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7 Steps Towards Healthy Eating for You and Our Planet

August 16, 2016 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Healthy eating for you and the environment

You and I are a part of the world’s 7.3 billion (and growing) human population. Unfortunately, we are using the earth’s resources faster than they can be replenished. Issues like, global warming, deforestation, overfishing, soil erosion, and air and water pollution are now making headlines all over the world. Clearly, things need to change. The status quo is not sustainable.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
- Anne Frank, March 26th 1944

Thankfully, you don’t need to wait for someone else to improve the world. Eating is something you do every day and there are a number of small changes you can make to get on a path towards a more sustainable way of eating. For example: beef production requires far more land and water, and creates much more greenhouse gas emissions than it takes to grow a nutritionally equivalent amount beans and lentils. So, small changes like going meat-free one day a week (Meatless Mondays) can have an impact far beyond your kitchen table. Here are some other ideas to help get you on your way.

Seven Steps Toward More Sustainable Eating

  1. Lower your food waste
    Globally, about 1/3rd of the food produced for humans is wasted. Not only is this a tremendous waste of resources, but it is also a missed opportunity to feed the 1 in 9 people that do not have enough food. Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website for “use-it-up” recipes and food storage tips. Meal planning is also a great way to reduce your food waste and save money on grocery bills.
  2. Eat more plant-based foods
    Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are the foundation of a healthy balanced diet. The production of animal-based foods generally has a greater impact on the planet than plant-based foods. For both reasons, consider meat as a side rather than a center piece on your plate and aim to make more meatless meals using beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds as meat alternatives. A simple rule to remember is to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies.
  3. Choose less highly processed food and drinks
    Highly processed foods (like protein bars, hot dogs and candy) and sugary drinks tend to take a lot of resources to make and often travel long distances from the factory to the store. The flavour, texture, colour, packaging and marketing of these products have been designed to make them more appealing, which is why they are often over consumed. Keep in mind, eating too much processed food can lower the overall nutritional quality of your diet.
  4. Choose local and seasonal food
    Buying local supports the economy in your community. It helps ensure that local growers and food producers can continue to make a living. When more of our food is produced locally our communities become more resilient and we are better able to feed ourselves when imported food becomes more expensive or less available (for example, due to droughts in California). Buying locally and seasonally also supports biodiversity, helps to maintain farmland, and reduces the energy used in food transport and storage. Search for local farms, markets and stores in BC by selecting this link.
  5. Choose Fairtrade
    Fairtrade improves the lives and working conditions of small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries. The Fairtrade price covers the cost of sustainable production and enables farmers and workers to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. Learn more about certified fair trade products here.
  6. Choose sustainable fish and seafood
    Fish and seafood are healthy food choices, especially the small oily fish. However, overfishing has hurt many fish stocks. Learn more about choosing fish from certified sustainable fisheries here.
  7. Grow and harvest some of your own food
    The simple acts of tending a garden, picking wild berries or fishing are powerful reminders of our connection to the earth. Growing, harvesting and sharing food also strengthens families and communities, preserves food skills and knowledge, and promotes cooking and health.

If you’ve already started on the path to more sustainable eating please take a moment to share your experiences in the comments section.


Related blogs

A Winning Way to Eat More Veggies
5 Reasons to Love Sardines, Herring and Mackerel
Beans, Lentils and Peas Oh My!
Healthy Habits to Make Mother Nature Proud This Earth Day

Recommended resources

Canadian websites:
Love Food Hate Waste: Metro Vancouver
PHSA: Promoting Healthy Eating and Sustainable Local Food in BC
BC Food Security Gateway
Ocean Wise: Sustainable Seafood
Think Canada Organic: Organic 101
Fair Trade Canada: What is Fair Trade?

International websites:
World Resources Institute: Shifting Diets for a Sustainable Food Future
Grace Communications: Sustainable Table
Sustain: Sustainable Food
Sea Choice: Find Sustainable Seafood
Global Footprint Network: Footprint Basics
Eating Better: What are Healthy, Sustainable Diets?

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