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A Day in the Life - Sustainable Diets

Dr. Sinéad MCCarthy Nutritionist Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown discusses the impact of the foods we produce and eat on our health and planet and suggests ways we can be more sustainable with our food choices

The foods we produce and eat have received much attention in recent years not just because they contribute to our health but also because of the impact they have on our planet. Food production and consumption in the EU is responsible for nearly one third of the greenhouse gas emissions that we generate. Therefore, our food choices not only influence our health but also impact on the planet we live on. 

Is it possible to consume a diet where we can achieve both healthy eating guidelines and have minimal environmental impacts? This is a difficult question to answer because not all healthy foods have low carbon footprint just as not all foods with a low carbon footprint are considered healthy. For example, carbonated beverages and milk both have the same carbon footprint of 400g of CO2 per 200ml glass of beverage, yet the HSE food pyramid for health eating recommends three servings per day from the dairy shelf with less than 3 serving per week from the shelf containing carbonated beverages. Therefore, choosing our beverage on just carbon footprint alone could result in a less healthy food choice. Similarly, a beef lasagne will have a carbon footprint of 3.9kg per portion while a vegetarian pizza has approximately 1.2kg per portion. However, the pizza will result in higher calorie intake compared to the lasagne.

There are also other ways we can be more sustainable with our foods choices and that is to choose not to waste our precious foods. On average, approximately one third of our food ends up as waste; think about all the energy and cost gone into every stage of producing that food and it never gets used. If we don’t waste our food, we don’t waste our money and it can be a step in the right direction to saving the planet too.

Small changes in our thinking of how we eat and what we do with our foods can help both us and the planet be a little bit healthier!

Join Teagasc for a series of exciting virtual events for Science Week (November 8-15) as part of ‘The Festival of Farming and Food – SFI Science Week at Teagasc’. The core theme for Science Week 2020 is ‘Science Week - Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future, and in the present. This will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. Changes based in scientific evidence that we make today can hugely improve our future life, but also right now.

Join our events on Zoom and get a chance to put your questions to our scientists in our live Q&As. Watch the events back here.

We’d love to hear from you. Be part of The Festival of Farming and Food journey on Social Media:

@Teagasc @ScienceWeek #FestFarmFood #BelieveInScience #ScienceWeek