Benefits of eating a climate-friendly diet Posted by Justine Clarabut on 9 June, 2021

There has been extensive research around the need to transform the way we produce and consume food and what constitutes a climate-friendly diet. This includes what defines a healthy and sustainable diet and how we can increase awareness to encourage people to take action and responsibility for their part in climate change.

What is healthy for the climate is also healthy for us!

Most of us know that reducing the amount of sugar and fat in our diet and increasing our consumption of fruit and vegetables is good practice for our health and wellbeing. However, we can also eat food that is better for our climate!

UN experts suggest that switching to a plant-based diet will help to fight climate change. Western countries in particular have a high consumption of meat and dairy produce that is fuelling global warming. Nevertheless, Professor Pete Smith, a leading author and environmental scientist at Aberdeen University said “We’re not telling people to stop eating meat. In some places people have no other choice. But it’s obvious that in the West we’re eating far too much meat”

Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the
world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the greatest challenges in the coming decades will be reducing emissions from food production. Producing the food we eat is complex with so many elements to consider when trying to understand and quantify food greenhouse gas emissions. Just some of the solutions that need to be considered are changing what we eat, reducing food waste, improving agricultural efficiency and technologies that make low-carbon food alternatives scalable and affordable. 

climate-friendly diet

Interestingly, Denmark has introduced official climate-friendly diet guidelines. According to these new guidelines, they are recommending the reduction in consumption of meat from 500g to 350g a week and recommend 100g of legumes everyday! Minister of Climate, Energy and Utilities, Dan Jorgensen said “There is a lot to gain from the green account by considering the climate when we eat, and luckily, many of us are keen to do this. I am pleased that everyone interested now gets a helping hand with the new dietary guidelines. It is not necessarily about completely changing your diet. Even small changes on an individual level can make a big difference if there are enough people who make them”

The one thing that experts do agree on is that fruit and vegetables are key to eating a climate-friendly diet. Yes, fruit and vegetables transported by air have a high carbon footprint but it is a fraction of the carbon impact of meat and dairy produce. Cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by two-thirds, according to the Oxford study, published in the journal Science.

Ways to achieve sustainable eating and adopt a climate-friendly diet

  1. Try to eat a varied diet of plant-rich foods. Such as beans, nuts, grains, seeds and soy-based foods, as these have a high protein and fibre content.
  2. Eat less meat and make responsible seafood choices.
  3. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake and try to eat what is in season.
  4. Eat less sweet, salty and fatty foods.
  5. Quench your thirst quite simply with water.
  6. Reduce your food waste – buy less and prepare food sensibly. The average household throws away about 30% of the food they buy! Also, try to buy food that has plastic-free packaging.
  7. Check the labels on the food you buy. Look out for Fairtrade (protecting farmers and workers in developing countries), Freedom Food (animal welfare), MSC and ASC (seafood), and RSPO certified sustainable palm oil.
  8. Grow your own! You don’t need a big garden to produce your own food. Pots and containers are great ways to produce food that is free from the carbon footprint of shop-bought food! And it is not only rewarding but tastes so good and is healthy for the mind and body too!

Take a look at the Climate Change Food Calculator to see what impact the food that you eat has on the climate.

Eating for longevity

There is, of course, controversy and conflict around climate-friendly food and sustainability. Wellbeing People do not align themselves to a particular angle or debate but we do know that eating a balanced and varied diet with a high intake of plant-rich foods is better for our health and life longevity. And if this also means that eating less meat and processed food is better for our climate too, then we fully support this actionable approach.

climate change

References and further reading

State of Green
BBC

Science Magazine