What is sustainable food?
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines sustainable diets as diets with low environmental impacts that contribute to food and nutrition security and healthy lives for present 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 Plates, Pyramids and Planet report published in 2018, the FAO provides an overview of the characteristics of low environmental impact and good health 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-consuming means of transport;
- Consumption of meat in moderate quantities, if consumed, and provided that all parts of the animal are eaten;
- Dairy products or their substitutes consumed in moderate amounts;
- Unsalted seeds and nuts;
- Small quantities of fish and seafood from certified fisheries;
- A very low consumption of processed products, rich in fat, sugar and salt; (See the article:Processed foods and the NOVA classification)
- Oils and fats with a good omega-3/omega-6 ratio likeolive oil or rapeseed;
- Tap water as the drink of choice.
How to have a sustainable diet?
In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission released a report outlining the definition of healthy diets from a sustainable food system and actions that can help transform the global food system. The report also proposes targets for healthy diets and sustainable food production to protect the planet and improve people's health.
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 of the plate, by volume, is made up of fruits and vegetables. The other half, in calories, is mostly made up of whole grains, plant proteins, unsaturated vegetable oils, and (possibly) animal protein in moderate amounts.
The EAT-Lancet Commission's 12 tips for a healthy and sustainable diet
The Commission also suggests 12 specific actions that each individual can take to have a healthy and sustainable diet:
- Health, sustainability and gluttony
Buying, cooking and consuming healthy, sustainably produced foods is better for the body and the environment.
- Increase, diversify and reduce
Increase 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 breadth of plant-based options
With the multitude of edible plants available, it is entirely possible to find plant options to suit different tastes, economic means, cultures, age groups, individual preferences, and more. of each one.
- Taming vegetable proteins
Plant proteins contain more fiber and less saturated fat than animal proteins, which may benefit cardiovascular health. In addition, they are more sustainable than animal proteins, because their production generates less greenhouse gases. Examples of plant proteins include legumes (lentils, dried beans, peas), nuts, seeds, soy, tofu, tempeh, etc. (see article:Let's demystify vegetarianism and its nutrients to consume)
- Reduce meat consumption
Meat is an important source of nutrients including protein, iron and vitamin B12. However, excessive consumption of meat can be harmful to health and the environment. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified red meat as a possible carcinogen and processed meat as a carcinogen.
- Moderation tastes better
Food intake in excess of requirements can lead to weight gain and various health problems. Overconsumption is also a challenge for the planet. To better meet nutritional needs, intuitive eating can help to become aware of eating habits, to take the time to eat while savoring foods and to 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 to degraded soils, which results in both a decrease in carbon and an improvement in the water cycle. It is also defined as food grown in a regenerative way that restores and maintains natural systems, such as the water and carbon cycles, to allow 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 buying foods that are good for your health and for the planet. For example, by choosing more often foods from sustainable and socially responsible agriculture.
- Plan weekly menus
Planning is the key to a healthy, sustainable and tasty diet. It helps ensure a varied diet, better plan purchases, save time and save money. Finally, it also helps to reduce waste and food 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. (e.g. plastic), overconsumption/overexploitation of resources, 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 fertilize the garden, buying food from local farmers and retailers that support biodiversity, consuming less of processed foods that are often over-packaged and whose production pollutes the environment, to buy large formats to reduce waste and pollution, and to buy foods produced in a sustainable way.
- Cook more often
Cooking at home allows you to share moments with family or friends, to make food discoveries and to pass on recipes, traditions and know-how. Cooking also contributes to reducing 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 would be responsible for almost 50% of losses. By reducing food waste, less food needs to be produced to feed people and therefore the impact on the environment can be reduced. There are several tips to reduce food waste. These tips include:
- Plan the menu for the week and make a grocery list. This allows you to buy only the necessary food.
- Properly store food in the fridge, freezer and pantry. Thus, the food does not spoil before being consumed.
- Freeze leftovers for the next week or use them for a next meal/snack, in lunches, in a new recipe, etc.
- Donate to neighborhood food organizations. This reduces waste while helping people who are food insecure.
- Compost organic waste. Now, several cities offer bins for composting at home, a practice that makes it possible to recover food waste.
To have a sustainable diet, you do not 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 gesture counts!
- https://www.equiterre.org/geste/gaspillage-alimentaire-non-merci#:~:text=According to%20the%20site%20Sauve%20ta,between%2014%20and%2025%20%25!%20% C2%BB.
- FAO, Biodiversity and sustainable diets, 2010.http://www.fao.org/nutrition/nutritional-education/food-dietary-guidelines/background/sustainable-dietary-guidelines/en/
- The Carbon Underground, 2017.https://thecarbonunderground.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Regen-Ag-Definition-7.27.17-1.pdf