly processed food products with low nutritional value).
- Only 10% of their production is for direct human consumption. And, only 2% of the U.S. crop acreage is devoted to vegetable, fruit and nut production!!
Coincidentally, what is good for the planet is good for our own health. Turns out that our mother was right. We need to eat our fruits and veggies, in fact, we need to be eating lots of them. According to the USDA Myplate.org, fruits and veggies should be half of our daily intake, three meals per day--breakfast, lunch, and dinner; with a small portion of whole grains and a small portion of lean protein.
Think for a while what this will mean for your children and their children, 30 years from now. They will be sharing the same planet and resources with 9 billion people, and they will need to eat every day. Would they have enough to eat? Will the food be nutritionally acceptable? Would there be space for the food to grow; and if so, at what price?
We need to start changing now!
Collectively, our food choices can make an impact on the health of the planet as well. Here are some tips:
- Changing the demand. You don’t have to become a vegetarian. You only need to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and then farmers will have to grow more of them.
- In the same manner, by eating less meat, especially red meat, you could help the environment. You could have “Meatless Monday” twice a week or try reducing the size of your steak. Also, consider picking non-meat protein like nuts and legumes; which are nutritious, delicious and sustainable.
- Buy local AND in-season as much as possible; even local growers can affect the carbon footprint if using heated greenhouses or cold storage to extend the natural growing season.
- Cut down the amount of processed foods you eat, by not having them at home. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Reduce food waste by carefully planning your meals, buying and eating the right amount of food.
Most of all, get informed and spread the word!