What is sustainable food?
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines sustainable diets as diets with low environmental impact that contribute to food and nutrition security as well as healthy living. for current and future generations. Sustainable diets help protect and respect biodiversity and ecosystems, are culturally acceptable, economically equitable and accessible, affordable, nutritionally safe and healthy, and optimize natural and human resources.».
The 10 characteristics of sustainable diets according to the FAO
In its 2018 Plates, Pyramids and Planet report, FAO provides an overview of the characteristics of low-impact, healthy diets: :
- Diversity ensured by the consumption of a wide variety of foods;
- A balance between energy intake and needs;
- A mainly vegetable diet (vegetables,fruits, whole grains, legumes) and in particular products grown in open fields, resistant and requiring less rapid and energy-intensive means of transport;
- A consumption of meat in moderate quantities, if consumed, and on the condition that all parts of the animal are eaten;
- Dairy products or their substitutes consumed in moderate quantities;
- Unsalted seeds and nuts;
- Small quantities of fish and seafood from certified fisheries;
- A very low consumption of processed products, rich in fat, sugars and salt; (See the article:Processed foods and the NOVA classification)
- Oils and fats with a good omega-3 / omega-6 ratio such asolive oil or rapeseed;
- Tap water as the beverage of choice.
How to have a sustainable diet?
In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission published a report outlining the definition of healthy eating from a sustainable food system and actions that can help transform the global food system. The report also proposes goals for healthy diets and sustainable food production in order to protect the planet and improve the health of the population.
The planetary health plate presented by the EAT-Lancet Commission
Among the objectives presented, the report notably proposes a healthy diet in the form of a plate. Half the plate, by volume, is made up of fruits and vegetables. The other half, in calories, is mainly made up of whole grains, vegetable protein, unsaturated vegetable oils and (optionally) animal protein in moderate amounts.
The 12 tips from the EAT-Lancet Commission for healthy and sustainable food
The Commission also suggests 12 specific actions that each individual can take to have a healthy and sustainable diet:
- Health, sustainability and indulgence
Buying, cooking and consuming healthy, sustainably produced food is better for the body and better for the environment.
- Increase, diversify and reduce
Increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Reduce consumption of red and processed meat, added sugars and highly processed foods. Finally, diversify the diet to obtain all the nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the body.
- Explore the range of plant options
With the multitude of edible plants available, it is quite possible to find plant options suited to different tastes, economic means, crops, age groups, individual preferences, etc. of each one.
- Taming vegetable proteins
Plant-based protein contains more fiber and less saturated fat than animal protein, which may benefit cardiovascular health. In addition, they are more sustainable than animal proteins, because their production generates less greenhouse gases. Examples of vegetable proteins include legumes (lentils, dry beans, peas), nuts, seeds, soy, tofu, tempeh, etc. (see article:Let's demystify vegetarianism and its nutrients to consume)
- Decrease meat consumption
Meat is an important source of nutrients including protein, iron and vitamin B12. However, excessive meat consumption can be harmful to health and the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified red meat as potentially carcinogenic and processed meat as carcinogenic.
- Moderation tastes much better
Dietary intake above requirements can lead to weight gain and various health problems. Overconsumption is also a stake for the planet. To better meet nutritional needs, intuitive eating can help to develop awareness of eating habits, take time to eat while savoring foods, and learn to recognize feelings of hunger and fullness.
- Support regenerative agricultural practices
The Carbon Underground, an international organization working to reduce carbon emissions, defines regenerative agriculture as farming and grazing practices that reverse climate change by replenishing soil organic matter and restoring biodiversity in degraded soils, resulting in both a decrease in carbon and an improvement in the water cycle. It is also defined as food grown in a regenerative way, which restores and maintains natural systems, such as water and carbon cycles, to enable the land to continue producing food in a healthier way. for people and for the long-term health of the planet and its climate.t ».
- Vote with your plate
As market supply follows demand, it is possible to make a difference by purchasing food that is good for you and for the planet. For example, by choosing foods from sustainable and socially responsible agriculture more often.
- Plan the menus for the week
Planning is the key to healthy, sustainable and tasty food. It helps ensure a varied diet, better forecasting of purchases, saves time and money. Finally, it also helps reduce food waste and waste.
- Support biodiversity
Biodiversity refers to all living things and the ecosystems in which they live. It also includes interactions between species and with their environments. There are several threats to biodiversity. These threats include the destruction of habitats / natural environments (e.g. construction), pollution of soil, water, air, etc. (eg: plastic), overconsumption / overexploitation of resources, the introduction of new exotic species and climate change. However, there are also different ways to promote it. These means include doing urban gardening (e.g. balcony, community garden), composting to reduce waste and fertilizing the garden, buying food from local farmers and retailers that support biodiversity, consuming less processed foods that are often over-packaged and whose production pollutes the environment, buy large-format foods to reduce waste and pollution, and buy sustainably produced foods.
- Cook more often
Cooking at home allows you to share moments with family or friends, make food discoveries and pass on recipes, traditions and know-how. Cooking also helps reduce the consumption of processed products. (See the article:« Sunday Meal Prep for Healthy Eatingt )
- Reduce food waste
Food waste occurs at all levels of the food chain. In terms of food value, consumers are believed to be responsible for almost 50% of the losses. By reducing food waste, less food needs to be produced to feed the population and therefore the impact on the environment can be reduced. There are several tips for reducing food waste. These tips include:
- Plan the menu for the week and make a shopping list. This allows you to buy only the food you need.
- Store foods properly in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. This way, food does not spoil before it is eaten.
- Freeze leftovers for the next week or use them for an upcoming meal / snack, in lunches, in a new recipe, etc.
- Make a donation to neighborhood food organizations. This helps reduce waste while helping food insecure people.
- Compost organic waste. Now, several cities are offering bins for home composting, a practice that helps recycle food waste.
To have a sustainable diet, you don't have to follow all the recommendations to the letter or completely change your lifestyle. Better to go gradually according to your possibilities and develop good habits over the long term. To contribute to your health and that of the environment, every action counts!
- https://www.equiterre.org/geste/gaspillage-alimentaire-non-merci#:~:text=Selon%20le%20site%20Sauve%20ta,entre%2014%20et%2025%20%25!%20% C2% BB.
- FAO, Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets, 2010.http://www.fao.org/nutrition/education-nutritionnelle/food-dietary-guidelines/background/sustainable-dietary-guidelines/fr/
- The Carbon Underground, 2017.https://thecarbonunderground.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Regen-Ag-Definition-7.27.17-1.pdf