Eating Well for a Healthy Planet

Eating Well for a Healthy Planet

Chances are you’re looking for a way to start your kids off with healthy eating habits. It’s also likely you’re interested in doing what you can to improve the health of our planet.

The new WWF Eating for 2 Degrees report released in May 2017, gives you the info you need to do just that. In particular, it describes ways for people to do well by their children and their planet by implementing the six WWF Livewell Principles.

Changing the way you eat now will hopefully make enough of a difference to keep the global temperature rise well below two degrees between now and 2030. This is the level the UK committed to in the Paris Agreement.

It’s daunting to think you could make changes at a personal level that could impact the temperature of the planet, but there are really only a few things you need to do. Firstly, become familiar with the principles.

Eating Well for a Healthy Planet and a Healthy Population

There are six simple principles:

  1. Eat more plants – including veggies, fruits, and whole grains
  2. Eat a variety of foods – make a colourful plate
  3. Waste less food – don’t be party to the ⅓ of food that is lost or wasted
  4. Moderate your meat consumption, both red and white – enjoy peas, beans, and nuts for protein
  5. Buy food that meets a credible certified standard – MSC, free-range, and Faritrade are just a few
  6. Eat fewer foods high in fat, salt, and sugar. Crisps and fries? A couple of times a week maybe. Sugary drinks and juices? Keep it to no more than one portion a day.

What’s in It for Planet Earth?

The Paris Agreement is a climate change agreement made by countries from around the globe (from which Trump famously withdrew US support in June 2017). One of the provisions focuses on the consumption side of food production.

Assuming that 50% of the negative impact on the environment comes from production, and 50% comes from consumption, the most direct route to a positive impact on climate change for families like yours, lies in simple changes to the way you eat.

Very simply put, raising cattle takes land. Growing grain takes land. Assuming you could swap the land, the grain would be better for the environment because it doesn’t release methane gas into the atmosphere, it produces more calories per square metre, and it uses less water.

If you think about the resources needed to grow and rear food on land, you might think eating fish sounds like a win-win. However if the fish we eat are in limited supply, it will upset the balance in the oceans, which in turn plays a part in global warming. As a result, any fish you consume should be certified sustainable.

How Will This Work for My Family?

There are specific LiveWell Plate recommendations for adults, the elderly, and adolescents. “But what if my kids are younger?” I hear you ask. It may leave you with two common worries: “Can my kids really be healthy if they’re eating the same protein sources as squirrels? And will this mean I’ll be stuck in the kitchen for days at a time?”

First – your kids. There is ample evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, to support the adequacy of plant-based diets for kids. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine concluded, “Vegetarian diets provide excellent nutrition for all stages of childhood, from birth through adolescence.”

They also wrote that “for essential nutrients, plant foods are the preferred source because they provide sufficient energy and protein packaged with other health-promoting nutrients such as fibre, antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.” That’s that, then.

Now – for you. There are a plethora of sites and two very good cookbooks with not only great recipes, but actionable advice. One is Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton. As a mum of three healthy vegan girls, Dreena includes info about introducing vegan foods to babies and toddlers. Her Plant-Powered Kitchen site has lots of recipes and videos too.

Another resource, But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! by Kristy Turner, offers 125 recipes in chapters dealing with all sorts of vegan dilemmas – including the classic “I don’t have time to cook elaborate family dinners!”

The Bottom Line

As Dreena Burton says, “Plant-based foods are nutritionally abundant and also offer antioxidants and fibre (not available in meat and dairy). Those eating plant foods also take a pass on cholesterol, hormones, and saturated animal fats.” That all sounds pretty good.

Making the move to a plant-based way of eating is key to establishing lifelong, heart-healthy, planet-friendly eating habits for your kids. And not only that, it also puts your family firmly in the growing camp of those who are actively doing what they can to keep the planet healthy for generations to come.