What is a Sustainable Diet?
According to the FAO, sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.
A sustainable diet will not only help to keep an individual healthy, but also make sure that our future generations have enough food supply and resources to feed.
What is included in a sustainable diet?
A sustainable diet is usually associated with a diet that is low in carbon. It is primarily plant-based, relying heavily on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. The sustainable diet is also supplemented by moderate amounts of eggs, dairy, poultry and fish, and includes minimal red meat.
It also follows the 3 basic principles i.e., consume less, waste less and choose the products that have low impact on the environment.
How can we follow a sustainable diet?
- Adopt a plant based diet: A vegetarian and plant-based, or vegan diets are more sustainable than those that contain meat and other animal products.
- Eat local food: Try to include the food that is locally grown and available in the season. The idea behind this thought is to reduce the food miles required to transport the food from the farms to supermarkets. Also the non-seasonal fruits and vegetables requires refrigeration to store them for long which again cause the green house gas emissions.
- Avoid eating meat or animal origin products: The aim of the sustainable diet is to reduce the consumption of the meat, dairy and fish. Meat products have both positive and negative nutritional qualities. Production of meat has a high environmental impact due the greenhouse gas emission from the livestock rearing. Though it is a very tough choice for the people as in many countries people enjoy eating meat and it is a part of the culture, but people can at least try to include it sparingly in their meals and gradually reduce the consumption.
Benefits of a sustainable diet
Plant based food is easily digestible, it helps reducing the cholesterol levels and obesity. It also decreases the chance of certain cancer and helps an individual lead a healthy lifestyle. The local grown fruits and vegetables does not require any storage and hence preserve their freshness and taste.
The sustainable diet includes the fruits and vegetables that are organically grown and hence has no risk of the pesticides and fertilizers. This also helps in improving the health of the soil which provides better nutrients to the roots of the plants in a natural way.
Also since sustainable diet encourages to eat fruits and vegetables that are locally grown, it reduces the transport cost and the fuel consumption which naturally reduces the carbon emissions.
From where to start?
Immediately starting a sustainable diet for people who are heavy meat eaters will be difficult. But a step by step approach will help them to gradually adopt this lifestyle. To start with one can keep a day or one meal every day that is plant based and includes fruits and vegetables. Once you start liking the diet and realize the health benefits and observe the changes in your body, you can slowly reduce the meat and dairy intake.
Look for substitutes of meat. Nowadays many plant based meat is available in the market which tastes like a meat but is not actually a meat.
Sustainable diet does not means a total cut down of meat and dairy, but to include them in less quantities and increase the intake of fruits and vegetable.
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