Learn how to create mealtime food sustainability for families, one meal at a time.
Learning how to reduce carbon footprint at mealtime is a growing trend. In addition to making family meals healthy and delicious, people increasingly want to ensure their meals are comprised of sustainable food choices. According to the 2021 Food and Health Survey from IFIC, 42% of consumers believe their food choices make an impact on environment sustainability, and 7 out of 10 report that climate change sometimes influences their food purchasing decisions. But what does that mean on your dinner plate?
While many people consider food sustainability to be focused primarily on the environmental factors of food production, there are other facets of sustainable food systems to consider. According to the non-profit food systems sustainability organization, Food + Planet, there are four dimensions of sustainability for diets, which include the following:
While planetary considerations, such as reducing the carbon and water footprint of food choices, avoiding food waste, trimming food packaging, and eating a more plant-based diet, are very important when making sustainable food choices at the family dinner table, other issues are important for sustainable meal planning. Keep in mind factors such as honoring cultural food traditions, local food systems, food affordability and access, nutrient-rich food choices, and diet diversity. (2)
EAT-Lancet Planetary Health Plate
One guide for making sustainable food choices is the science-based EAT-Lancet Commission’s Planetary Health Diet, which addresses both the health of people and the planet. In order to transform to healthy diets for people and the planet, it will take a substantial shift in eating patterns, according to EAT-Lancet. It will require more than doubling the consumption of healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes, with a greater than 50% reduction in global consumption of red meat and added sugars. Analysis shows that these changes result in major health benefits by reducing global deaths by up to 24%, while making major impacts on planetary boundaries, such as biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions, cropland and water use, and phosphorus and nitrogen application. This recommended diet pattern is flexible, because it provides guidelines and ranges of food groups for an optimal diet, with targets in each section.
The pillars of sustainable diets, including sociocultural, nutrition, economic, and planetary factors, can all be considered when planning wholesome family meals. Try these tips for planning healthy, delicious sustainable meals for the whole family.
1. Consider Cultural Food Preferences
What are traditional family meals that are part of your family’s food culture? For example, a classic food tradition might be beans and rice, which also fits nicely into a nutritious, affordable, accessible, low-carbon footprint eating plan. Get connected to these traditions by engaging with your favorite foods and memories.
2. Plan Budget-Friendly Meals
Before planning healthful meals, it’s important to identify access to affordable healthful foods in your community. It’s essential to work around your own food availability and budget.
3. Reduce Food Waste
Low-hanging fruit is identifying opportunities to cut down on food waste, which can help save dollars and negative planetary outcomes. Use leftovers, making third and second meals out of ingredients, such as beans and grains, and interpret expiration dates on labels. Learn more about food waste here.
4. Plan More Meatless Meals
Swapping meat for beans is one great way to promote sustainability in all four dimensions: economic, sociocultural, planetary, and nutrition. Reduce animal food intake and replace those foods with plant proteins, such as pulses, nuts, seeds, and soy foods.
Try these sustainable, budget-friendly recipes for family meals:
Leave a Reply