With global food sources predicted to completely run out by 2050, we need to be thinking more and more about what we eat - not so much in relation to what certain foods do to our bodies, but to what they do to our environment.
'Eco-nutrition' is a term used to describe the relationship between food, human health, environment, agriculture and economic development. Although it is a very recent concept, it is something that more and more nutritionists will be picking up on over the next few years due to an increasing demand from governments to promote ethical consumption.
What is eco-nutrition?
There will be a predicted 2.5 billion more people living on our planet by the year 2050, making the total global population 9.5 billion. When considering that food supplies are already under immense strain, it's plain to see why food industry experts and governments are beginning to get into a bit of a panic.
- Around one billion people will eat too much.
- Around one billion people will go to bed hungry.
- Over 20,000 people will die from hunger.
We are so used to living in a quick-fix society, that many of us fail to really think about what country our food comes from, how much fuel is used to get it to our fridges, or whether it is sourced via sustainable, ethical methods.
We are so far removed from the production of our food that we seem to lack any sense of guilt or moral accountability for what we put in our mouths. For instance, if we could personally see the devastating effects of purse-seining (net fishing) on endangered tuna species and the thousands of other sea creatures (including dolphins, whales, sharks and turtles) that are killed and discarded by unethical fishing practices every day, then perhaps we would think twice about the types of fish we buy.
Eco-nutrition is not some new-fangled, new-age fad. It is not about saving a couple of endangered species so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is, quite simply, about ensuring that we, and our future generations, are going to have enough food to eat over the next century. At the current rate of consumption, this looks highly unlikely.
How can I eat ethically?
Ethical eating focuses on putting thought into where your food comes from and the impact it has on other humans, animals and the environment. It can make a big difference in how you approach every meal of the day. If you’d like to start eating more ethically, here are five tips to try.
1. Go local
Choose locally sourced food to sustain your local community and cut back on the carbon footprint of your food. Shopping seasonally can help with this too, as well as helping you to create variations of your favourite recipes throughout the year!
2. Support sustainable farming
Choose sustainable farming methods, such as free-range eggs and meat, in order to cut down on the amounts of forest felled and water used in large-scale factory farms. Line caught tuna is far more sustainable than purse-seining methods.
3. Try meat-free Mondays
Sometimes the simplest thing to do is to cut back - just eat less meat. Many of us eat far more than we need. The great demand for livestock has a domino effect on grain demand, land demand and water demand. If you’re not ready to embrace vegetarianism or veganism, that’s OK. Find out more about flexitarianism, which could help you to make smarter food choices, without giving up meat altogether.
4. Choose packaging carefully
Products with lots of unnecessary packaging use up more resources to manufacture so it can help to assess packaging before making a choice to purchase.
5. Experiment with alternatives
Choose alternatives to your favourite foods, such as pollock instead of cod, or kidney beans instead of mince. Or, try swapping cows milk for a dairy-free milk alternative.
How can a nutritionist help me with eco-nutrition?
Not all nutritionists will advise you to eat ethically. In fact, according to a survey of diet professionals by the Network Health Dietitians (NHD) magazine, 85.89% said they would promote any old apple to a client, without worrying about where it came from.
But, that being said, there are many nutrition professionals who take a wider view of the planet in working with their clients.
"From a nutritional perspective, it is crucial that a diet promoting sustainability for such a large population also meets their health needs. Our bodies cannot function to an optimal level without adequate nutrients, in the form of macro and micronutrients. This is something that the Planetary Diet claims to take into account," says Registered Nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert.
This Planetary Diet is not about deprivation; instead, it is all things in moderation, and a focus on healthy, plant-based eating.
- Rhiannon Lambert on the Planetary Diet
With greater demand for eco-nutritionists, this is likely to become a bigger trend within the industry. With more nutritionists promoting ethical consumption, consumers are bound to become more aware of the impact their eating habits have on the environment and, as dramatic as it may sound, the impact they have on the future of the human race.
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