Food & Sustainability – What Is The Link?

Aug 19, 2019 | 5 min read
Hey! I'm Kathy and I study a Master of Dietetics. I believe food nourishes not only our bodies, but also our minds. Everything in moderation. You can follow me @balanceyourplate for all things food!


The food we eat has a huge impact on the environment, from the soil, to waterways, to our Earth’s atmosphere.

We have to eat every day, and small changes to our food choices have the potential to make a big difference.

So what should we do?

1. Eat MORE plants

An editorial from The Lancet aptly says: “The dominant diets that the world has been producing and eating for the past 50 years are no longer nutritionally optimal, are a major contributor to climate change, and are accelerating erosion of natural biodiversity.”

Plant-based food can be exciting too! From left to right: grilled tofu with soba noodles, chickpea curry (recipe), beetroot falafel (recipe), and a loaded af vegan bagel from Beam Me Up Bagels

Hear me out, meat-lovers, because I’m not saying you need to go completely vegan.

But what about protein, you cry?

Well, most healthy people already meet their protein requirements, because protein is found in a variety of foods including bread, grains, nuts, seeds and soy products like tofu.  Incorporating more plants into your diet is not only good for the environment, but for your own health!

My advice is to moderate the amount of meat and animal products you consume. Have a juicy steak once in a while as a treat, but in your day-to-day diet, choose more plant-based options. Oh, and did I mention cooking with less meat is also way cheaper?


  • Start by increasing the proportion of plant-foods like beans, lentils and vegetables in your meals, and reducing the amount of animal foods. Check out the Chickpea fritter recipe below.
  • Halve the amount of mince you use in your next bolognese sauce and replace it with lentils, or try a veggie burger on the menu (who knows, you might like it!).

Homemade patties/fritters are an easy, and inexpensive way to incorporate veggies into your diet

2. Buy local to reduce ‘food miles’

Bayroad Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter by Bayroad, a Dunedin local business, and fresh bread from the Otago Farmer’s Market 

We’ve always been told to walk, or take the bus to reduce carbon emissions in transport. But what about food? It makes little sense to buy produce shipped over from literally halfway across the world, when you can follow the seasons and buy locally produced fruit and vegetables. It tastes a hundred times better, because the freshly picked produce hasn’t been sitting in a warehouse and shipping container for weeks, and it also contains more nutrients. It’s not just fruits and vegetables either – go to your local weekend market and chat to the stall owners – there is plenty on offer!

3. Reduce food waste

Top 10 Foods New Zealanders Throw Away Infographic
Check out Love Food Hate Waste for recipe ideas and tips on how to use up leftovers. 

It’s not just about the food you eat, it’s about what you don’t eat.

Did you know New Zealand households throw away enough food to feed the whole of Dunedin for three years?

Imagine what you could buy with that money. And it’s not just about the financial cost. Throwing away food also wastes all the resources that went into getting that food item from the producer, to the supermarket shelves, and back to your kitchen, and then to landfill.

Cows are known for the methane they produce, but have you thought about the mountains of food rotting in landfill which also produces these greenhouse gases?

At the end of the day, sustainability and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle involves thinking about all aspects of your day-to-day life. We can make changes in the way we consume – whether that be avoiding fast fashion, eating with the environment in mind, or evaluating the waste we produce. It is critical that we are conscious of the choices we make, before it is too late.

Hope you enjoyed reading about sustainability and food. If you have recommendations to add, chuck a comment down below or DM me@balanceyourplate