Embracing a More Sustainable Diet
You’ll most likely have seen lots of headlines calling on people to cut down the amount of meat and dairy products they consume. The discussion was prompted by a study published by the Lancet medical journal, which found that as a global community, we need to “place consumption within the boundaries of the planet” by embracing a more sustainable diet. The impact of beef and dairy on the environment forms the main findings of the research, with its authors stressing that “a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed”.
Finding a Balance
With that in mind, there’s been a huge rise in various diets and lifestyles, particularly vegetarianism, veganism and clean eating. These can be daunting concepts though, if you’re a big meat fan. Emma Buckley is Director of Nutrition at Gourmet Fuel, and for her, it’s all about balance. “It’s really great for everyone to adopt a cutback”, she begins. “The Lancet study is very compelling, we have to reduce our reliance on animal products; beef in particular. I think it’s no bad thing to embrace a more plant-based diet – it’s a wonderful thing for your health in general. Most people are very aware now that from an environmental perspective, everyone needs to do their bit.”
That said, the team at Gourmet Fuel don’t endorse one diet over another, because, as Emma explains, “everyone is different.” Instead, they encourage people to really think about what they want to achieve, and why. “People tell us they’d like to eat a certain way”, says Emma. “So we dig down and try to understand why – are they trying to achieve weight loss, or gain more energy?” Lots of people might like the idea of a certain diet; maybe they read an article about it but haven’t really thought through the practicalities. “There are merits to veganism, for example”, says Emma. “It’s very noble if you feel strongly about animal welfare, but the execution can be difficult. It’s important that whatever you’re giving up, you can get from other sources.” With that in mind, it’s worth exploring and properly researching a way of eating before embarking on it – while lots of dietary lifestyles are nutritionally sound, others may merely be passing fads.
Eat Your Greens
For Emma, most diets or lifestyles ultimately encourage the same behaviours, and she offers this basic advice when it comes to eating right. “Make sure you get your main macronutrients, which are carbohydrates, proteins and fat. Ensure you’re getting a good quantity of raw or lightly steamed vegetables. Try your best to get at least five servings of fruit and veg each day.” Another piece of advice is to mix it up, and experiment with new foods. “We’re creatures of habit”, she notes, “and we tend to eat the same things over and over. Give yourself a bit of variety, for example try green vegetables you might not usually go for, like mangetout, sugar snap peas, and cabbage”.
What About Gluten?
When it comes to figuring out intolerances, there’s still some confusion, especially when it comes to gluten. “Coeliac disease is an auto-immune condition”, says Emma. “You’re actually mal-absorbing, which causes digestive discomfort and bloating. Then there are people who have a sensitivity to gluten, and will get cramping if they have pasta or bread for example. It’s very different to coeliac disease.” The best approach to figuring out your intolerances, says Emma, is to keep a food diary. “The only way to really know how badly you react to something is to eliminate all the common triggers, then slowly reintroduce them after a while. You might think gluten doesn’t agree with you, but it could be something else in the wheat, or a food you ate beforehand. A food diary is the best thing to do to see what’s happening”.
Listen to Your Body
Ultimately, we’re all different, so there’s not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Embracing a sustainable diet by cutting back on meat and dairy is certainly advisable, but make sure you’re still getting all the micronutrients [ie. vitamins and minerals necessary for things like energy production and growth] you need. “I always say to listen to your body’s signals”, says Emma, “whether that’s being full, hungry, or just not feeling 100%. No one can feel what you feel. Your body’s got a good feedback mechanism – pay attention to it.”
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