What do you eat?

How the food on our plate impacts the planet.

We live in a time of choice, with seasons blurred and everything readily available in abundance.

What we eat not only sustains us in a physical way, the act of sharing a meal with friends or enjoying your favourite dish can drastically improve our mental state as well. So, how can we make sure what we eat and the choices we make as part of life not only benefits us but has a minimum impact on the world in which we live.

Being vegan isn’t just for January

With the help of charities such as Veganuary and to the relief of many, vegan is no longer a word that is surrounded by negativity. Living a vegan lifestyle is much more common with the number of vegans quadrupling between 2014 and 2019. Many more people have adopted a plant based diet and with this increase 25% of all new food products launched in 2019 were vegan. For some, this choice to be vegan or plant based is about sustainability with the impact of factory farming on the environment coming into the forefront of many people’s minds. Veganism is fast becoming one of the common ways people limit the impact they have on the planet. For many who follow a truly vegan lifestyle, it’s not only about the planet but about the treatment of animals and how that it is unacceptable to kill animals for food and also not necessary.

Being vegan isn’t for everyone and whatever changes you make and for whatever reason whatever we put on our plate can impact the planet, as with everything lifechanging, it’s important to remember that it’s not just for a little while and in order to see real changes we need to keep a careful eye on what we put on our plates.

While veganism is a fantastic way to incorporate sustainability into your lifestyle, just swapping meat for plant based dishes isn’t the only thing you can do to minimis impact. When creating your weekly shopping list, take a closer look at the things you want to put in your basket.

Avocados are a delicious and nutritious fruit that seem to be a staple in most Instagram breakfast posts and boast strong affiliations with veganism. But, when you live tens of thousands of miles away from where avocados are grown, is it really a sustainable addition to your plate? Similarly, when browsing the shelves for your favourite milk alternative,  keep in mind the processes that takes your almond and soya milk from production and into your morning cup of coffee. There are some great delivery services, glass bottled milk alternatives delivered to your door in electric vehicles https://newmilk.co.uk/

Thinking consciously when creating your meal plan can help eliminate unnecessary foods that in no way help our planet in favour of foods that not only boost our local economies but help reduce the impact we make upon the world as a whole.

Look for locally-sourced

Now that we’ve got a better idea of how what we eat works alongside sustainability, it’s time to look at the other match made in heaven; locally-sourced fruit and veg.

Locally-sourced isn’t just something you see on a menu that lets you know the restaurant you’re about to eat at knows its buzz words. Locally-sourced fruit and veg is a way to know exactly where your food is coming from and how few the miles have been between field and plate.

Just because the cauliflower in your local supermarket has got a label that says it was grown in the UK doesn’t mean it is locally-sourced. It could have travelled the length of the country and back again to find its way into your basket. Instead, head over to your local farmers’ market or farm shop or if you are lucky you might still have a high street fruit and veg shop. Not only can you meet the producers, but you can see first-hand where your food is coming from and who your money is going to.

Shopping in this way can also cut out the trend of photo-friendly produce. Yes, supermarkets are trying to address the problem by selling wonky veg boxes, but that doesn’t mean fields of produce don’t go to waste because they are too small, too big and too wonky. When doing your veg shopping, buy because it’s good for you and the planet, not because the vegetable is the perfect shape (although we totally understand how satisfying it is to find a piece of fruit or veg that might as well be from a cartoon).

Seasonal style

For us, it’s not just your wardrobe that should change sustainably with the season, it’s your food. No, we don’t just mean eating salads in the summer and stews in the winter (although we do love this as well). Buying your produce according to the season will not only help curb the nation’s need to buy produce from elsewhere, but it will also help support your local farmers in the same way as eating locally.

So, instead of reaching for the blueberries in winter and the pears in summer, find out what your local farmers produce and when and plan accordingly.

Of course, eating seasonally is great for the environment, but it’s also great for you. Food that is grown when it’s supposed to will taste better, cost less and will provide you with more of the nutrients you need at that time of year. After all, there is a reason we crave a warming, hearty vegetable soup in the depths of winter!

All in all, when you’re out doing your weekly shop, try and pick the options that are best for everyone and everything and hopefully you’ll get a new satisfaction from cooking your favourite meals.