So, your diet can do a lot: From weight loss to clearing up your skin, what you put in your body can do wonders. But what about saving the planet? Is what you’re eating putting a strain on the earth’s resources.
According to research by the year 2050, the ocean water will be mainly acidic. And what about the fact that global temperatures are on the rise. Yes, global warming is not ‘fake news’ but a harsh reality that is not so slowly creeping up on us.
The Planetary Diet
But what if what we ate could make a difference to where we find ourselves? Well, according to the EAT-Lancet Commission it could. This year the Commission, made up of 30 world-leading experts, figured out a way to feed the world’s population within sustainable planetary boundaries. They introduced a healthy eating plan to not only help with the obesity epidemic but also lessen our negative impacts on the environment.
The EAT-Lancet researchers looked at how to feed more people while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preventing further species extinction, curbing the expansion of farmland and conserving water.
Going (Mainly) Plant-Based
Lecturer at North-West University and spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) Dr Mariaan Wicks describes the planetary health diet as: “…rich in plant-based foods, with fewer animal source foods and limited amounts of added sugars. The planetary health plate consists of approximately half a plate of non-starchy vegetables and fruits, preferably locally produced, fresh and in season. The other half of the plate should primarily consist of whole grains, plant protein sources such as legumes and nuts, with only modest amounts of unsaturated plant oils and animal sources of proteins.”
The researches recommended that we reduce our consumption of animal products because its production has the highest detrimental impact on the environment. It also recommends that we limit eating highly processed foods as a means of reducing the harmful effects of food manufacturing and distribution.
According to Dr Wicks, our will to create a more sustainable world for our future generations makes changing our diets inevitable. “The composition of our diets determines the impact of food on the environment, and the food system is where the domains of our health and the health of the environment meet,” she says. “Earth is our home, and it is the only one we have. The responsibility to take care of the planet falls on each one of us, and therefore, dietary adaptions are essential.”
Making The Change
Applying this planetary diet would mean that in South Africa we would need to reduce our intake of animal proteins, added sugars and starchy vegetables. Dr Wicks advises that South Africans can take small steps towards eating more sustainably rather than making sweeping changes.
She provides these simple changes we can all make to help our waistlines and planet.
- Reduce the amount of meat you eat in your daily meal, especially red meat, can contribute greatly to reducing your carbon footprint. Or try to have one day where all your meals are meat-free.
- To reduce dependence on refined starches, experiment with other starchy foods such as brown rice, couscous and whole-wheat pasta.
- Buy fresh, seasonal, locally-produced fruit and vegetables, and limit pre-cut and packaged fruits and vegetables. By doing this you will not only save money but will also dramatically reduce your plastic use.
- Choose water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. Use reusable bottles to limit your single-use plastic items.