3 Tips to eat sustainably and healthily

Eating Sustainably

We all know the importance of a healthy diet in our lives.  This is the reason we choose salad over chips, overnight oats for breakfast over the rich butter croissant, or have some greens alongside our meal.   To remind ourselves, a healthy diet contributes to our overall health, how well children develop, and also how well we age.  Can you eat healthily and sustainably and save money while doing it?  Many people have the impression that eating healthy and sustainable diets means spending more, according to a survey done by the Journal of Consumer Research.  Is it really more expensive to eat healthily and sustainably compared to eating unhealthily and unsustainably?  In some cases, yes, but it is not always the case.  I am passionate about food and a promoter of sustainability. I am also very passionate about healthy living and the impact of diet on our health.  Because of my exposure to the world of food through my career and my passions, I know that eating healthy and sustainably does not have to be expensive.  You can read more about the author on our about page here. Below are 3 ways you can eat sustainably, eat healthily and also save money.

1. Eat sustainably – eat seasonal and regional foods

By incorporating seasonal and regional foods, you will be sustainable, and in some cases, the food products may have better nutritional content.  Depending on the time spent during transportation, and how fresh produce is handled may determine the vitamin content.  If these foods have been flown in from thousands of miles away, they will have a lot of food miles.   Many food miles for fresh produce, means that the fresh produce is likely to have been flown into the country.  Planes have a high impact on climate.

Some substitution ideas, include ditching plums and other imported seed fruits such as plums when they are off-season, and going for locally grown berries for instance.  If watermelons have been imported from another continent, you could opt to go for fruits grown closer to home.   Good thing is, most produce is labeled with where it is grown.

I love having blueberries with my yoghurt or in my smoothies due to their antioxidant content.  As a sustainability-conscious person, I have made a pledge to eat fewer blueberries in winter and instead eat more black grapes, red cabbage, and aubergines to get the same antioxidants (anthocyanins).   The substituted fruits and vegetables work out cheaper compared to blueberries imported to the UK from South America for instance.

We tend to eat avocados because nutritionists tell us that they are healthy and they contain healthy oils.  Avocados are rich in vitamin E which is a powerful anti-oxidant.  Avocados do not grow in temperate climates and therefore they have to be imported from the tropics.  This means a lot of food miles.  What can you substitute or partially substitute avocados with?  Extra virgin olive oil, walnuts, and up your leafy green vegetable intake!

2. Don’t waste food, it is not sustainable

Who throws away food? How often do you do it? I am guilty of throwing away food. It is something I rarely do, and I only do it when it is unavoidable. This can be for instance, if I am worried it is not safe to eat the food.  I always feel a lot of regrets when I put food in the bin, more like psychological pain.  This is because of wasting food on climate change, and also because of the money and resources wasted.   If you throw away food, think of it like opening your purse, taking out a pound or a dollar, and throwing it in the bin.  Food is a precious resource and should not be wasted.  Many precious resources go into producing food.  Growing produce for instance uses a lot of water for irrigation, sometimes electricity which has its own carbon footprint.    If you are not familiar with the term carbon footprint, in simple terms it is how an activity contributes directly or indirectly to climate change.   For a broader explanation, you can check here. The Agri-chemicals used to produce the food also contribute to carbon footprint and in some cases, people toil to grow the produce.  If it’s cooked food, imagine the effort that went into preparing the food.  We can all agree that it is wrong to throw away food.

For more tips on how you can avoid or minimise the amount of food you throw away,  check out our articles on this topic – How to reduce food waste at home for fruit and vegetables and 12 tips to prevent food waste at home.

When you throw away food, you waste the money used to buy that food and the resources that went into producing the food.  By not wasting or throwing away food, you are therefore saving money and being more sustainable.

3. Prepare your own food, and control your CO2 footprint

Preparing your own food is a great way of ensuring that it is healthy and also sustainably sourced.  Food prepared by you will also tend to be cheaper than the same quantity bought prepared either as a ready meal or a meal from a restaurant.   You also have a choice in terms of what ingredients you use when you prepare your own food.  I prepare my family meals every week.  I am a true believer in batch cooking; it is a great way of ensuring you have nutritious food throughout the week.

I do not stick to recipes when preparing food.  Because of this, I have had my share of flops when I have tried being creative in baking for instance.  My salads tend to have random ingredients, as I believe in “eating with a purpose” which translates to asking yourself what is the purpose of your eating.  Is it for nourishment, e.g., a protein shake after a workout or it is for enjoyment, e.g., a cake or an alcoholic drink?  If you would like to learn more on the topic of eating with purpose, check out one of our articles here which generated a good dose of debate by our readers when we first published it one year ago.  What are your views on the concept?

How can we incorporate sustainability, and healthy eating by preparing our own meals?  We can substitute ingredients that we consider not sustainable for sustainable ingredients instance. An example is if the recipe includes ingredients that are not in season or are exotic, can you use some other ingredients?  Can you for instance use cantaloupe instead of a mango? Can you switch the beef in your recipe to Quorn mince?  Can you add more vegetables to your dish and have less meat?  These examples of substitutions would be more sustainable and sometimes cheaper (depending on your location).  These are just 3 random examples, there are many more.

It is understandably difficult to give up everything that has high food miles or a high carbon footprint in one go.  For a meat-eater, giving up meat completely or committing to never throwing away food may be unrealistic.  But, every little thing towards sustainable living will help.  for guidance on what a sustainable plate should look like, see WWF’s guidance here.   If everyone implements a few changes and strives to build on these changes, the effect would be massive.  For instance, you may want to commit to eating less meat or eating less avocado.  You could commit to eliminating food waste.  You may not eliminate it 100%, but 50% is a start that could later become 90%.  A journey of a thousand miles starts with a singles step.

I hope you found the article interesting.  If you did or if you would like to make suggestions on how we could have done better, we would love to hear your feedback via our Contact Us form.