Every year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics denotes a theme for National Nutrition Month, which takes place in the month of March. This month’s theme is Fuel for the Future.
One immediately thinks they are talking about fueling your body, but it’s actually about food sustainability. Sustainable practices can turn into a very complicated and controversial topic, but for today’s blog, we will keep it simple. Essentially, it means producing food that protects the environment by making efficient use of natural resources; promoting the livelihood of farmers; and ensuring that today’s needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations.
There are approximating 7 billion people on the earth with estimated projections that the population will near 10 billion by 2050. Already, 9 percent of the world doesn’t have enough food to eat. The big concern is what resources will be available to feed the growing population. And, what types of collaborative efforts will need to be organized to ensure a sufficient food supply. Government, food manufacturers, and the private and public sectors all play a critical role in feeding the future.
The following recommendations have a low environmental impact and contribute to preserving healthy lives and nutrition security:
Eat more plant-based foods. The USDA’s Healthy Food plate recommends filling half your plate with vegetables and fruits as part of an optimal diet. Avoid overly processed foods that are high in sugars and additives. There’s more of a demand on the environment when industry processes foods.
Rely less on animal foods. From a nutritional perspective, animal foods can be higher in saturated fats, which can add to heart disease. But meat production also requires more energy by putting a higher demand on food, water, and land supplies. Animals also impact gas greenhouse emissions. Consider adding more non-meat protein sources such as nuts and legumes to your diet as alternative protein sources a few days a week.
Buying locally puts less load on the environment as it cuts down on carbon emissions since food is not transported long distances. It also supports the economic health of farmers. When you buy food from local farmers/farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you’re contributing to your community’s economy. Or perhaps consider growing your own garden—and raising chickens appears to be a popular endeavor these days, too!
Cut down on food waste. Approximately 40% of food in the U.S. is thrown away. Being more mindful of what you eat goes along with sustainable initiatives that concern food waste. Focus on healthy eating choices and listen to your own hunger signals. By not overeating and moderating portion sizes, you are cutting down on food waste. Not only will it help with your own waistline, but mindfulness puts less burden on production demand. Composting biodegradable foods is a popular option for many today. If you can’t compose yourself, there are companies that provide this service to communities. As we know, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers take a toll on the earth and animals, so these companies recycle food waste into natural fertilizers. Retailers and supermarkets also donate excess foods to charitable organizations as their part to cut down on food waste.
Buy more Fair Trade foods. Foods that bear the Fair Trade label not only guarantees that the growers received a fair price for their goods, but it also promotes fair labor conditions and ensures ethically produced products. Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the U.S. for coffee, tea and herbs, cocoa and chocolate, fresh fruit, sugar, rice, and vanilla. Fair traded goods do not cost more; generally the middle man is cut out of the transaction. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries, so fair trade sales can positively resonate on the growth of some impoverished communities. If you are committed to the sustainable food movement, opt for Fair Trade foods.
Contributing to a sustainable food system does require a personal investment on your part. These choices may cost you time and money, but implementing a few of the suggestions noted above is a good start. Think of it as doing your small part in the greater cause to pass a healthy planet onto future generations.
In Good Health,