It’s completely understandable that climate change might take a back seat at the moment. Or that we might wonder if small steps we make with our food choices really make a difference. However, with more than 25% of total global emissions arising from the food system, small changes that all of us make that really do matter. And the good news is that switching to a more friendly climatarian diet is also like to improve our health and save us money. Watch Heather share more ideas on Virgin Media Weekend Am.
Eat less meat
Red meat is still the most popular form of meat in Ireland, with almost 30% of all adult meals containing red meat of some form and most of us eating red meat at least once per day. Although meat production in Ireland contributes less greenhouse gas emissions than in other parts of the world, it is still a less environmentally friendly choice as more food, water, land and energy are needed to produce it.
In terms of our health, the World Health Organisation recommends eating red meat no more than three times per week. The EAT Lancet Commission, a group of scientists researching both the sustainability and health implications of our food choices state that meat consumption needs to decrease by 90% by 2050. That does not mean we all need to go vegan! But it does mean that all of us should try to reduce the amount of red meat that we are eating. How to do this?
- Make your meat go further. Eat smaller portion sizes of meat and stretch it out by adding more veg and pulses to meat dishes. For example, add lentils to a Bolognese or add a tin of chickpeas or other beans to casseroles and stews
- Swap out red meat for more sustainable choices, ideally plant based, but eggs, dairy or even chicken or fish are more sustainable than red meat
- Have at least 2 plant-based lunches and dinners per week. But try to avoid highly processed vegan foods as these are usually less healthy and environmentally friendly choices There are lots of good plant based cook books and free online recipe resources like The Happy Pear, Deliciously Ella, Anna Jones, BBC Good Food…..
Eat more climatarian friendly plant-based foods, ideally local and seasonal
Plant based foods – veg, fruit, pulses, nuts and seeds are amongst the most sustainable foods and the healthiest. Ideally, we should also be trying to eat more seasonable or local produce and these are also usually the best value. How to do this?
- Ensure that half of your plate at lunch and dinner is made up of veg. For lunch at this time of year, veg soup is a great option. Or if having a wrap or sandwich, include lots of veg. For dinner, try to include at least a couple of different types of veg, with lots of colour on your plate
- Use more pulses, like lentils, chickpeas and other beans. These are a good source of both protein and fibre and a great substitute for meat in lots of dishes, from Bolognese to shepherds pie or even burgers.
Reduce your food waste
It’s not just what we eat that is contributing to the problem. It’s also what we throw out! 30% of the food produced is wasted and if food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gasses after China and the USA. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ireland generates around 1 million tonnes of food waste annually. 53% of this comes from households and 60% is avoidable. This costs the average Irish household an average of €600 a year. How can you reduce your food waste?
- Firstly, check what you are wasting. Put all of the food that you throw out over a week into a container or bucket to see how much and what you are wasting. Bread, dairy, veg (especially salad) and fruit and the most common culprits
- Plan your meals in advance and then check what you have ‘in stock’ before making out a shopping list. And sticking to it.
- Use up leftovers. Now that many of us are back to work, having leftover dinner for our lunch the next day saves both time and money
- Have an ‘eat me next’ section in your fridge to make sure you are aware of what needs to be eaten in the next day or two
- Use your freezer for food that you won’t use before they go off. Just remember to label it so you know what it is and remember it’s there
- Understand the difference between use by and best before dates. Use by dates are usually found on perishable foods and are a measure of food safety. Whereas best before dates are usually found on canned, dried or frozen frozen food and relate more to quality i.e. they are usually safe to eat, but may not taste quite as good
- Use every bit of your fruit and veg. Veg peelings can be made into stock, bits often discarded like broccoli stalks, cauliflower leaves are perfectly edible. Turn bruised or tired looking fruit into fruit compote to eat with breakfast. Freeze over ripe bananas to add to smoothies or make easy banana pancakes. Freeze leftover fresh herbs in a little olive oil in ice cube trays to use as needed….
Climatarian meal plan for a day
|Breakfast||Porridge with fruit compote, Irish natural yoghurt and ground linseeds|
|Lunch||Sweet potato and red pepper soup|
|Dinner||Vegetarian Bolognese with wholegrain pasta and side salad|
|Snack||Apple and palmful nuts / hummus and carrots|
Happy St Patrick’s Day!
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