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7 ways to eat more sustainably

South Africans love meat. But reducing your consumption is important for a more sustainable diet that will help lower your carbon footprint. Here are some tips on how to eat smarter for the environment.

One small thing: Plan your meals and shop strictly from your list to avoid food wastage. Be realistic about the amount of fresh produce you buy – experimenting with different fruit and veggies is fantastic, but not if it gets forgotten in the fridge and goes off.

Meat is a great source of protein and a variety of healthy micronutrients, but it’s not the greatest food to eat for sustainability. Unfortunately, the production of meat doesn’t do the earth any favours in the long run.

Food wastage is also a global problem – not only does it result in economic loss, but it also impacts the environment as more food ends up in landfills.

It might take a little getting used to but choosing alternative protein sources to meat might help save the planet in the future.

Why you should do your bit for the earth

According to a report published in the Lancet, we need to reduce our consumption of meat by at least half to make sure that the planet is able to feed the population by 2050.

This is because the production of meat, especially red meat, has a huge carbon footprint and cannot be sustainable in the years to come. The main reason for this is that animal waste releases harmful gases, such as methane, into the atmosphere and this contributes to global warming. Poultry farming, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same issues with emissions, and requires less land and water to maintain, which makes it somewhat more sustainable.

So, we should be getting smarter about the types of food sources we choose and how we use the food we buy. If we all make small positive changes, our impact on the environment (and our health) could be quite significant:

1. Make plant-based foods the focus of your meal

Shift your focus when it comes to meals and think of vegetables, wholegrain pastas, beans, legumes and other plant-based foods as the star of the show instead of a side dish. There are so many tasty ways to prepare veggies – roast, stir-fry or sauté them using fresh herbs for flavour. Or serve whole roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes with a cottage-cheese filling.

2. Make beans and legumes a pantry staple

Kidney beans, black beans and lentils are filling, a good source of plant protein and provide a hearty texture to soups and stews. They’re also affordable and can easily be bought in bulk.

3. Shop locally and seasonably

Look for fresh produce that is currently available in season and choose locally manufactured brands as far as possible. Also try and shop for the least processed foods possible – opt for whole veggies instead of the pre-packed, cut versions.

4. Gradually eat less meat

To eat sustainably, it’s important to start reducing your meat consumption, but cutting it out completely won’t work for everyone. Try replacing one or two of your weekly red-meat dishes with chicken. Not only is it a healthy source of protein, but a whole roasted chicken usually provides enough leftovers for lunchboxes. Stretch pasta dishes and casseroles by adding legumes while reducing the amount of red meat used.

6. Plan a weekly menu to avoid wasting food

Plan your meals and shop strictly from your list to avoid food wastage. Be realistic about the amount of fresh produce you buy – experimenting with different fruit and veggies is fantastic, but not if you don’t eat them before they go off in the fridge.

7. Eat more sustainable fish

Choose canned dolphin-friendly tuna – not only is this a great sources of protein, but it’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your health. Tuna is inexpensive and versatile – use it as a sandwich filling or in casseroles. And always remember to buy fish on the SASSI-approved green list.

8. Think about your food

Don’t simply devour a meal without thinking about where it comes from. The more mindfully we eat, the more aware we will be about where it has come from and how it will nourish our bodies. Additionally, mindful eating allows you to listen to your body and stop eating when you are full.

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