What Is Meant By Sustainable Development?
The field in which sustainability acts is very vast. Speaking of food, we are referring to what we eat: how it is grown, bred, produced, and transported to our tables.
For example, the sustainable production of fruit and vegetables (food essential for human health) is such when pesticides and fertilizers are avoided which could harm plants, and wildlife or leave toxic residues, harmful to humans, the product, in the soil, and the environment. Certified organic plant products are therefore eco-sustainable.
Farming that rotates crops to maintain soil health makes the land usable for future generations and provides green food. For example, a diet (understood as a reasonable diet) is sustainable if it supports both man and nature in the short and long term, such as the LOVe diet. (Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian), which does not include meat or fish, is nutritious because it satisfies the daily requirement of macro and micronutrients, is accessible to all, economical, and recommends sustainable foods.
The concept of sustainability also includes an adequate living wage and correct working conditions for those working in the agri-food system: fair work.
Sustainable Food Meaning
In addition to being made up of sustainable foods, the diet must give well-being, that is, it must be of long-term support to human beings to prevent important diseases that would harm the person and represent a cost to society.
Among these diseases, the most common are:
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Cardiovascular diseases
Healthy and sustainable diets are therefore food models that promote all dimensions of individual health and well-being, have a low environmental impact, are accessible to all, are convenient, safe, equitable, and are culturally acceptable.
Among these, the safest and most practical for us human beings are those that include eco-sustainable foods, both of plant and animal origin.
With this we do not want to label the vegan diet (totally composed of foods of plant origin) as unsustainable, since it is, if it adopts organically grown foods and provides sufficient quantities of high biological value proteins (complete with the 9 essential amino acids), minerals important and bioavailable ones such as calcium, as well as vitamins, especially vitamin B12.
However, having to draw nutrients only from the vegetable world, those present in greater quantities may not be sufficient, therefore, the diet may need supplements and/or particular attention in the choice of foods and quantities. For this reason, the vegan diet may not be easy to follow, while the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is simpler because it follows the easy principles of the Mediterranean diet and gives the typical taste of good Italian food.
The vegan diet was not born only for reasons of sustainability, but also to respect values other than the protection of man and the safeguarding of the earth, ethical values such as the non-suppression of animal life for food purposes.
Diet And Environmental Impact
To protect the environment, both in the short and long term, i.e. fully respect ecosystems, a sustainable diet should:
- Prioritize animal welfare and health
- Support biodiversity
On an individual level, this means making changes, such as eating less meat and choosing products grown without environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
- A sustainable diet supports the natural world as well as human well-being by minimizing the use of pesticides and ensuring suitable working conditions for people in the food industry.
- Compliance with a sustainable diet brings individual, collective and environmental benefits, both in the short and long term.
Sustainable diets should focus on plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and olive oil, and foods that animals naturally make available, such as milk and eggs.
A diet rich in plant foods (e.g. fruit, vegetables, olives, whole grains, legumes, nuts, almonds, seeds, and any other element derived from these foods) and integrated with some foods of animal origin ( milk and derivatives, eggs) is associated with better human and environmental health because it offers all the nutrients our body needs.
Furthermore, animals that produce milk and eggs pollute much less than those raised to produce meat. The best way to reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and agricultural land use is to reduce cattle ranching for meat, which destroys forests to create pastures and creates more greenhouse gasses, especially methane and nitrous oxide, and rely more on crops and food derived from live animals.
The reason is due to various factors involving animal feed. For example, dairy animals live for many years (on average a dairy cow lives 6/8 years) and eat vegetables (hay, corn, sorghum, soy, etc.) which, in turn, absorb greenhouse gasses, which cancel gas emissions from livestock producing milk or eggs.
10 Tips For Sustainable Nutrition
The following tips will help you follow a more sustainable or green diet.
Try To Get Most Of Your Protein From Legumes, Eggs, And Semi-Fat Hard Cheeses
If you currently get most of your protein from meat or fish, focus on gradually reducing and include vegetable proteins and eggs or low-fat cheeses such as Grana Padano DOP. For sustainability, experts recommend eating at least 125 g of dried legumes such as beans, lentils, peas, or dried fruit such as walnuts or almonds a day and 2 portions of dairy products (yogurt, semi-skimmed milk).
As a second course, you can eat 2-4 portions of eggs a week and a portion of Grana Padano DOP (50 g) instead of meat or fish 2-3 times a week. Follow this LOVE diet. (Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian) which calculates both the calories you should eat every day, and the number of proteins, minerals, and vitamins for your daily requirement.
Eat Whole Grains
Flours, pasta, bread, rice, and other cereals: it is always better to choose the wholemeal type for an adequate supply of fiber.
Buy Sustainably Produced Food
Look for foods produced using regenerative agriculture, which focuses on maintaining soil health and thereby supporting the entire local ecosystem. Choose virtuous companies that tend to avoid harmful pesticides and fertilizers, as well as rotate crops so that soil nutrients are not depleted.
Products with the “organic” label meet several criteria that promote sustainability, but the label is not always a guarantee. Similarly, small producers may not be certified organic, but they can still stick to regenerative and eco-friendly practices.
Cook More Often And Cut Out Convenience Foods
Home-cooked food is more nutritious than food enjoyed in a restaurant or fast food chain or pre-cooked and frozen industrial food. While cooking, we can control the added fat and salt and season with good-quality oil, such as extra virgin olive oil.
Reduce Food Waste
An estimated 30-40% of food in the food supply is thrown away. Try to cook and eat food before it spoils, use as much of the edible portion of produce as possible, and eat and reuse leftovers. The “recovery kitchen” includes many tasty recipes!
Eat Seasonal And Local
Eating sustainably doesn’t have to be expensive. We can reduce our impact on the climate by choosing fresh seasonal and locally grown fruit and vegetables. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season is usually cheaper and reduces the number of greenhouse gasses used by the food to get to you.
Limit Alcohol And “Liquid” Sugars
Soft drinks and fruit juices are the third largest contributor to food GHG emissions. Tap water remains our most sustainable source of hydration: use reusable bottles, and drink domestic water, it’s controlled and safe water.
Attention To Quality
Avoid processed meats and highly processed foods high in fat and sugar. Choosing less processed foods will be good for your health and the environment. Reduce your intake of high-calorie foods such as cookies, chips, chocolate, and takeout foods (pizza, fast food) that are less nutritious.
Remember That Water Is The Best Drink To Hydrate Your Body
Tap water is good quality water, constantly monitored, and today it also represents an eco-sustainable choice: by drinking tap water we help reduce the consumption of plastics and packaging.
Include Healthy Eating In The Context Of Healthy Habits
Avoid cigarette smoke, alcohol and exercise regularly. Traveling on foot or by bicycle is always to be preferred to keep the body healthy and respect the environment. Regular physical activity also ensures restful sleep. A truly sustainable diet is both nutritious for the individual and respectful of the environment and the community.