Public Health news: Eat well for you and the planet

June 2022

Eat well for you and the planet

In the last issue of Healthier Times, we talked about how our health and the health of our planet are closely connected. In this issue, we will explore this connection in the context of food, by asking: how can we eat to stay healthy and help to protect our environment?

There are many ways we can eat to benefit the planet and ourselves.

1.     Eat a more varied and less processed diet.

  • A healthier a more sustainable diet is one that balances multiple dimensions, including nutrition, health, economic and cultural considerations, alongside a lower environmental impact.
  • Consuming foods high in fat, salt and sugar (such as cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries) less often and in smaller amounts can help improve diet quality and reduce our environmental footprint.
  • The British Nutrition Foundation suggests that the Eatwell Guide provides a model for a healthy, varied diet and estimates that if everyone in the UK adopted a diet in line with the Eatwell Guide, this could lead to some reductions in associated Green House Gas Emissions, land use and small reductions in water use
  • Choosing fish from more sustainable sources (such as those with the blue MSC logo), and trying less familiar species, can help to protect fish stocks and support sustainable production methods.

2.     Focus on seasonal, whole foods.

  • This means minimally processed foods that don't have a lot of added fat, salt, and sugar.
  • Seasonal, whole food diets may result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions from storage, transportation, and processing, as well as helping to reduce reliance on plastic packaging and palm oil.

3.     Avoid food and energy waste.

  • Living in poverty has many health implications. By learning tricks to make the most of food and energy use when cooking, you can alleviate some financial pressures.
  • It is estimated that food waste costs households over £700 per year on average. For tips on how to make your food go further, see Love Food, Hate Waste
  • Choosing to batch cook, using the microwave instead of the oven, soaking rice and other grains before cooking, and using lids on pans, are some ways to save energy and money. For more information, see BBC Money Saving Tips

4.     Grow your own food

  • You can grow food in any sized space, even just on a windowsill.
  • Upcycle old packaging as pots to keep costs down.
  • See Vertical Veg for inspiration.
  • Gardening and spending time in nature can boost your mental health, as well as helping to reduce the amount of chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides that you ingest.