Expert Advice from Hanah Cannon, RD, Registered Dietitian at Island Nutrition
When we think about ‘going green’ or sustainability, we might reuse or recycle where we can or purchase a keep-cup or bag-for-life, but what about the groceries and foods that we are using these items for?
Our dietary choices can have significant ramifications on the environment; however, they are within our immediate control day in, day out. There is a real need to both reduce our ecological impacts and improve our health. Luckily, every time we eat, we have another opportunity to make a positive choice.
The biggest thing that you can do right away is replace some animal protein with plant-based options. Particularly reducing consumption of red meats such as beef or lamb. Eating fewer red meats reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes as well as reducing your contribution to greenhouse gas production, wastewater, and deforestation for production of these meats from farming. It is a complicated conversation, but research shows time and time again that red meats require more resources to grow than any other animal products and animal products over all place more strain on the environment than plant based lifestyles. So, if we increase our consumption of plant-based foods, we, in turn, lower our environmental impact and often improve our general health.
Let’s look at this from the outlook of a water-conscious nation such as Bermuda. The average rainwater tank in Bermuda holds 15-20,000 gallons. A full tank would be as much water as is needed to produce 8.3lbs of red meat (that’s just 33 quarter pound hamburgers). This same tank could produce 7699 beyond burgers!
This is not to say that you can never eat meat or dairy foods, but that some simple swaps on a day-to-day basis can really make a difference. The Eat-Lancet report from 2019 recommends wealthy countries limit their intake of red meat. If choosing to continue animal protein, opt for pork, poultry or fish which are slightly less demanding for the environment and better for your health too.
Locally, restaurants and supermarkets are making efforts to improve their vegetarian and vegan offerings. There is increased variety on menus and on the shelves. Use your power as a consumer to show demand for these foods and help this sector grow further. This could be as simple as opting for the black beans instead of beef in your burrito bowl or swapping chicken for falafel in your wrap. Forgo the cheese in your sandwich, ask for almond milk in your coffee and substitute the beef chili for veggie at your favorite cafes at lunch time. When snack time hits, opt for hummus & veggie sticks instead of cheese & crackers or a packet of mixed nuts instead of the jerky at the gas station check out.
These are only small changes, but all can help to reduce our intake of saturated fats and sodium, increase our fiber, and leave us feeling satisfied that we are caring for ourselves and our planet for generations to come.
This article is mainly aimed at those with no pre-existing health conditions. If you have any questions about your nutritional health and feel you would benefit from support from a Registered Dietitian, please contact us at Island Nutrition on 295-4082 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.