Global warming and the nation’s physical health are currently two of the most topical conversations. This has inspired many people to adopt a healthier and more eco-friendly diet. However, if you do not know where to begin on your journey towards ‘eating green,’ and are not prepared to commit to a vegan or vegetarian diet, we would love to help with this predicament.
So do keep reading to find ways to adopt a healthier and more eco-friendly diet into your lifestyle without completely giving up meat and dairy to ensure you, your body and the planet are happy.
1. Local Produce
Buying locally-produced foods as much as possible for your weekly food shop is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint – and improve your health along the way.
Food imported from other countries must travel hundreds of miles to get to you, which involves planes, ships and lorries transporting them. These vehicles will consume millions of tonnes of fuel during that time, releasing a staggering amount of carbon monoxide (and other harmful chemicals) into the atmosphere.
75% of our fruit and veg is imported. As already mentioned, that involves a huge environmental impact. But additionally, once food is picked it starts to degrade and the health benefits are depleted.. As explained in Better Foods:
“It’s no secret that locally-grown food tastes better. Once separated from its source, a higher rate of respiration occurs in the product, resulting in moisture loss, nutrient degradation, and potential microbial spoilage…
.. Ripe fruits and vegetables contain the most nutrients, as the minute they’re picked, their plant cells begin to shrink, and their nutrients diminish.”
By eating local produce whenever possible, you are eating seasonally which is also better for your health plus you are also supporting the local economy.
2. Biodegradable Packaging
Most food products are packaged in plastic, which we all know is bad for the environment because it does not decompose and releases toxins into the atmosphere when being produced.
So, we recommend looking for food which comes in cardboard packaging, or where the label says it uses compostable packaging. For example, Nespresso coffee machine pods are notoriously bad for the environment. However, there are some brands which sell Nespresso compatible eco pods which are biodegradable and can actually be used as fertiliser.
And yes, plastic wrapping can be bad for your health, too!
Did you know that the plastic wrapping that is meant to be keeping imported fruit and veg fresh for longer probably contains phthalates, one of the most widespread endocrine disruptors? These films are normally unmarked, so you have absolutely no way of knowing whether they are potentially harmful or not.
3. Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are everywhere. They’re in everything from microwave meals and meat products to savoury snacks and breakfast bars. It’s important to educate yourself on what foods are processed and regulate your intake of them because, if you’re not careful, you could overdose on sugar, salt and saturated fats, which will eventually lead to complicated health issues.
Even more importantly, the World Health Organisation (WHO) now lists processed meats such as salami, sausages, beef burgers, canned meats etc as a group one carcinogen – the same ranking as cigarettes, alcohol and asbestos.
Of course, you can still enjoy these foods – just remember to do so in moderation.
Processed foods also have a negative impact on the environment because of the chemicals they contain, and the energy-intensive production involved in making them.
4. Meat and Dairy Alternatives
As we said before, you don’t have to become a vegan or vegetarian to improve your diet. However, for health and environmental reasons, you should reduce your intake of dairy and meat where you can.
The majority of health professionals now recommend a Mediterranean Diet as the healthiest option, which is predominantly plant-based but also includes a moderate intake of dairy foods, fish and seafood twice a week, poultry occasionally and red meat less often.
Many humans are lactose intolerant to a degree and dairy is generally considered not good for our digestive systems. Meanwhile, overconsumption of red meat is increasingly linked with all sorts of ailments, including cancer, strokes, diabetes, and heart disease.
And our love of red meat has a huge negative impact on the environment.
According to Greenpeace:
“The vast majority of meat bought in the UK is produced in intensive factory farms. These farms are part of a destructive global system of mass-produced industrial meat and dairy.”
JBS, the largest meat processing company in the world, produces around half the carbon emissions of fossil fuel giants such as Shell or BP.
The industrial meat system is also the single biggest cause of deforestation globally as is slashed and burned to graze cattle and grow the crops such as soya to feed them. The destruction process releases toxins and accelerates global warming whilst simultaneously destroying the healthy trees that absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
Greenpeace also suggests that the industrial meat system increases the risk of future pandemics:
“Destroying forests and other wild areas for animal agriculture is a major cause of new infectious diseases. Three quarters of new diseases affecting humans come from animals. Cutting down and burning forests brings wildlife into closer contact with people, enabling deadly viruses to pass from animals to humans.”
If you do buy red meat, please try to ensure you buy products that come from high-welfare UK farms, although even that cannot compensate for the methane produced by cow farts and burps!
And you will probably be surprised at how tasty some alternatives to red and processed meat are, such as these Teriyaki Black Bean Burgers. Or you could try Quorn mince which is ideal for dishes like lasagne and spaghetti bolognese, plus contains less saturated fats.
Adopting a healthier and more eco-friendly diet does not have to be about making extreme changes to your lifestyle. Instead, it is about educating yourself on how food impacts your body and the environment, then adjusting your intake accordingly.