Making greener choices for World Food Day

Low carbs, no carbs, vegan or vegetarian, less sugar and low fat – the mood around food and what we’re told we should and should not eat can boggle the brain.

Sunday October 16 marks World Food Day. And while we often think about the complexities of food and how it affects our bodies an overlooked level of additional complexity is the interaction between the food we eat and the environment we depend. Of all human activities the production of food has the highest environmental toll, changing our natural world more than anything else we do.

The upside of adding this additional consideration to your food choices is that the benefits of greening your diet can be rewarding on many levels.  On the personal level greener choices means more seasonal wholefoods which have clear health benefits, your choice also sends important feedback into the system and thereby changes retail supply chains for the better which of course then has a  compounded positive impact on the planet.

While we know that water doesn’t come from a tap and food doesn’t have its origins in a grocery store, understanding where and how our food is produced can be empowering.

Meat production is a major contributor to climate change. Livestock produce methane emissions, while overgrazing erodes land and negatively impacts on the environment.

Better farming practices combined with responsible consumption will help us to address so many of the environmental and social challenges we face. In this regard, WWF South Africa works with farmers and suppliers to promote sustainable agriculture and wise consumption.  

For you and I basic steps can make an impact.

Here are a few things to consider for a greener diet:

1. Where do you buy the bulk of your food?
Buying fresh, seasonal food from farmers’ markets and farm stalls is good for the local economy, your nutrition and the environment - avoiding environmental impacts from transporting it and putting money directly back into the community.

2. Do you consider local, grass-fed and free-range meat?
Look out for grass-fed or free-range labels on meat. If in doubt as to the validity of the label ask the retailer for more information.

3. Do you grow anything yourself?
There’s nothing more convenient, fresher or cheaper than your own home grown food! Involve your family, and help them understand where their food really comes from.

4. Are your meals frequently based on fresh and freshly prepared food?
Highly processed food such as chips and processed ready-made mealsaren’t really food at all, they're food products. Did you know that combined, packaging and processing siphon off more energy than any other activity in the food chain! And processed foods have the highest freight carbon footprint across road corridors in the country.

If you’re looking for simple guidance it’s worth checking out the Brazilian dietary guidelines (http://www.foodpolitics.com/2014/02/brazils-new-dietary-guidelines-food-based/) which are sensible, family and friend centred and full of guidance on how to eat and what to eat and what to avoid. Simply put it’s more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs, fish, meat, and water and fewer canned foods, jams, cold meats, high salt or sugar breads, dehydrated or frozen instant foods, energy drinks, and sweetened beverages.

5. When buying seafood do you consider the WWF-SASSI list?
It costs nothing to opt for the fish on the WWF-SASSI Green list. Only you can make an informed choice. Download the WWF-SASSI app.

While these options may sound like a lot to chew on, starting to make these changes one basket at a time could mean significant changes for our environment, our food supply chains, and your food table on October 16th and everyday thereafter.