Author: Helen Spriggs, BANT and CNHC Registered Nutritional Therapist & Owner of Spriggs Nutrition in Newbury.
There are many factors to bear in mind when considering how to eating sustainably, including; what you eat, where it’s from, how you cook and making sure you minimise waste. As a BANT Registered Nutritionist I often get asked: Is organic better for you? Should I go vegan? What’s the ‘best’ diet to follow? In answering any of these questions, there are three important points I always consider:
1. Your budget 2. Your health 3. Our planet
You don’t have to go out of your way to find vegan options these days. You’ll find good choices in supermarkets, bars, cafes and restaurants. However, veganism is more than just not eating food derived from animals (i.e. not meat, fish, dairy, eggs). A true vegan won’t eat honey, use products tested on animals, or wear materials that come from animals such as leather and wool. Veganism goes way beyond food. So, when a well-known fried chicken company decides to put a vegan burger on its menu, I can’t help but wonder, would a vegan eat a ‘vegan’ burger from an establishment whose main business is chicken? Honestly, no. Are there better non-meat options for your health? Most definitely. And are companies simply jumping on the bandwagon to make more profit? I’ll let you decide on that for yourself. However, does it provide an opportunity for someone to try a non-meat option? Yes! The upshot is, these things are never black and white.
The same holds true when considering whether veganism or vegetarianism is the most sustainable way to eat. There are many factors to weigh up. First of all, if you’re a regular meat eater, switching from one extreme to the other can be hard, so your best intentions may be short lived. Secondly, you need to consider whether it fits your health status. There are nutrients that are harder to come by in a vegan diet, so supplementation may be required. There are also many other dietary options out there; NOMAD (no meat and dairy), climatarian, flexitarian, reducatarian…..although I’m not a fan of having to put a label on it!
The general ethos of these ‘tarian options and why they fit the sustainable eating model, is that they’re not just about eating less meat and more plant-based food, but also focus at sourcing more local produce, reducing plastic and food waste and generally just being more mindful of your impact on our planet. We can all take some steps towards this ethos; considering zero waste shops, local markets and suppliers to buy our groceries, understanding the best ways to store food so it keeps longer. Planning your meals can mean less food waste and saving money. Every DAY in the UK we throw away over 1 MILLION bananas, 5 MILLION plus potatoes and glasses of milk, 24 MILLION slices of bread. We have an annual wastage of 178 MILLION bags of salad (so food and plastic waste there!). If you want a simple way to eat more sustainably, start by looking at these foods and think, do I buy more than I need? Do I plan my meals? Do I store it appropriately?
I’ll be discussing all of this in more detail at my talk ‘How to Eat Locally, Seasonally and Sustainably’ on Saturday 7th September at GreenFest in Hampstead Norreys. I’ll also be around all day to answer your questions and be handing out top tips and recipes on ways to eat healthily and sustainably.
Save the date and put Saturday 7th September 10am – 4pm in your diary. Check out the Facebook event page @ourGreenFest and website for more details and I’ll see you there!