With the release of Health Canada’s Guiding Principles as the precursor to a new food guide, a plant-based diet has really taken center stage. People want advice on how to eat well, but also how to choose foods that support environmental sustainability. So, fellow British Columbians, how can we select foods that are both good for us and the environment? Read on to find out!
Plant-based eating doesn’t necessarily mean plant exclusive.
Recommendations in the current version of Canada’s Food Guide are in strong alignment with a number of evidence-informed eating patterns like the DASH diet and Mediterranean diet. In addition to being plant-based, these patterns of eating also recommend small amounts of meat, fish, poultry and dairy because of their importance in human growth, development and disease prevention.
Moving forward, we might not need to change what we tell people to eat, but rather, how we help people choose to eat the foods they need to eat well. Most Canadians could strive to eat more fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains to support better health. At the same time, this doesn’t mean foods that come from animals should be forgotten. In fact, reports point to the importance of including some animal products, in addition to increased research efforts, in order to grow food sustainably.
"report called for more plant sources of protein such as legumes, alongside maintaining egg and dairy production"
If following Canada’s Food Guide is good for me, is it also good for the environment?
Simply stated, yes. In fact, if Canada, the United States, and a number of other countries actually followed their current national dietary guidelines, global levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and land use would decline and oxygen quality in lakes and other bodies of water would improve.
We’ve got the guidelines yes, but is what we grow currently in British Columbia sustainable?
A report released by Kwantlen Polytechnic University on the sustainability of Southwest BC food system concluded the current food system is not sustainable and BC needs to adjust how, what, and where crops are planted, as well as the composition of its food choices. Namely, the report called for more plant sources of protein such as legumes, alongside maintaining egg and dairy production. Interestingly enough, that sounds an awful lot like the current Canada’s Food Guide.
Top Tips for a healthy, sustainable diet:
Taking steps to make more sustainable food choices is something we can all do. Here are my top tips:
- Buy local when possible: Supporting your local farmer is a great way to promote fewer resources used to produce and transport BC’s food.
- Shop for in-season food.
- Reduce food waste: Check out these top tips from the University of British Columbia to reduce your food waste. Interestingly, most food waste in Canada comes from consumers and our individual choices.
- Follow Canada’s Food Guide: To assess how well you follow Canada’s Food Guide, try FoodTrack: Check on Balance.
How we collectively strike a balance between the types and amounts of plants and animals in our diet is pertinent to both long-term ecological balance and nutrient demands for our population. What this means for Canadians is the need to adjust the type and amount of foods we eat to align more closely with our national dietary guidelines. That is how we will see benefits to both our health and for the environment.
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