PHC Member, Ryan D. Andrews,MS, MA, RDN, RYT, CSCS, new ebook, Swole Planet: Building a Better Body and a Better Earth, is a guide to help people build a body that’s functional and fit, while at the same time building a planet that’s more sustainable and equitable. Discounts are available for farmers, teachers, dietitians, or those in the nonprofit sector. Contact Ryan for details (firstname.lastname@example.org). The following is an excerpt:
“The food system is not just a force that’s driving climate change, it’s also a victim of it. It’s estimated that in the coming years less food will be cultivated and the food that is cultivated will be less nutritious. This means higher food prices and more malnutrition. Extreme weather patterns may result in nearly 600 million more people suffering from hunger by 2080.
Higher food prices aren’t a major burden for people who have disposable income. But when money is tight and the price of bread doubles, this can have a big impact on monthly grocery costs (not to mention the mental anguish it causes).
Here’s where you come in.
If you eat food, you are making decisions every day that dictate what happens next with the food system and the planet. This can be overwhelming for some. So, in order to ease the potential overwhelm, I offer five dietary adjustments you can make in your own life.
These five dietary adjustments, especially when incorporated into the lives of people in developed
countries, help to promote personal well-being, farmer and food chain worker well-being, animal well-being, and the well-being of the planet (by reversing the ecological overshoot).
Here are the five dietary adjustments, along with a brief explanation of why each one matters. I will elaborate on them in the following chapters.
1. Find Your Minimal Effective Dose of Animal Products (and Be Selective About Where They Come From)
According to the USDA, the average American adult eats nearly 200 pounds of meat and fish (compared to about 10 pounds of beans/legumes) and 50 pounds of cheese and ice cream per year. This is above and beyond levels that support animal, farmworker, personal, and planetary welfare. Animals are direct and indirect sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And when looking at causes of deforestation, causes of pollution, and how much land is being used, livestock production tops the list for each. While plant foods aren’t free from downsides, they generally offer more benefits than risks. And there are arguments to be made for including smaller amounts of products from pastured animals.
2. Minimize Wasted Food
When we waste food, we waste all of the resources that went into producing the food. Bummer. Further, when we send food to the landfill, it generates greenhouse gas emissions. Double bummer. When we’re more mindful of our food purchases and consumption, we’re more likely to buy the food we truly need (and not extra food we’ll likely waste).
3. Support Sustainable Farms
Chemical inputs on farms (think synthetic fertilizers and pesticides), tilling, and methods used for planting crops all have a major influence on the soil, biodiversity, water supply, and really, the entire planet. Small scale farmers tend to incorporate more sustainable growing techniques. They also tend to manage livestock more sustainably and put food scraps to good use, thereby minimizing wasted food. And while small scale farms may charge more, this means a livable wage for the farmers and workers involved. Finally, being connected to where our food comes from can lead to a greater level of respect for the food we eat, and when we respect food, we are less likely to abuse it (e.g., overeating,
undereating, wasting food).
4. Eat a Wider Variety of Minimally Processed Foods
Highly processed foods dominate the American diet. More than half of all the food we consume is of the
Pop-Tarts®, Twinkie®, and Hot Pocket® variety. These kinds of highly processed foods are more likely to be overconsumed, partly because when we eat them it’s like attaching jumper cables to our brain’s pleasure centers. These foods offer very few nutrients that support optimal health, and - even worse - they offer an abundance of compounds that can actually harm our body when consumed regularly. So, what does this mean? When we eat a variety of foods, we allow farmers to grow a variety of crops and raise a variety of animals on the farm. And this variety is good news for soil and pollinator health. Finally, the sugars and oils added to the most highly processed foods are generally coming from crops grown in a monoculture fashion, which can be a planetary burden.
5. Minimize Single-Use Plastics
We have a lot of plastic pollution, and much of it is coming from food and beverage packaging. When we
discard plastic, it doesn’t disappear into a magical land of nothingness. It lingers, causing problems. When this plastic gets into the environment, it breaks down into smaller microparticles. These microparticles can contaminate water, soil, wildlife, and us.
There you have it. Five dietary adjustments you can start making today that will help you and the planet.
These five dietary adjustments don’t require you to:
- Eat 100 percent vegan
- Eat 100 percent local
- Carry a compost bucket and reusable bamboo utensils around your neck
- Only shop at fancy organic food stores
- Be well off, financially (but a livable income and fair wages help)
Now, before you start trolling me, let me pause and admit the following:
These five dietary adjustments aren’t perfect, and they might not directly align with YOU and YOUR lifestyle. I’m well aware of the flaws in rigid dietary rules and all-knowing expert finger-wagging. So, let’s make an agreement: I’ll offer these five dietary adjustments, supportive information and ideas (with references at the end of the book), and a few bad jokes.
And you can think of this as more of a guide to finding an approach to eating that feels good for you. Sound alright? Now imagine that we seal the agreement with a cool handshake, high five, and fist bump. We’re awesome.
Now, let’s look more closely at each of these five dietary adjustments.”