Eco-friendly meal plans: help your clients reduce food waste
As a nutrition professional, you can help your nutrition client reduce food waste and become more eco-friendly through a variety of diet and lifestyle suggestions. From using glass containers to eating more plants, here are some ways to help your clients live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
According to FAO, nearly one-third of the food produced worldwide every year (1.3 billion tonnes) gets wasted, with fruits and vegetables accounting for the highest wastage rates of any food .
This number is staggering, and while there are measures in place to help reduce food waste, this issue still remains to be one of the most damaging to our planet. Unfortunately, food waste needlessly produces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming and climate change and squanders a variety of resources such as water, land, energy, and labor.
As such, it’s important to educate both yourself and those around you on how to reduce food waste and be more eco-friendly so we can help slow the effects of climate change and the health of the planet.
These choices affect us all, as it’s estimated that if we could save one-fourth of the global food supply currently wasted, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people .
So, how can you encourage your nutrition clients to reduce their carbon footprint? Let’s discuss some ways that you can help your clients be more environmentally conscious with certain food and packaging choices.
Be mindful of food packaging
Approximately 60% of all plastics produced worldwide are used for food packaging . Here are a few types of non-degradable plastics that can negatively affect human health and harm the environment.
- Plastics with BPA: BPA is used in various plastic products, and accumulates in the environment without being degraded. It also seeps into the food itself and has been found to cause numerous health issues like infertility, PCOS and other disorders .
- Single use plastics: This can include anything from straws, bottle caps, and plastic bags. Unfortunately, oceans and coastal areas tend to accumulate plastic debris from these types of products and can cause immense damage to the ecosystem and wildlife.
While some exposure to these toxic chemicals may be unavoidable, there are ways to limit exposure through certain swaps and lifestyle changes. Here are some ways that you can encourage your clients to reduce their carbon footprint and improve their food packaging habits.
- Glass containers: Glass is reusable and recyclable with no harsh chemicals, making it a perfect choice for sustainable food packaging. However, the lids used on these are often not glass, so be sure to choose a lid that is eco-friendly and BPA-free to avoid any harmful health issues .
- Stainless steel: This is another great alternative to plastic that is durable and rust-free. Moreover, they are food-safe, widely available, and affordable.
- Bamboo: Although bamboo wears and tears easier than glass and stainless steel, it’s still a great sustainable option. Additionally, it’s biodegradable and does not possess any of those harsh chemicals, while still being heat resistant and relatively durable .
Go local for eco-friendly options
If you’re looking to reduce food waste, go no further than your own community. Eating more local foods is a sustainable way to shop, so here are some ways that it helps the environment:
- Less pollution: Local food travels a shorter distance to where they sell it when compared to bigger stores that ship from all around the country (and world). As such, this produces less pollution and reduces the carbon footprint.
- Less overall waste: Many local food suppliers sell their products at farm stands or in areas with minimal packaging. Since they aren’t using plastic to transport and sell their food, they may opt for a more sustainable option instead (such as cardboard boxes or paper bags).
- Support local farmers: By giving the local food suppliers your business, they are able to upkeep farmland and maintain a healthy ecosystem. Many local farmers take sustainable actions to promote clean air, water and improve biodiversity.
While eating locally can be more expensive than buying at a grocery store, you don’t only have to only purchase these items to see benefits. Encouraging your clients to purchase a few eco-friendly food products each week, will help improve their carbon footprint while supporting the local economy.
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Helping your clients eat more eco-friendly foods
Food packaging and eating more locally aren’t the only ways to be more environmentally conscious–what you put on your plate is equally as important.
Studies show that animal products are single-handedly fueling the global climate crises, as it’s estimated that 18,000 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef . Moreover, industrial animal agriculture produces CO2, N2O, and CH4, which greatly contribute to global warming .
To help reduce your client’s carbon footprint, you can encourage them to embrace a dietary pattern that is lower in animal-based foods and higher in plant-based foods, as research has found that this eating style offers increased health benefits and a lower environmental impact .
In fact, it’s estimated that eating more plants and reducing meat and dairy consumption could reduce mortality and greenhouse gas by 10% and 70%, respectively, by 2050 . Research also shows that swapping beef for beans could account for 46-74% of the United States’ required greenhouse gas reductions .
You can help your clients eat more eco-friendly foods by encouraging them to swap animal products for other plant-based offerings. Here are some of the best environmentally-friendly foods that you can incorporate into any meal plan.
- Whole grains: quinoa, farro, and teff
- Fruits: berries, apples, pears, and oranges
- Vegetables: dark leafy greens, squash, peas, corn, carrots, lettuce, and potatoes
- Protein: tofu, legumes, lentils, and soybeans
- Plant-based milk: almond, hemp, oat, soy, and coconut
- Healthy fats: almonds, chia seeds, olives, peanut butter, avocados, walnuts
If you notice that your client is deficient in certain nutrients, here are some ways to add more plant-based, nutrient-rich foods into their diets.
However, if your client still wants to eat animal products, encourage them to choose options that are organic, pasture raised, grass fed, and free range. You can also include more plant-based foods to their meal plan in an effort to boost sustainable eating patterns.
Food (and plastic) waste is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, so lifestyle and dietary choices are important to consider when becoming more environmentally conscious. Whether it’s switching out types of packaging, supporting local farms, or eating more plant-based foods, there are many ways that you can help your nutrition clients live a more sustainable lifestyle.
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